Should Influencers Unionise?

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Influencer marketing has existed for many years. In fact, longer than one would expect, and nor was it what we traditionally see today, which is social media stars promoting products on their platforms to millions of their followers. The concept became more popular with the increased use of social media, with Instagram taking the realms with more than one billion users being influenced by what is shown to them and more than 70% of businesses using the platform to promote their products and services, according to Maryam Mohsin for oberlo.co.uk

As the accessibility to social media has increased, the scope for those to take up influencer marketing has also increased and it’s not just limited to celebrities and dedicated bloggers. In fact, if one was to put a number on it, Instagram is the hub to more than 500,000 influencers and in total, the influencer marketing industry is predicted to make 15 billion USD by 2022, according to Beth Ashley for Vogue Business.

With a huge number of people involved and all the issues that come with freelance business, The Creator’s Union and American Influencer Council was born, started and founded by influencers who came together to fight for the rights of influencers so they are treated fairly. The two unions acknowledge discrimination, help influencers understand what their value is, and help them get compensated by companies appropriately.

Ocran, a fashion influencer with over 28,000 followers on Instagram, teamed up with influencer expert Kat Molesworth to set up The Creator’s Union after realising the wage disparity between black influencers and their white counterparts. After meeting up with other influencers, it was obvious that minority groups or groups that generally lack representation such as Black, Ethnic or those who identify as LGBTQ+ are underpaid, and TCU helps with legal services such as reviewing contracts and making business materials more accessible to help influencers grow and contribute to the promising industry safely and fairly. 

This unionisation has a positive impact and is necessary in order to protect and respect influencers when their jobs are based on commissions and brands can/do treat them as freelancers or contractors. It is common that a lot of brands don’t follow contractual agreements or don’t contract correctly so the influencer is at a loss and sometimes doesn’t get paid in time. The union is significant in protecting the influencers and making sure their jobs and ventures are safe.

Unionisation can mean that these agencies can campaign for the benefit of influencers, such as pushing for transparency and removing exploitive practices which are quite common in influencer marketing. Brittany Xavier, founder of American Influencer Council (AIC) stated that by forming and being part of this union we are ‘setting the standard for future generations of influencers.’ At present, AIC is currently aiming to campaign for the Federal Trade Commission to improve and promote its endorsement guidelines so that influencers can do their jobs in an accommodating manner.

Currently, the guidelines are reviewed every 10 years which isn’t feasible when influencer marketing is a fast-growing industry (the current guidelines don’t take Tik Tok advertisements and practices into consideration, for example). Maryam Mohsin also states that more than 50% of Instagram users follow a business and 80% of users find that Instagram helps them decide whether to buy a product or service or not; so there are a lot of benefits to forming unions for influencers considering they contribute so much to the success of a brand and are such a vital tool for companies. 

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