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Embracing Diversity in the Age of the Influencer

posted by:

Ashley Perkins

29 October

With the rise of Instagram and YouTube, influencer marketing has quickly grown into a valuable promotional strategy for brands, with a projected value of up to $15 billion by 2022

As the role of “the influencer” continues to expand and evolve, it’s vital that brands adapt … or get left behind.

For years, many brands especially those in the fashion and beauty industries played into the stereotypical “thin and pretty white female” aesthetic when choosing influencers to partner with.

But today, many consumers and influencers are fed up with the lack of diversity they see in their news feeds. There is not only a growing demand for brands to sell more inclusive products, but also to work with a more diverse group of influencers who represent their customers as a whole. Those brands that refuse must prepare for customers to call them out publicly.

We’ve witnessed this scenario play out time and again on Instagram in particular, and it can break a brand – and in some cases, the influencers who are involved with that brand. 

As we reflect on Global Diversity Awareness Month, now is an opportune time to consider how you can embrace diversity in your influencer marketing campaigns in 2020 and beyond … because ignoring it is no longer an option. 

Why Diversity Matters

With social media, consumers can connect with a diverse community of people from around the world, fostering new friendships and relationships that bypass geographical constraints. Diversity sparks creativity and innovation, allows us to learn from those who are different from us, and helps us become more informed individuals within our society.

In marketing, the only way to effectively reach and connect with a wide audience of different types of people, from different regions is to be inclusive of all prospective and existing customers, regardless of race or culture, body size, gender identity, or abilities. And while many brands have gotten this right with more traditional forms of advertising, some still miss the mark when working with influencers. 

Closing the Representation (and Wage) Gap

The unfortunate truth is that many influencers fall victim to racial and body discrimination from brands to this day. 

Consider: 

  • Influencers of color may earn 23% to 30% less than their white counterparts for the same quality of work. (Source: Influencer Marketing Association
  • 67% of American women are plus-size, yet they make up less than 2% of the images we see on a daily basis. (Source: Refinery29
  • In the fashion category, no black women appear among the top 17 highest earning influencers, based on the 2019 Hopper HQ Instagram Rich List. (Source: w24)

3 Things to Consider Before Partnering with Influencers

The influencer marketing landscape is still a relatively new and uncharted territory, which can make it difficult for marketers to navigate at times. But there are a few (very simple) things you can do as an advertiser or brand representative to make sure you’re recruiting the right group of diverse influencers for your next campaign:

1. Partner with diverse, relevant influencers who accurately represent your customer base. Nearly 68% of marketers consider finding relevant influencers their largest influencer marketing challenge. Influencers are so successful because they relate to their audiences, which adds a level of trust and authenticity that can rarely be replicated through traditional forms of advertising. But in order for it to work, your influencer base must align well with your brand, as well as your target customers. By partnering with a diverse group of influencers, you can cater to various demographics, widen your prospects, and make everyone feel included in your community. 

2. Compensate influencers based on their following, engagement, and the quality of their work. Just as a business should not determine an employee’s pay based on “how they look,” the same applies when working with influencers. Your return on investment via influencer outreach relies on how engaged their audience is, so use engagement and reach metrics to determine how much to compensate an influencer for their work. Every influencer no matter their race, body size, gender identity has a story to tell and an audience that wants to listen and learn. If you discriminate pay for minority influencers, you’re already missing out on a huge opportunity by not giving them the respect they deserve. And what does that say about your regard from your customers who relate to those influencers?

3. Listen to your customers and learn from them. Never ignore (or worse, block) customer comments that raise concerns about a lack of diversity in your content or brand ambassadors. Instead, leverage their feedback to learn and adjust your strategy moving forward. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we respond to them that matters.