Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) in Influencer Marketing: Survey Methodology

We surveyed over 2000 influencers from a variety of backgrounds, making sure to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion in our topic selection. Of the influencers, 72.1% consider themselves microinfluencers, with less than 15,000 followers. 9.5% are regular influencers, with between 15,000 and 50,000 followers. 5.5% qualify as an up-and-coming influencer (50,000 – 100,000 followers) and 4.8% qualify as an average influencer (100,000 – 500,000 influencers). 2.7% are macro-influencers (500,000 – 1 million followers), and a very high 5.5% can call themselves mega-influencers, with over 1 million followers.

These terms, which match our partners’ Upfluence terminology, differ from our usual usage on this site, where we usually refer to smaller influencers as nano-influencers and use the term micro-influencer for the next level of influencers (equivalent to influencers and the growing media in this report).

Since this report is about racial and gender inequalities in influencer marketing, we think it’s crucial to understand the demographics of our respondents. In addition, we want to ensure that we have diversity in our survey sample. When asked to identify their ethnicity, 47.7% identified as Asian or Pacific Islander, 13.4% as black or African-American, 10.7% as white or Caucasian, 4.8% as Hispanic or Latino, 4.5% as multiracial or biracial, and 4.3% as Native American or Alaskan Native. The remaining 14.5% identified as race/ethnicity are not listed here.

Our sample was probably more male-oriented than the overall influencer group, with 58.4% of respondents identifying as male, 35.1% as female, 1.5% as trans-female, 1.5% as trans-male, and 3.5% as “other.” While the inclusion of non-binary influencers helps ensure better inclusion in our surveys, it may be unfortunate that we don’t have more respondents, matching the overall influencer population.

Given that the survey had a majority of micro-influencer respondents, it’s perhaps no surprise that the average price per post received when creating a brand collaboration is relatively low, averaging 75% from $25-$200. In addition, 11% averaged $200-$1000 per post, 4.2% averaged $1000-$3000, 4.5% averaged $3000-$15,000, and 5.3% $15,000+. The report also includes data from IZEA’s State of Influencer Equality survey. However, their report seems to exclude micro-influencers from their calculations, the average price per post they report is much higher than the cost of our survey respondents.

Nearly 60% of influencers feel they face discrimination

We asked our influencers if they felt they had ever been discriminated against (as influencers) on any social platform. 58.3% stated that they thought they had been on the wrong edge of discrimination, leaving 41.7% who were not.

Macro and mega influencers experience the most discrimination

We’ve established that the highest-paid influencers are more likely to feel like they’ve faced discrimination than the lowest-paid influencers. Therefore, it is not surprising that Macro-influencers (81.25%) and Mega-Influencers (69.7%) are more likely to report facing discrimination.

When you compare the demographics of influencers who claim they have faced discrimination at the average price influencers receive for brand collaborations, we see some interesting, possibly confusing results. By far the largest group facing discrimination are influencers who can earn $1,000-$3,000 per post (80%), especially macro influencers in the survey. However, it is not the highest-paid group. A small group of influencers in our survey can happily charge $15,000+ per sponsored post, 71.88% of which stated that they have faced discrimination.

Over 60% of non-discrimination believe there is discrimination in the influencer industry

As we saw earlier, only 41.7% of influencers who responded to our survey did not personally experience discrimination in the industry. However, that doesn’t mean these people haven’t seen the effects of discrimination on others. We asked these “discrimination-free” influencers if they believed discrimination occurred in the influencer industry, and 60.8% stated that it was true.

Nearly 50% of influencers face discrimination based on their gender

When asked to highlight areas of discrimination respondents said they had experienced as influencers, 47.73% believed they had experienced gender discrimination. Discrimination based on physical characteristics (21.75%) followed this, then racial discrimination (13.29%), political discrimination (9.06%) and sex discrimination (8.16%). However, these figures may underestimate some types of discrimination, since their number reaches 100%, indicating that respondents can identify only one type of discrimination. It is quite possible that, in practice, some influencers will face different types of discrimination.

Nearly 90% of transmale influencers feel discriminated against

Laws affecting the LGBTQ community are very different around the world (and even between states in major countries like the United States). So it may come as no surprise that influential respondents who identify as trans-male (88.89%), Others (80.95%), and Trans-female (66.67%) feel they face the most discrimination because of their gender. We must admit, of course, that the sample size of those who identify as Trans-male, Trans-female, and Others is much smaller than those who identify as Male or Female, which may affect the overall statistics.

Male influencers earned an average of 30% more than female influencers in 2021

The gender income gap has been a major concern in many countries in recent years, in many sectors. This issue is by no means limited to influencer marketing. Women in all sectors earned only 83%  of  what men earned in 2020, based on the actual average income of full-time workers throughout the year. And this is a considerable increase compared to 1980, when women earned only 60.2% of men’s income.

IZEA data shows that the pay disparity is even worse in influencer marketing The best spread was in 2020, where men averaged $2,258 per post and women $1,719, a difference of 24%. However, in 2021, despite rising wage rates for both sexes, men negotiated a better deal to reach an average of $2,978, compared to $2,289 for women, and the gap grew to 30%.

However, judging by the results we found in our survey, influential men are unaware that they earn more than their female counterparts. Keep in mind that 58% of our respondents identify as male, but nearly 60% feel unfairly discriminated against by campaigns based on their gender.

Instagram stories are an exception: women now earn an average of 58% more than men.

One notable exception to the practice of brands that pay male influencers more than their female counterparts come up with Instagram Stories. In 2020, male influencers averaged $451 per story, with payments to women lagging behind at $421. However, in 2021, while average salary levels rose significantly to $609 per story for men, they skyrocketed to $962 for women, perhaps reflecting higher participation rates than influential women.

Men may receive more per post, but more women are sponsored to make more posts.

Most men may have responded to our survey, but according to IEA data, significantly more women dominate the business flow in influencer marketing. However, while female influencers still own the majority of influencer marketing deal streams, male influencer engagement jumped from a low of 9% in 2020 to a high of 15% in 2021.

IZEA has calculated the comparative gender ratio in the volume of sponsorship transactions across all social platforms from 2015 to 2021. During that time, women dominated the flow of deals, from a peak of 90% in 2015 and 2020 to a low of 83% in 2021. Taking into account the number of “Unspecified” for 1-2% of the flow annually, the proportion of men ranges from 9% in 2015 and 2020 to a peak of 15% in 2021.

The most popular influencers receive the most physical characteristic discrimination

If influencer marketing is going to positively demonstrate inclusion, then it should provide opportunities for people of all kinds.

Logically, significant influencers are more likely to face harassment and discriminatory comments for real (and imagined) issues with their physical characteristics: they have more engagement and interaction with their audience in total, if not proportionally. However, it is still worth noting that physical characteristic discrimination is classified as a significant type of discrimination faced by macro-influencers (30.77%) and mega-influencers (26.09%) compared to less followed influencers. In the case of macro-influencers, discrimination of physical characteristics is their highest type, along with racial discrimination. Gender discrimination is far less problematic for this group than many other types of influencers. Some influencers have complained that social media algorithms prefer beautiful people who fit certain physical criteria.

Almost 2/3 of influencers believe social media platforms are asking moderators to suppress certain views and content

We asked our respondents if they believed social media platforms were asking moderators to suppress content from nationality, political opinion, disability, or certain users from lower socioeconomic classes. Almost half (47.8%) strongly agree with this statement, and another 15% somewhat agree. More than a quarter admitted that they didn’t know it was possible. Only 8.2% strongly disagree, and 3.8% somewhat disagree.

More than 70% believe discrimination means that some of their posts did not receive the expected exposure.

We asked our respondents if they believed their posts were not receiving the exposure they should have because of their political views, race, or beliefs. 71.8% of our respondents agreed with this statement, and only 28.2% disagreed.

The proportion of sponsorship deals aimed at non-white influencers has increased over time

In addition to data collected from Influencer Marketing Hub surveys, we collect data from our partners and additional research. For example,  ISEA’s State of Influencer Equality report  , which they published in February 2022. As part of their research, they calculated the average cost paid per post across all social platforms, which was ranked by identified race. Their ethnic definitions are slightly different from ours, but they are close enough that we can make comparisons.

According to IEA data, 73% of all influencer sponsorship payments in 2015 went to white influencers, leaving 27% for non-whites. However, this significant imbalance is increasing every year (aside from the surge in 2020), and in 2021 the percentage of influencer marketing deals flowing to white influencers (57%) fell below their share of the US population (58%) for the first time.

Worst discrimination influencers face on TikTok

We ask influencers to name channels where they face discrimination. Significantly, more than half of respondents who felt they had faced discrimination stated that it happened on TikTok (58.42%). This compares to 13.62% who voted for YouTube, 12.9% on Instagram, 10.04% on Facebook and 5.02% who felt most discriminated against by influencer agencies.

It’s especially interesting when you consider that TikTok is just the sixth most popular social app for average monthly users, with Facebook being the most used platform and Instagram having the most influencers.

Chandra Steele at PCMag reports on how racial inequality affects influencers. She sees a stark difference in follower count for white and black influencers (she doesn’t divide race further in her analysis). TikTok isn’t the only well-known platform here (Instagram stands out too), but there remains a striking contrast on TikTok. Steele noted the popularity of home content creators on TikTok, who live and create content together. He noted that Los Angeles-based The Hype House, with a predominantly white creator, has 19.8 million followers, while Atlanta-based Collab Crib, with mostly black creators, has just 545,200 followers.

The Guardian also reported that TikTok is “trying to leak videos from ugly, poor, or disabled users.” According to a document published by The Intercept, TikTok told its moderators to exclude certain types of videos when selecting content for influential “For You” feeds. It includes videos with “abnormal body shape (not limited to: dwarf, acromegaly),” which is “fat… obese or too thin” or who has “ugly facial appearance or facial deformity.” Similarly, moderators should remove videos whose “shooting environment is shabby and messy” from the “For You” feed.

TikTok previously had rules to enforce China’s foreign policy abroad, though they seem to have changed that now. It’s important to remember this because we have Asian influencers responding to our survey.

However, although respondents highlighted TikTok in this survey, other social platforms are also under scrutiny for allegedly discriminating against some groups. For example, in 2020, a group of black content creators sued YouTube, claiming that the platform’s algorithms systematically removed their content or limited how much they could earn from ads. They didn’t win, but concerns inevitably increased.

67% of influencers use social media moderation tools

The days of leaving unfiltered comments on your social pages may be gone. 67.5% of our influencers surveyed chose to use some form of social media moderation tool to ensure their posts and pages were not flagged by discriminatory and inappropriate comments and content.

As we saw in the 15 Best Social Media Moderation Tools for a Safer User Experience, you can use this tool to clean up the actions of your followers. Typical tools include NapoleanCat, Pattr.io, Juicer, WebPurify, and Respondology.

43% of respondents believe the racial pay gap is the worst in influencer marketing.

We asked our respondents if they believed the racial pay gap might be the worst in influencer marketing. 43.8% strongly agree with this sentiment, and 19.5% somewhat agree. An additional 26.8% felt the racial pay gap could be the worst in influencer marketing. Only 6.3% strongly disagreed with this sentiment, along with 6.3% somewhat disapproving.

Influencers and content creators build followers when their posts appear in discovery-like sections on platforms like Instagram’s Explore page and the For You TikTok page. However, as Chandra Steele observed on PCMag, there is a stark difference between the number of followers of major white influencers and their black peers. “While Instagram, TikTok and other social media sites have long been suspected of suppressing black voices on their platforms, Instagram has acknowledged that its algorithms and policies are to blame.”

MSL conducted a study in 2021 that focused on racial disparitie in influencer marketing. They see a significant difference in the number of followers between white and black influencers. 77% of black influencers fall to the nano and micro-influencer level, with brands averaging $27,000 per year, compared to 59% of white influencers. In contrast, only 23% of black influencers, compared to 41% of white influencers, reached the macro-influencer level, with an average income of over $100,000.

MSL found that the racial pay gap between whites and BIPOC influencers (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) was 29%. However, when you focus specifically on the gap between white and black influencers, the difference widens to 35%. In comparison, the wage gap in several other industries is much smaller, including education at 8%, business and finance at 16%, construction at 19%, and media, sports and entertainment at 16.1%. It seems that respondents to our survey have noticed this racial pay discrimination on a personal level.

In addition, 49% of blacks and 36% of BIPOC influencers in the MSL survey reported that their race contributed to a lower supply, below market value.

Respondents in the Influencer Marketing Hub survey and MSL survey agreed that there was a significant difference in the rates offered to influencers of different races.

Average payments to white/Caucasian influencers have increased the most since pre-COVID times, but are still relatively low

IZEA found that Influencer payout rates increased overall in the first two years of Covid, and the 2021 figures roughly doubled from 2019 levels. However, there are variations between breeds. White/Caucasian influencers increased their fees by 112%, from an average of $1,021 per post in 2019 to $2,169 in 2021. Blacks/African-Americans, on the other hand, were only able to increase their rates by 83.5%, from $1,387 to $2,546 per post. Hispanics/Latinos raised their rates by 71.4%, from $1,248 to $2,139, and fees received by Asians increased by 87.8%. Finally, IZEA classifies all the others as “Other Nonwhites,” and their salaries increased by 135%, from $1,145 to $2,693 per post.

These rates seem extraordinarily high, given that our survey found that 75% of the influencers we surveyed averaged between $25 and $200 per post. We can only assume that IZEA narrowed its research to only include influencers in the range of Rising Influencers to Macro-influencers, eliminating smaller nano and micro-influencers and possibly also large mega-influencers.