Image: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)
In honor of the Tenth Anniversary of Social Media Day, influencers have issued a declaration of independence and the formation of an autonomous trade association, hereby known as the American Influencer Council. Founding members—most with over one million followers, all casually flawless—influence in such areas as parenting products, professional development, brand consulting, and beauty. With talk of “revolution,” it’s sort of like the call-to-arms from Braveheart, with fewer swords and more terms like “high-growth startup industry.”
“Clickbait headlines claiming the age of influencers is over undermine the contributions of creators to the U.S. GDP,” founder and New York City-based digital marketer Qianna Smith Bruneteau is quoted in a release. Noting that the influencer marketing industry is projected to reach $15 billion by 2022 (a figure from a 2019 Business Insider Intelligence report), Bruneteau continues: “The AIC and our Founding Members are right on time to usher in a new era of legitimacy for career influencers, who are American small business owners and media innovators.”
“Influencers are stimulating local economies and creating jobs across the country,” the release notes, “but they are not getting the credit they deserve.”
Fair enough: summiting 100k is probably treacherous and costly, and judging by the over three million accounts in the influencer search engine Upfluence, we can guess influencers are a sizable workforce. So what do they want?
In an email to Gizmodo, Bruneteau named the six plagues of influencing:
Influencer fraud: Fake followers
Consumer Confusion: Lack of copy and visual standardization across social media platforms for sponsored content and endorsements
Disclosures: Loose regulations by the Federal Trade Commission
Need for Inclusiveness: Brands and the social media platforms dictate the rules of engagement
Copyright infringements: Some brands re-post creator content without credit or payment
Creator market share: More celebrities are taking on behaviors of creators
The wage gap is real.
As outlined in the release, results may be achieved in five steps, the first of which sounds incredibly thrilling: lobbying, the government version of influencing. In an open letter, the AIC has asked the Federal Trade Commission to more frequently update clear and timely guidelines for sponcon (which are currently ten years old) and a crackdown on bad actors who gain an unfair advantage by masking branded content. The FTC is primarily focused on coronavirus scams, JUUL, and big tech at the moment, but don’t underestimate influencers’ political appeal.
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Another aim, Bruneteau told Gizmodo, is for the Bureau of Economic Analysis to include influencers more in its assessment of the digital media economy. Bruneteau noted that its definition of “Free Digital Media” mentions free direct advertising and peer to peer (P2P) sharing, but not creator to consumer (C2C) marketing.
Other goals/creative solutions include establishing a standard of professional ethics, advancing marketplace research, forming an “innovation lab” to foster public goodwill, and promoting influencer education “at the university level.” Fyre Fest should absolutely be a college course.
Unfortunately, for those dreaming of a bargaining unit comprised of van lifers, ASMRtists, and Mukbangers, the association is invite-only.