To say that influencer marketing has skyrocketed in the past few years is quite an understatement. In 2016, the influencer marketing industry was worth $1.7 billion. In 2021, it’s worth approximately $13.8 billion—a whopping 711 percent increase in just five years.
However, despite the fact that over two-thirds of brands use influencer marketing these days, there is very little transparency and no standard surrounding what brands are paying creators. One creator with one million followers might be paid $3,000 for a post, while another creator with the same number of followers might be paid $300 for a comparable post. And unsurprisingly, this disparity in pay disproportionately affects minority creators.
Julia Montgomery, founder and CEO of Influent, has set out to close the influencer pay gap, foster transparency around compensation, and create a more equitable influencer marketplace.
Montgomery realized fairly early in her career that she had a knack for influencer marketing. “I loved the process of matching the influencers with the brands that really aligned well with them. I started to realize, though, the longer that I did it, the disparities in what influencers were charging,” said Montgomery. “Then that was magnified even further when TikTok came on the scene. Because they were so new to the industry and didn’t have the same metrics as Instagram, it was really difficult for brands to know what to offer influencers, and it was difficult for influencers to know what they should be getting paid.”
Around the same time that she started noticing this, Montgomery began posting some of her social media tips on her own TikTok account. It took off quickly—by just the second month, she had hit 100,000 followers, and now she’s inching closer to 300,000. Ironically, when brands started reaching out, she too had trouble figuring out how much to ask for. “Even with my experience running campaigns, I wasn’t exactly sure what I should be charging,” Montgomery recalled.
This was when the idea for Influent, which serves a similar purpose as employer review site Glassdoor, really came to be. Montgomery started by putting a form in her TikTok bio where creators could rate the brands they’d worked with and share how much they got paid. “Within the first month, we got around 1,500 creators to fill it out, and we got over 3,000 brand reviews,” said Montgomery. “That was validating enough for me to say, ‘This is something I’m going to try and build.’”
When it comes to discussions around compensation, brands currently wield most of the power. “They have the knowledge of what influencers are accepting, they have the money to offer them, and being a creator is really difficult,” noted Montgomery. “I would love to flip that and empower creators with the knowledge of how much they should be getting paid, and then allow them to apply that directly to the brand campaigns. I really want to give them the power to feel like they’re a little bit more in control.”
Having access to this information will certainly benefit and empower creators, but ultimately, it’s just as beneficial for brands. “Instead of me waiting for a random brand to reach out to me, I can reach out to all the brands whose products and services I already love, and that’s going to be a better partnership for the brand,” said Montgomery. “Because the younger generations are so aware of how much they’re being advertised to, they’re very astute in identifying when a creator truly loves the product they’re endorsing. So I think that by letting the creators reach out to the brands, we’re actually going to really help the brands.”
Another way Influent is hoping to foster a better creator market for everyone is by making demographic data available. “They have the option to disclose race, ethnicity, and gender identification,” explained Montgomery. “We’re planning on publicizing that information so people can really see what’s going on in the industry and where we need to make changes. I think that making that data available is going to be the biggest thing that we can do to hold everyone accountable for their practices. Outside of that, you’re just hoping that they’re going to do the right thing on their own, and that doesn’t always happen.”
With paid media becoming less rewarding in many ways, the creator economy on social media will continue to grow in the coming years. “If we want to build an equitable creator marketplace, we need to fight for transparency, balance out the power dynamics, and make it fair to both brands and creators,” said Montgomery. With Influent, she’s doing just that.