NEW YORK — New research from MSL shows BIPOC creators have a tougher time breaking into the influencer business, with just 46% of them landing their first paid job within a year versus 73% of white influencers — ultimately impeding their success.

The study, based on a survey of 550 influencers and MSL’s in-house analysis, also found that Gen Z is nearly twice (43%) as likely to be influenced by social media influencers compared to previous generations of Americans (22%), with Americans aged 45 and up most influenced by experts (70%) and journalists (59%).

That, in turn, means partnering with diverse creators should be moral and business imperatives for brands that want to connect with Gen Z, which by 2026 is expected to be the world’s most powerful and diverse consumer group, the agency said.

"While there has been some debate around the future of the creator economy and how much influence they actually wield, the bottom-line is that Gen Z is unpersuaded by standard marketing and demand a high degree of engagement — which means influencers, especially with lower follower count hold an outsized value,” said MSL US chief strategy officer Shreya Mukherjee. “Our pulse check gave us a clear signal of exactly that. Simply put, reaching this audience who are driven by values like authenticity and equity means unleashing a diverse team of influencers who don’t just look like them but share their mindset and values.”

The study also found white influencers are twice as likely to secure their first brand partnership in the first six months of influencer work (42% white vs 21% BIPOC), and 81% of BIPOC respondents said they have to work harder to be successful on social media than white influencers (70%). BIPOC influencers say that platform algorithms were the top barrier to their success (37%).

Additionally, MSL’s latest data found Black and BIPOC creators often charge less per post, despite having a higher median number of followers across platforms. This suggests gaps in equity, fairness and transparency drive a systemic undervaluation of BIPOC influencers.

The findings also suggest Black and BIPOC influencers are held to a different standard than white influencers for less pay. Black influencers, for instance,  make 67% less ($500) than white influencers ($1,500) for Instagram stories. More than six in 10 Black (65%) and BIPOC (64%) influencers feel unfairly impacted by a lack of transparency of influencer pay rates, and over half of BIPOC influencers feel unfairly treated by social media platforms (54%).

Twice as many Black influencers say ethnicity negatively affected their pay compared to white influencers, and nearly a quarter (23%) of Black influencers say their ethnicity played a role in being offered a lower rate than expected, with only 12% of white influencers expressing the same sentiment.

MSL is rolling out new initiatives to aimed at improving equity among influencers.

The agency has published its own guidelines and best practices, including its red flag system, for other agencies to use. MSL also will be developing an algorithmic standard blending social media metrics (views, engagement, follower count, etc.) along with categorical relevance (content type, brand category, exclusivity, boosting rights, etc.), which the agency will use when evaluating influencer pay.

Additionally, MSL’s partnership with The Influencer League extends into 2023, including the creation and implementation of a curriculum covering best practices, content creation, pricing and negotiation for creators.

“With these new data, best practices for benchmarking and commitments, MSL is continuing critical work to improve DEI in the influencer marketing space at a time when creators are continuing to evolve the professional community,” said US CEO Diana Littman. "We encourage the industry to move from advocacy to action and applaud those in our industry who are driving awareness and change around this important issue.”