If anyone knows how to make catchy videos in your living room one day and morph into a viral sensation the next, it’s 19 years old Keara Wilson14 years old Jalaiah Harmonand the Nae Nae. These black creators are responsible for the creation of the immensely popular dances “Savage”, “Renegade” and “Savage Remix”. So why are the dances household names but not the creators?
Since 2020, influencers like Wilson, Harmon and the twins have garnered millions of views and shares for their culture-changing moves. But all too often black creators get the short end of the stick. They are not recognized for their work and as a result miss out on potentially life-changing opportunities. And there is data to back that up. A popular Instagram page called the Influencer pay gapnext to the influencer league, wage data collected Influencers and content creators of all races to highlight the differences; It found that white influencers earn 29 percent more than their BIPOC counterparts.
Black Instagram and TikTok users were vocal in recent years about their dissatisfaction with the lack of action by both platforms in this direction. It has been exactly one year this July that black creators staged a strike in response to the appropriation, lack of attribution, and wage differentials between black and white creators that are rampant on those very platforms. After the strike, many users – myself included – noticed that social feeds were dry; The absence of the Black Creators was felt.
Finally, it appears that Instagram has heard black creators loud and clear. Last month, three black data analysts at Instagram, Alexis Michelle Adeji, Cameron Boyd and Alexandra Zaoui, announced their recent designed Feature called Enhanced Tags that allows users to give credit to all contributors who have been involved in a project or creation. Designed specifically for black creators, the new tags allow users to properly identify collaborators for potential future opportunities, increasing access and visibility.
“People can easily recognize their creative collaborator by including their self-identified profile category (e.g., makeup artist, choreographer, creative director, photographer, etc.) in their tag when tagged in a post,” Monique McKenzie, Head of Beauty , Lifestyle Communications Team at Instagram, Jezebel shared via email.
Or at least that is the hope.
In their research, Boyd, Adeji, and Zaoui discovered that an average of more than 1.6 million people tag at least one brand each week, and that creators (mostly) tag creative workers in their captions and photos. But any casual user of the platform knows that doesn’t easily translate to visibility. Prior to this day, creative content—music, photography, poetry, skits, dance, and more—could be shared and re-shared without proper attribution. Users with a larger following than the original poster could repeat trends and subsequently land important deals or contracts in place of the originator.
Any casual user of the platform can also tell you that it’s difficult to keep track of who created the skit, song, dance, artwork, or photo after it’s been repurposed, flipped, cropped, filtered, and edited a million times was changed. Attribution is a key issue on almost all social media sites, and the risk is greater for young black creators, who make up the majority of visual content on Instagram (and elsewhere).
influencers like Ciara Johnson Catherine Ochun and Tyla Gilmore believe that being recognized for their work is crucial, and the enhanced tags could lead to a glut of opportunities, connections, and even paid collaborations if their work reaches the right people.
“I think this feature is amazing and long-awaited because I’ve worked on a lot of projects where black creatives haven’t been given the credit they deserve,” Gilmore said. “The best way to network, expand your portfolio and be recognized for your talents is by sharing on social media. Now that Instagram is allowing these creatives to be properly credited, it will lead to so many other opportunities.”
To underscore the importance of this system, consider this tremendous 43 percent of the more than one billion users on Instagram are black. It shouldn’t have taken that long to be recognized and compensated for their significant contributions. An updated tag feature could be life-changing. “This is a game changer,” Johnson told Jezebel via email.
While Instagram’s efforts to reduce appropriation and increase visibility seem to be the most important game-changer for improved tags, some key questions cropped up in my mind and in many of the influencers Jezebel spoke to: What happens after the post was shared? over a million times? Does that mean that anyone who shares them is expected to tag them whole team from contributors every time?
The tag’s founders say they hope the tags will help create a culture of meritocracy and recognition; Boyd told Jezebel that they “can’t make users do anything,” except that they “can make it so easy to use this product and give someone credit, so we create social pressure.” The reliance on “ease” to get people to use a feature seems obvious sounding a bit too much like wishful thinking. If Instagram just announces this tag and doesn’t do much to enforce its use, then the “opportunities and economic empowerment” it touts for black creators is just a band-aid over a bullet hole of a problem.
It seems experts agree that claiming these tags will lead to monetization is a big, premature promise. Creator and Founder of Black girl digital LaToya Shambo emphasized this to Jezebel in a telephone interview. As someone whose sole job is to bridge the wage gap and help influencers advocate for higher wages, she knows what the steps to financial success would be, and tags alone do not automatically translate into profits for Black creatives and influencers. “Instagram would need to work with brands that use their ads to pay a profit share back to the original black content creator,” explained Shambo.
models and influencers Jacob Heinrich also raised very important questions about how brands use the tagging feature, how the tags create fair and equitable financial opportunities, or even how they will hold users accountable.
“If someone trended on TikTok and then a white person trended the same on Instagram, will Instagram then hold that person accountable or tag them and give them credit where credit is due?” he asked Jezebel in a phone interview, doing the perceptive one Observation that the attribution issues on Instagram don’t exist in a vacuum.
Henry went on to say that the gateway to monetization is through brand partnerships and transparency. Recognition itself is just one piece of the complicated representation puzzle, and like Henry, many influencers told me that this can seem like a small drop in the bucket because their contribution to culture is so much larger.
Ochun is all too aware that stolen intellectual property and appropriation of black creativity is a huge problem with a solution that no one seems to have gotten right yet. “Black culture is the hidden source of so many trends, beliefs and customs around the world. We have been hiding and rewriting our traditions and intelligence for ourselves for so many centuries,” she said to Jezebel.
From James Brown to Michael Jackson to Sam Cooke, the struggle to regain our brilliance is centuries old. Instagram is merely a microcosm of macro representation and visibility issues. influencer Monica Awe-Etuk spoke to Jezebel about this very issue and emphasized that she believes it is an essential part of preventing history from repeating itself. To them, it stays sane by charging above market price (i.e. more than what its white peers are being offered) and pursuing users who steal or repackage their work without credit. However, this is certainly not a sustainable system for every single creator concerned.
Instagram told Jezebel that the onus is on the Instagram community to take responsibility and be in command to give credit where credit is due, but that leaves no official advocate for the black influencers. So if everyone is pointing the finger, who takes responsibility for the problem? While Instagram has admitted that its tags are “just the first step towards a larger vision,” we have to ask ourselves when we can expect further action — and what that further action will look like. Ending the influencer pay gap and the lack of recognition for Black creators will require a concerted effort by everyone: users, brands, and the platforms themselves. One can only hope that this “bigger vision” for Black creators who have been waiting decades will arrive quickly .
Meanwhile, black creators will continue to create viral content that is reshared and repackaged millions of times every day. And history has proven that people will keep duplicating it until a position is taken.
Ochun put it most succinctly: “Black creators want to see action where no action has taken place for centuries,” she said. “It’s time for a new normal, where the brilliance and creativity of black people is valued and seen just as much.”
https://jezebel.com/black-instagram-creators-want-more-than-tags-after-deca-1848747081 Black content creators react to Instagram’s new extended tags