We spent some of our 24 hours writing about Molly-Mae Hague.

Spotted Molly-Mae trending, but not sure what to make of it – or why? Never fear. Influencer Manager, Lily Aey, is here to break it down for you.

If you didn’t know who Molly-Mae Hague was last week, you probably do now. The Pretty Little Thing creative director and 22-year-old influencer’s take on hustle went viral after she suggested that “we all have the same 24-hours in the day”. If you want something badly enough, you can achieve it if you just put in the hard work. Unsurprisingly, this statement, which lacks any acknowledgement of privilege or equity, received firm and fast pushback online, including from content creators bringing up a crucial point – even within the world of influencers, this statement is toxic and invalidating. 

         For years, influencer culture has been under constant fire for being a vapid sphere of rich, pretty people where the only breaking stories are instances of public outrage, which undermines the good work of full-time content creators. We are quick to put Love Island stars on a pedestal, and froth at the mouth at the chance to tear them down. This speaks volumes about society, but less so about influencer culture. A better gauge of what influencer culture actually looks like can be seen from the content creators who grow their channels and success organically – producing strong, consistent and engaging content for followers and brands alike. 

         Since its inception, influencer marketing has offered unique social proof, which can be difficult to find elsewhere. Influencers operate as experts within their niche or vertical and build up the trust of others over time – starting as nano influencers followed mostly by friends and family who look to them for their authenticity all the way through to macro influencers, who offer wide ranging reach. When it comes to managing their personal brand, influencers certainly do know how to hustle; from brokering brand deals, creating impactful content, analytics and reporting, to community management, outreach and networking. While everyone technically has the same 24-hours, we don’t all have the same means, which creates an unlevel playing-field within influencer culture. Brand deals are often based on the quality of content you’re able to produce, production of content is often based on the resources available to you, and the resources available are based on money.

Where money is concerned, influencer culture remains in its ‘wild west’ phase with no real consistency across deliverables or influencer tiers. Molly-Mae’s statement lacks the nuance to address this, especially in a world where influencers of colour make significantly less on average than their white counterparts for the same work. A 2021 study from MSL US and The Influencer League entitled, “Time to Face the Influencer Pay Gap,” found that the pay gap between white and BIPOC influencers is 29%, while the gap specifically between white and Black influencers is even more significant at 35%. Stating that someone who gets paid 35% less than you for the same work still has the same opportunities is simply untrue. The same principle also applies to influencers with disabilities, who are often paid less or used in ‘inspiration porn’ content offering the experience of disabled people as a means of inspiration for those who are able-bodied.

While the experiences of Molly-Mae Hague may not be applicable to all influencers, her statement does address the need for further conversations around transparency and money in the influencer world. In 2020, the (now inactive) account @influencerpaygap was launched as an anonymous opportunity for influencers around the globe to compare deliverables and pay. Inequities between influencers were clear almost immediately, highlighting a lack of consistency within influencer marketing and the content creators that brands engage with. We know that influencer marketing works. A Statista study found that over 90% of consumers engage with influencers on a weekly basis across Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat, and the total projected size of the influencer market in 2022 is set to hit a whopping $15 billion. Yet the influencer pay gap and lack of transparency still exist.

As influencer marketing continues to grow and generate more revenue, it’s important for brands and agencies to reject toxic practices such as pay inequality. Instead, efforts should be doubled down on ensuring that representation is present across all campaigns and that influencers and content creators are compensated fairly for their work. At the end of the day, despite everyone having 24-hours, influencers can only accomplish what their means allow them to. Striving for a more level playing field will offer opportunities to more content creators and will allow them to create better work for brands and agencies alike. While Molly-Mae Hague doesn’t speak for influencer culture, we should view this as an opportunity to step away from such a hustle-focused mentality, instead, valuing the hard work of content creators for what it is.

You can find more from Lily on Instagram @lilyaeyphotos. Interested in how Puzzle can meet your influencer needs? Get in touch at hello@puzzlelondon.com

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