A union for influencers was created and launched in February 2020 as the number of influencers continues to be on a steady rise. In fact, a study shows that since 2016, there has been an annual 50 percent increase in the overall market size of the industry. Despite the positive trend, the Influencer Marketing industry is not exempt from labor issues, especially now that more brands are tapping into influencers to produce creative content. Issues concerning racial pay gaps, discrimination against LGBTQ+ and influencers with disabilities, and the unauthorized use of copyrighted content are just a few predicaments that influencers share.
Seeing that there is a need to protect the welfare of the influencers and to ensure that the industry will continue to thrive, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) launched a new agreement that qualifies content creators for labor protection. So, let’s take a look at what this unionizing is all about and what benefits it affords to influencers.
Breakdown of the Union for Influencers
As the new union is formed and more influencers join, what information do you need to know—either as an influencer or a brand? To put it simply: The new agreement will categorize “influencer-generated branded content” as a form of advertising. SAG-AFTRA members who do that type of work will be able to qualify for benefits. But, let’s be clear, the branded content that will be covered under the influencer agreement is video or audio work, it does not include still imagery. [source]
This new agreement will provide a way for current influencers—as well as actors who are looking to become influencers— to become SAG-AFTRA members and to have advertising work count towards their union benefits (e.g., pension and health). So, let’s get into the breakdown of the union for influencers.
What Do You Need-To-Know About SAG-AFTRA?
SAG-AFTRA is a distinguished union that aims to give maximum benefit to media artists. The union promises to provide the members with different job opportunities and to protect them against the unauthorized use and distribution of paid content.
SAG-AFTRA believes in diversity and encompasses members of different ages, sexual orientations, races, religions, and ancestry. In addition, they also promote democracy by urging the members to participate in the decision-making process of the organization.
What is the Background of the Union for Influencers?
SAG-AFTRA traces its roots from two American labor unions in the 1930s. The union aims to fight for and offer support to media professionals such as actors, recording artists, broadcast journalists, stunt performers, etc.
The SAG-AFTRA website shows the concise history of the organization throughout the years. They are actively seeking to expand their reach and come up with different programs that advocate the rights of the members and industry performers.
The guild currently represents more than 160,000 media artists in radio, film, and television. In the past, YouTubers were the only social media influencers receiving protection and benefits from the union.
How Did the Union for Influencers Agreement Come to Be?
The agreement comes from three and a half years of research and discussion within SAG-AFTRA. Did you know that influencers have been looking to the union for guidance as they negotiated deals with companies? After all of the research and discussions, they know something had to be done.
When the pandemic hit, a lot of people turned to social media to earn money. As a result, creating and producing content became the new norm. The current restrictions led agents and producers to scout for talents online. Unfortunately, some content creators—by reason of race and body image—reportedly experienced unfair treatment and exploitation.
The influencer industry is worth billions, but there still are companies and brands that take advantage of influencers’ popularity and skill while offering little to no compensation. To clarify, a 27-year old content creator, Ana Hernández, shared how some brands sneak exclusivity terms into her contract without fully discussing the terms. “Most influencers are a one-person team, and they don’t have a legal adviser. The majority of brands are very honest, but others try to take advantage of this”, Hernandez says. [source]
The union will operate to give influencers the rights and protection they feel they need in their nature of work. Gabrielle Carteris, SAG-AFTRA’s president, mentions that, “The influencer agreement was created in response to the unique nature of influencer-generated branded content and offers a new way for influencers to work under a SAG-AFTRA agreement. We want to be able to support both current and future SAG-AFTRA members in this space and for them to be able to access the benefits of union coverage.” [source]
How Will The Union Impact Brands?
Brands can benefit from the influencers’ need to unionize. Truth be told, Influencer Marketing can help or hurt your brand if it’s not done correctly. In 2015, Kim Kardashian was slammed by the FDA for promoting a morning sickness drug without listing the full side effects—which is a mandatory requirement when marketing pharmaceutical products. For brands that want to enter into the world of Influencer Marketing, it’s imperative that the social shares—whether in blog posts or on social media—follow the strict FTC guidelines, as well as other guidelines like the ones provided by the FDA. It’s up to you, as a brand or Influencer Marketing agency, to perform quality assurance to ensure compliance has been met on all shares related to your campaign and product(s).
When an influencer becomes a member of the union, he/she contractually commits to abide by the organization’s rules and regulations. Otherwise, he/she will face serious fines and disciplinary actions.
What Are the Qualifications for the Influencer Agreement?
The terms for the influencer agreement apply to any individual earning revenues through promoting products to their viewers or followers. The content on the influencer’s social media accounts may be in the form of sponsored videos showcasing voice-over work, Tiktok videos, or short Instagram Story posts.
To clarify, the content must be produced and posted on the influencer’s social media accounts. The media can be sponsored videos showcasing voice-over work, Tiktok videos, or short Instagram Story posts. However, content creators who advertise using still imagery—usually just photography, no video or audio—are not qualified for the union agreement.
SAG-AFTRA does not set a minimum follower count for those who wish to join the union. Seeing as it’s not the only aspect of an influencers’ actions that can determine the effectiveness of marketing. What’s important is his/her desire and ability to produce content that reaches target audiences.
Lastly, another important qualification is that anyone who has a signed contract with an advertiser for a branded content deal can access the SAG-AFTRA influencer agreement, but the influencer must also be incorporated as a business.
What Are the SAG-AFTRA Member Benefits?
These are some of the benefits the union for influencers offers to its members:
- Health and Pension/Retirement
- Every time the members work, they can earn credits that go towards retirement and health care plans.
- SAG-AFTRA App
- The application serves as a toolkit that allows the members to follow news, events, and projects related to their careers.
- Contracts/Collective Bargaining
- SAG-AFTRA negotiates for the members to have appropriate wages and working conditions.
- SAG-AFTRA Conservatory
- The union offers workshops where industry professionals evaluate members. The workshops teach them new skills and helps enhance old ones.
- SAG-AFTRA Foundation
- The union has a non-profit organization set up to serve the members, families, and the community. The organization provides emergency assistance in times of crisis and illness. The union also offers scholarships and business programs.
- Deals and Discounts
- The members can have access to excellent deals and discounts on legal services, insurance, medical, entertainment, housing, and more.
- Tools for Young Performers
- The union provides an online database consisting of laws, information, and resources for young performers and their parents. The goal is to protect these minors on the job and still be able to provide positive experiences to them.
- Publications Exclusively for the Union Members
- Every member is eligible for a quarterly magazine to keep them in the known of industry developments.
Wrap It Up
In conclusion, the SAG-AFTRA’s influencer agreement is very beneficial to online content creators. Not only does it protect influencers from fraud and unauthorized content use, but also provides members a voice to fight discriminatory practices in the industry. As social media platforms continue to experience growth, a platform for security and equality is needed now more than ever. This union aims to protect influencers and the content they create.
How do you think the union for influencers will impact you and/or your brand?