Black content creators react to Instagram’s new and improved tags
If anyone knows how to go from making eye-catching videos in your living room one day to being a viral sensation the next, they’re 19. Keara Wilson14 years old Jalaiah Harmonand the Nae Nae. These black creators are responsible for creating the immensely popular dances “Savage”, “Renegade” and “Savage Remix”, respectively. So why are the dances known, but not the creators?
Since 2020, influencers like Wilson, Harmon and the twins have garnered millions of views and shares for their culture change moves. But, all too often, black creators get the short end of the stick. They are not recognized for their work and therefore lose opportunities that could change their lives. And there is data to back it up. A popular Instagram page titled Influencer Pay Gapalongside the League of Influencers, collected salary data from influencers and content creators of all races to highlight disparities; he found that white influencers earned 29% more than their BIPOC counterparts.
Black Instagram and TikTok users have been vocal in recent years of their dissatisfaction with the inaction of the two platforms in this direction. This July marks exactly one year since black creators staged a strike in response to the appropriation, lack of attribution, and wage gaps between creators of color and white creators plaguing these same platforms. After the strike, many users, myself included, noticed that social feeds were dry; the absence of black creators was felt.
Finally, though, it seems Instagram heard loud and clear about black creators. Last month, three black data analysts on Instagram, Alexis Michelle Adeji, Cameron Boyd and Alexandra Zaoui, announced their recent designed feature called Enhanced Tags, which allows users to credit all contributors who have participated in a project or creation. Designed for black creators, the new tags allow users to correctly identify collaborators for potential future opportunities, increasing access and visibility.
“People can easily credit their creative collaborator by including their self-identified profile category (e.g. makeup artist, choreographer, creative director, photographer, etc.) on their tag when tagged in a post,” Monique McKenzie, head of Instagram’s Beauty, Lifestyle Communications team told Jezebel via email.
Or at least that’s the hope.
In their research, Boyd, Adeji and Zaoui found that more than 1.6 million people tag at least one brand on average each week, and that creators (mostly) tag creative collaborators in their captions and photos. But any casual user of the platform knows that hasn’t easily translated into visibility. Prior to this tag, creative content (music, photography, poetry, sketches, dances, etc.) could be shared and shared without proper attribution. Users with a larger number of followers than the initial poster might repeat the trends and subsequently enter into major deals or contracts, instead of the initiator.
Any casual user of the platform can also tell you that it is difficult to know who is behind the skit, song, dance, artwork or photo after it has been reused, flipped, cropped, filtered and edited millions of times. Attribution is a key issue on nearly every social media site, and the risk is greatest 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 getting credit for their work is crucial, and improved tags could lead to more opportunities, connections, and even paid collaborations if their work reaches the right people.
“I think this feature is amazing and long overdue, as I’ve worked on many projects where black creatives haven’t been given proper credit for their work,” Gilmore said. “The best way to connect, expand your portfolio and be recognized for your talents is to share on social media. Now that Instagram is allowing these creations to be properly credited, it will lead to many more opportunities .
To emphasize the importance of this system, consider that a huge 43% of over a billion users on Instagram are black. It shouldn’t have taken this long for them to be recognized and rewarded for their important contributions. An updated beacon feature can potentially be life changing. “It’s a game-changer,” Johnson told Jezebel via email.
While Instagram’s efforts to reduce ownership and increase visibility seem to be the biggest game-changer of enhanced tags, a few key questions have popped up in my mind and among many of the influencers Jezebel has spoken to: What’s going on? after sharing the post? more than a million times? Does this mean that everyone who shares has to label the you wholeam contributors Everytime?
Beacon’s founders say they hope beacons will help create a culture of meritocracy and credit; Boyd told Jezebel that they “can’t force users do anything” but that they can “make it so easy to use this product and credit someone, so we’re creating social pressure”. Using “ease” to get people to use a feature looks like a bit too much of a wishful thinking. If Instagram is just announcing this tag and doing little to enforce its use, then the “opportunities and economic empowerment” it touts for black creators is just that. a Band-Aid on a Bullet Hole of a Problem.
It seems like experts agree that claiming these beacons will lead to monetization is a big premature promise. Creator and Founder of Digital black girl LaToya Shambo pointed this out to Jezebel during a phone interview. As someone whose sole mission is to close pay gaps and help influencers advocate for higher pay, she knows what the steps to financial success would look like, and beacons alone don’t inherently generate profit for black creators and influencers. “Instagram should partner with brands that use their ads to give a cut of the profits to the original black content creator,” Shambo explained.
Model and influencer Jacques-Henri also raised very important questions about how brands will use tagging functionality, how tags will create fair and equitable financial opportunities, or even how they will empower users.
“If someone is trending on TikTok and then a white person is trending on Instagram, is Instagram going to hold the person accountable or report them and give credit where credit is due?” he asked Jezebel in a phone interview, making the astute observation that attribution issues on Instagram don’t exist in a vacuum.
Henry went on to say that the gateway to monetization is through brand partnership and transparency. Recognition itself is just one piece of the complex representation puzzle and, like Henry, many influencers have told me that it can feel like a small drop in the bucket because their contribution to culture is so bigger.
Ochun is all too aware of how intellectual property theft and the appropriation of black creativity is a huge problem with a solution no one has quite found yet. “Black culture is the hidden origin of so many trends, beliefs and customs in the world. Our traditions and intelligence have already been hidden and rewritten for us for so many centuries,” she told Jezebel.
From James Brown to Michael Jackson to Sam Cooke, the fight to reclaim our shine is centuries old. Instagram is just a microcosm of macro representation and visibility issues. Influencer Monica Awe-Etuk spoke to Jezebel about this exact issue, noting that she believes speaking up and holding people accountable is a critical part of preventing history from repeating itself. For her, charging above market rate (i.e. more than her white counterparts are offered) and chasing users who steal or repackage her work without credit is how she stays sane. spirit. However, it’s certainly not a sustainable system for every creator concerned.
Instagram told Jezebel that it’s the Instagram community’s responsibility to take charge and command credit where credit is due, but that leaves no official black influencer advocates. So if everyone is pointing fingers, then who takes responsibility for the problem? While Instagram has admitted that its tags are “just the first step towards a bigger picture,” we have to ask ourselves when can we expect further action and what those additional actions will look like. Ending the influencer pay gap and the lack of credit for black creators requires a collective effort by everyone: users, brands, and the platforms themselves. One can only hope that for black creators who have been waiting for decades, that “bigger vision” will come quickly.
In the meantime, black creators will continue to create viral content shared 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 very succinctly: “Black creators want to see action where for centuries there has been no action,” she said. “It’s time for a new normal where black brilliance and creativity are equally valued and seen.”