In the Summer of 2020, as COVID raged and the upcoming Presidential election bore down on the American consciousness like an oncoming storm, a sort of reckoning began to build online. Spurred by the deaths of Black people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, it appeared silence among influencers, creators, and popular users alike was no longer an option.
People posted Black boxes in a show of solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Hashtags such as #Icantbreathe and #Shewassleeping grew in popularity. White influencers who made major missteps, such as the case with Rachel Hollis attributing a Maya Angelou quote to herself in an Instagram post, were called to the carpet and held accountable. It was starting to look like the major inequities evident in the social media space were going to finally be corrected.
But, social media has a famously short attention span.
On March 26, 2021, white singer Addison Rae appeared on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to perform eight TikTok dances. The majority of the dances were originally choreographed by Black or minority creators. The backlash was swift and Fallon responded by inviting several of the original creators on to his show, but the damage had been done.
White people appropriating the creations of Black and brown people is nothing new. The social media influencing and creating space is no exception. The involvement of largely white marketers, digital ad agencies, and platform CEOs lends itself to a more favorable financial outcome for white creators. Often, this is on the backs of the Black and brown people doing the actual creating.
Seeing a need for a response to clear inequity, entrepreneurs Lyonel Dougé and Vic Boddie created a fundraising platform that seeks to elevate the voices of Black and minority creators above the din of white-centered social media and unequal algorithms. TipSnaps works to allow creators greater control by connecting them to their fans and giving them the ability to monetize their work regardless of follower count or content type.
“The monetization aspect of social media has always been one of exploitation of the creators and sharing nothing or bare minimum back to the creator,” says Dougé. This is especially true of creators of color, who often originate the content taken and monetized by white influencers.
“Black creators are effectively sharecroppers on social media,” Dougé explains.
One aspect of inequity that Dogue finds clear lives within the algorithms used by platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. These algorithms drive engagement to certain accounts.
“For example, there’s documented history of Twitter initially being adopted by Black users and Twitter intentionally downgrading their accounts in the discovery algorithm to avoid being viewed by white users as a Black platform,” explained Douge.
In June of 2020, Instagram product chief Adam Mosseri addressed this, stating he would be “looking into” whether the Instagram algorithm was biased against Black people. Other platforms followed suit with their own attempts at inequity awareness, such as “Black Creator Incubators,” town halls, and events. However, much of this was dismissed as performative and not exactly game-changing by popular Black creators.
“Black and brown creators across social media have always been undervalued and overlooked regardless of the growth and traffic they provide to the platforms they are on,” says Dougé. TipSnaps hopes to “shift the paradigm,” as Dougé Tweeted in July.
Another attempt at a paradigm shift was the recent Black TikTok Strike, coming on the heels of white TikTokers appropriating viral dances created by Black people. The movement gained quick traction, with the hashtag #BlackTikTokStrike earning over 6.5 million views since June 2021, according to the BBC. The movement even jumped platforms, garnering attention on Twitter and Instagram.
Dougé and Boddie hope by taking some power away from largely white CEOs or biased algorithms and handing it back to the creators through TipSnaps, they can level the playing field and bridge the clear inequity gap. Recently, they introduced TipPools to their range of services. TipPools allows fans of creators to essentially “crowdfund for content,” telling the creators what they want to see and paying them accordingly.
This much is true: there is big money to be made on social media. Going viral can lead to television appearances, movie deals, or well-paid careers. It is evident to Dougé and Boddie that not everyone has been invited to sit at the table. With TipSnaps’ crowdfunding approach to creator support, a longer table is being built.
“We want people to know that TipSnaps is a competitive platform that has been a great home for ALL creators since 2017. With almost 450,000 users, we offer some of the best rates in the industry, and to date have paid out over $2.2 million to creators on our platform,” says Dougé.
The co-founders remain focused on their mission to bridge the chasm of inequity that still exists in social media.
“We plan to continue uplifting marginalized communities and creators of color within the creator ecosystem,” says Douge, “We don’t want the persistent inequities that we’re facing in our normal lives to pollute this robust creator economy.”