January 01, 2015

The Age of the Social Media Influencers

Dave Morrow

Do the following names mean anything to you?  

  • @nikkigiavasisofficial
  • @desiperkins
  • @KimKardashian
  • @kyliejenner
  • @jenafrumes
  • @therock

If not, you’ve probably been living under a rock or without Internet for the last decade.

These names are more than just celebrity types; they are “social media influencers.” It’s an interesting and fairly new concept. Essentially, because these individuals have millions of “followers” on certain social media platforms, we, the people, have now deemed them as “influencers” of American and sometimes global culture. No, I didn’t list Barack Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron, or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as influencers of our world. Though, it is kinda incredible how celebrities and sometimes completely random people have more influence on our lives than our world leaders. But, I digress.

In a nutshell, they are making MONEY. I mean serious BANK, like P.Diddy, Tom Brady, and Jay-Z make it rain MONEY! The average influencer with at least 100,000 followers on certain social media platforms, according to one study, averages nearly $800 per post when marketing and showcasing third-party products. Yes, you can make nearly $800 by posting pictures of yourself eating, sleeping, shaving, walking down the street, or sitting in some dirt as long as you are marketing and showcasing a company’s product. Some companies are even paying up to $500,000 per post from celebrities like Kim Kardashian.

I think this is the moment where you might begin to question your choice of profession. But fear not, social media influencers need lawyers too!

I recently got my hands on an Influencer Agreement from Los Angeles based sports and entertainment lawyer and film producer Jaia Thomas. Jaia, a graduate of George Washington University Law School, has built a multiservice law practice providing legal solutions for corporations and individuals in all facets of the sports and entertainment industry. Ms. Thomas recently launched the Presley Group, with her cofounder Jessica Johnson, another Los Angeles-based attorney. The mission of the Presley Group is to support “social media influencers of color” and to address the lack of diversity in the influencer space. Jaia has drafted and negotiated numerous agreements for social media’s most influential rising stars.

So what do these agreements include?

Well, they are essentially marketing agreements where one party is paying another party to market their product. If you can remember Contracts I and II from law school then you’ll understand these agreements. For my fellow transactional attorneys, you will easily recognize the following sections: Termination, Services, Compensation, Time Lines, Approval Rights, and Prohibited Activities. Many agreements will also have an exclusivity clause, prohibiting influencers from posting about or endorsing a competitor’s product or service. It is also important to note that all Influencer Agreements include information regarding the Federal Trade Commission’s new guidelines that require influencers to provide disclosures on their posts, which essentially means they need to tell us that they are getting PAID. Attaching such hashtags such as “#ad” and” #sponsored” to a post usually helps fulfill this requirement.

Overall, I love the idea of influencers. I most certainly follow a couple already. But I’m happy to know that this emerging industry is being impacted and shaped by young lawyers across the country.

Dave Morrow

Dave Morrow is an attorney, educator, and creative who enjoys speaking and writing about issues of race and diversity and all things pop culture, tech, and finance.