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- The American Influencer Council, a nonprofit membership trade association, formally launched on June 30 and is a first for the influencer industry.
- The goal of the AIC, similar to other trade organizations in areas like fashion and advertising, is to fill education gaps and advocate on behalf of influencers for industry reform.
- The AIC’s first order of business is lobbying the FTC to provide clearer standards for how to disclose sponsored content that cuts across various platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
- Business Insider spoke with AIC leaders to learn more about what its early efforts and membership will look like.
- Subscribe to Business Insider’s influencer newsletter: Influencer Dashboard.
The rapidly changing influencer industry now has its own trade organization to lobby on its behalf and educate digital creators on the business: The American Influencer Council.
On June 30, the AIC formally launched as the first nonprofit membership trade association for the industry. Founded by Qianna Smith Bruneteau, a longtime digital marketer, and led by founding chairwoman and influencer Chriselle Lim, the council’s founding membership includes 11 other content creators from across Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and other platforms.
The AIC plans to be a resource for influencers at various stages of their careers. While there are talent agents, managers, and others in the industry who can (and do) support creators, these parties are also guided by their own business interests. The goal of the AIC — similar to other trade organizations in areas like fashion and advertising — is to fill education gaps and advocate on behalf of influencers for industry reform, such as lobbying the Federal Trade Commission for more transparency and clearer standards for sponsored content.
The influencer marketing industry is estimated to be worth nearly $15 billion by 2022, according to a report by Business Insider Intelligence in early 2020.
But unlike fashion, advertising, and other adjacent industries, “the creator community lacks a business-to-business sharing network,” Bruneteau said in an interview with Business Insider.
Associations like the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Association of National Advertisers have served as examples for the AIC as it has organized events and panels, shared educational resources, and advocated for the industry.
What the AIC’s membership and early efforts will look like
The AIC is currently founder-funded and plans to begin fundraising initiatives and capital raising through sponsored events that will be announced in the coming months.
The council will take on 15 new members in 2020 and influencers and content creators can join either by invitation, nomination by two current council members, or by requesting membership consideration.
There are three types of memberships: career influencers, organizations, and professional advisors. Each has specific minimum eligibility requirements. For instance, career influencers must be at least 18 years old, a US citizen and resident, and be publicly recognized as an influencer in the industry for at least three years.
The detailed benefits and dues for becoming a member will be disclosed during a candidate’s interview process. The annual membership fee will be on a sliding scale and the AIC said “no creator will be denied membership based on income.”
As a member, influencers will have access to a social and professional network, get professional development courses and resources (such as how to create a personal brand media deck), be able to join committees, and participate in the AIC’s lobbying efforts (though only career influencer members will have voting privileges).
Industry resources such as how to navigate the FTC endorsement guides and disclose paid partnerships will also be available online to the broader influencer community. For example, Bruneteau said the AIC is working on a “crisis management protocol” for influencers that will be available on its website.
One of the first actions of the AIC and its members will be to create a standardization committee to establish a “living document” of what defines a “career influencer” and the codes of ethics and conduct that could guide the industry.
Starting this month, the AIC will also launch “AIC In the Classroom,” with a summer course at Woodbury University in Burbank, CA, taught by professor Wendy Bendoni (who is a professional advisor member of the AIC). The AIC plans to expand this program by partnering with accredited institutions each semester.
Next year, the AIC will also launch a career day program for teenagers during Social Media Week in September, which will be led by Brittany Xavier, an influencer and vice president of the AIC board.
‘Platform standardization of sponsored content is top priority for us’
The AIC’s first lobbying action was in April when it participated in the public comment period for the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which are up for review this year.
The FTC reviews these rules and guides “every ten years or so,” according to FTC’s announcement of the 2020 public comment period. The AIC is lobbying for these rules and guides to be reviewed and amended every three years instead.
In its public comment submission, the AIC recommended several other actions to the FTC as well.
“Platform standardization of sponsored content is top priority for us,” Bruneteau said. The AIC wants the FTC to outline standardized guidelines that cut across platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, to make it easier for influencers to stay in compliance.
Bruneteau said many influencers, especially younger ones who are early in their careers, are not aware of the current FTC guidelines and regulations around endorsements and social-media posts.
For instance, a 2020 report on the industry from Influencer Marketing Hub found “only 14% of posts to be fully compliant and meeting all regulatory guidelines as set out by the FTC,” out of a sample of 1,000 micro influencers.
The AIC wants more explicit and accessible guidelines for creators on how to disclose their paid or sponsored content, such as when and where to use the hashtags #AD or #SponsoredContent, and whether influencers should disclose gifts with #freeproduct when they endorse gifted products.
- For more information on the rapidly evolving influencer industry, check out these other Business Insider stories:
- How the coronavirus is changing the influencer business, according to marketers and top Instagram and YouTube stars: Business Insider spoke with influencer-marketing professionals across the industry to better understand how they are adjusting their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
- We built the first-ever interactive database of the top managers and agents for YouTube creators, Instagram influencers, and TikTok stars: An exclusive interactive database that gives an inside look at who is working with the top stars on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and more in 2020.
- 4 real media kit examples that influencers on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok use to get brand sponsorships: One of the first things advertisers ask for during a pitch is to see a creator’s media kit.