Gone are the days of taunting influencers saying they don’t have a real job! While the latter could play a pivotal role in the historic double strike that is shaking Hollywood and as laws governing their activities begin to emerge, it is crucial to take an interest in their working conditions, because their worrying dependence on platforms foreshadows our own vulnerability to web giants.

An influencer is a content creator who has cultivated an audience large enough to monetize their attention. If many people do not yet consider these new actors as skilled labor, the creators that I follow on the networks rather make me think of women-orchestras, in that they multiply roles and hats : editor, videographer, animator, writer, digital strategist… and so on. Their versatile skills are put to use in a growing industry that could nearly double in size over the next five years. According to Goldman Sachs, the global influencer market is expected to reach US$480 billion in 2027!

If we hear more often about success stories than flops, you should know that the influence market pushes more than one to burn-out, in particular because it encourages uninterrupted content production.

The visibility of content on the networks is linked to algorithmic threads that promote or hinder the circulation of images through secret mechanisms that companies are not required to disclose. Cynthia Dulude, a beauty YouTuber with over 693,000 subscribers, tells me that this perpetual instability causes anxiety: “For me, the stress is vacation-level, because I never allow myself that. According to the one who started her career 12 years ago, algorithms seem to punish creators who stop publishing for a while. We must therefore maintain the machine daily, see several times a day, and pray to the algorithmic gods to be lenient, otherwise they will downgrade us.

Whether you are an influencer or not, we are all affected by the volatility of the platforms, which have become our main communication channels. Many feel the pressure of having to tame the latest trending media, not for sheer enjoyment, but to stay competitive and relevant. I update myself frantically, until I can no longer sleep at night. Artists like me are called upon to cultivate a digital audience to facilitate the promotion of their work, even if it means spending more time consolidating their online presence than producing their works. And this presence, in return, generates value that enriches the web giants. If we want to be able to demand better working and living conditions, it is therefore essential to recognize that we all work for GAFAM, even if we do not directly receive an income.

The virtual absence of a regulatory framework in the industry is not inexorable, and this anarchy is even quietly set to change. We see this, for example, with the (perhaps too late) effort made by the Canadian government with its Bill C-18 (Online News Act), which aims to help the media to be compensated when their content is shared on social media. A few days ago, we also learned that the State of Illinois had just passed a law aimed at protecting the children of influencers, a first in the United States. Thus, minors under the age of 16 who appear in the publications of their parents will now be entitled to guaranteed financial compensation, otherwise they will be able to take their guardians to court. In addition, SAG-AFTRA, this American professional union which brings together TV, radio and cinema professionals, has allowed certain influencers to unionize since 2022, authorizing them to receive retirement benefits and health insurance.

As Hollywood goes through a historic strike, studios are turning to influencers to replenish their now deserted red carpets. However, many content creators turn down the contracts they are offered, motivated by their desire to join the ranks of SAG-AFTRA one day. The association has warned them: scabs will be banned for life from the union. However, if the current conflict provides more work for influencers, it also encourages striking actors to consolidate their digital presence. Content creation is therefore set to become more widespread, while the power of traditional media is eroding. What matters in the end may not be the institutions we work for, but the working conditions they offer us. And whether we are talking about Hollywood or YouTube, precariousness is never desirable.