When these so called “My truth” videos started to come out couple of weeks ago I thought to open up about this topic. But more and more videos started to surface on Youtube and I decided to wait a little longer to see the changes it brings. Social media is hitting its peak on Instagram and now also the balloon of social media success is about to pop on Youtube.

Over the last three years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has cracked down on Instagram influencers, forcing users to disclose sponcon and brand partnerships with a simple hashtag (#ad or #paid are preferred) or built-in branded partner ID tools. Business is booming regardless, with even teens getting a piece of that that sweet sweet sponcon cash. However as the industry matures and companies grow more dependent on the insidious form of advertising, it seems like the real money, and shenanigans, might not be in glowing reviews, but brutal takedowns.

An Instagram post by Kevin James Bennett, an Emmy Award-winning makeup artist and cosmetics developer set the beauty influencer community aflame on Tuesday. In it, Bennett describes the “mob-like behavior” of high-profile beauty influencers and the management teams he was in touch with to reviews for beauty products he was releasing under his own name. Bennett claims the influencers offered to trash a competing product in comparison to Bennett’s products in exchange for $75,000 to $85,000. Bennett also called out the all-too-common practice of skirting disclosure requirements and urged the FTC to start issuing fines:
A brand I consulted with asked me to inquire about working with a top-level beauty influencer. The influencer’s management offered me these options:

1) $25K – product mention in a multi-branded product review.
2) $50K-$60K – dedicated product review (price determined by length of video).
3) $75K-$85K – dedicated negative review of a competitor’s product (price determined by length of video).
4) A minimum 10% affiliate link or code to use on IG and YT.

Yes, option #3 is legit – payment to damage the competition’s business. I told you it was mob-like behavior.

The demands and threats of “influencers” and their management have GOT TO STOP. The lack of disclosure by top-level influencers is FRAUD and it’s time for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to step in, start charging fines and shut this bullsh*t down. To the followers/subs who STILL refuse to believe their idols are thugs – pull your head out of your favorite beauty influencer’s ass and SEE what’s actually going on in this industry.

The post was in response to a viral video by Marlena Stell, owner of Makeup Geek cosmetics and a popular beauty influencer with over two million followers on YouTube and Instagram. In a video entitled “My truth regarding the beauty community,” Stell admits that her company has struggled over the past year with finding influencers to rep her products.

“We don’t have $60,000 to pay someone to do one video — and that’s the rates that we’ve been given,” said Stell. She went on to mention that she’d heard the owners of “multi-billion dollar companies” have similar concerns about influencers charging obscene rates without providing much traffic in return.


How influencer marketing works in the beauty industry?

Influencers get paid in several ways. There is YouTube ad revenue, which is dependent on subscriber and view count. In recent years, YouTube has decreased the amount of income an influencer can make this way, in a process that has been dubbed the “adpocalypse.” So influencers are counting more and more on other sources of income, generally from brands.

Brands will pay for anything from a single mention in a video to an actual collection collaboration with an influencer. Historically, when trusted influencers mentioned products, their viewers purchased them. (A Nivea men’s aftershave went viral 15 years after it launched when a popular guru said in a video that it made a good makeup primer.) Brands want to harness that selling power.

MAC, a popular and beloved makeup brand, is a great example of this shift. It has done collaborative makeup collections throughout the years with celebrities like Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Brooke Shields, and even Catherine Deneuve. But this year, influencer Patrick Starr landed a year-long deal with MAC to release multiple collections with the brand.

The rates that made the rounds on social media this week are real, according to influencers. Chloe Morello, who has 2.5 million YouTube subscribers, said in a tweet: “Based on what I make, this would be for around the 3 million subs mark … for a dedicated video. larger than that would be heading towards the 100k area.”

An Australian YouTuber named Alex, who goes by the handle Pretty Pastel Please, also weighed in. Like Stell, she straddles the worlds of the paid and the paying, as she has a full-time job in marketing and works with brands that pay influencers. She has since posted two videos on the subject. In the first, she said of Bennett’s post, “That’s all true.”

No one is quite sure how much influencer marketing is “worth.” Back in 2017, an agency representative told Digiday that she calculates $1,000 for every 100,000 followers as a baseline. In Alex’s second video, she went into detail about how CPM, a common marketing term that means cost per thousand impressions, is used to calculate influencer fees. With that metric, she illustrated how an influencer could justify asking for $30,000 or even $60,000 for one video.

Not everyone can command those rates, though. Gil Eyal, the founder of HYPR, an agency that helps brands find influencers to work with, says it depends on the platform. “On Instagram, they would need at least a million, and probably more, highly engaged followers. On YouTube, for a dedicated video that could be a 200,000 [follower] influencer,” he said in an email, referring to the broader influencer population. “Generally speaking, [over $50,000] is reserved for the bigger players. Smaller influencers make way less — $100 to $1,000.”



A large number of the industry’s participants seem to be able to agree on this point.

Marianna Hewitt, the super influencer-slash-Summer Fridays brand owner (Hewitt and partner Lauren Gores are behind the smash-hit Jet Lag mask) says that she “genuinely loves to create content” and is proud of her ability to “influence my readers around the world in a positive way.”

Huda Kattan has repeatedly said that “it’s not only about making money” for her. “I really want to make sure that the beauty industry is challenged, that we are giving people better product, and making people feel beautiful.”

This spring, Jefree Star – another one of the biggest names in the beauty influence ecosystem –tweeted that he is “so grateful to wake up every day with the same passion burning inside me for this industry.” But at the same time, he is “ready [to have more] real artists and personalities without attitudes and pretentious bullshit” in the beauty influencer sphere.