Social media is used by 4.8 billion people (about half of the world’s population), and users spend 2.5 hours on it daily on average. (If we add it all together, the world collectively spends 11.5 billion hours on social media platforms daily.)
While social media is handy for catching up with friends and learning new things, much of the time spent on social media is spent consuming content, made by content creators. Content drives users and engagement, which in turn, entices advertisers to run ads on social media platforms. The bulk of profit made by social media platforms comes from advertisers. Despite this, there has not been a guild protecting content creators, until now.
Content Creators face unique issues such as ownership of their content and fair compensation, and they often face these challenges without any institutional support. Add these issues to an already ever-changing and uncertain social media landscape and many creators are in over their heads. The recently launched Creators Guild of America (or CGA) aims to change that. A self-described “professional service organization” rather than a labor union, the CGA won’t act as a collective bargaining unit or authorize strikes, yet they “offer similar benefits to a union”, according to their website.
The nonprofit group seeks to back creators with the benefits that workers in more traditional professions also enjoy, like providing networking events and working with brands and studios to advocate for fair pay. Membership isn’t just for influencers; the CGA is open to videographers, designers, photographers, and others across the “supply chain of the creator economy.” Founder Daniel Abas feels that creators are the next generation of entrepreneurs.
In addition to access to resources and work opportunities, CGA members will receive accreditation for the work they’ve produced, which will be published in a public database of authenticated member projects. Creating a public record of work, independent of who owns it or where it’s hosted, is vital for creators to establish themselves as industry professionals. Similar to IMDb, the CGA database will track and validate creators’ contributions to the creator industry.
CGA is not the first of its kind, but it hopes to accomplish what the guilds failed to do. The Internet Creators Guild, a similar organization created by Youtuber Hank Green, shut down in 2019 due to a lack of funding. This comes in the wake of SAG-AFTRA’s opening membership to influencers and content creators in 2021 in a special agreement that covers commercial work and brand deals. The union does not negotiate directly with social media platforms on behalf of members, however. This summer, creators signed the Labor Over Likes pledge, promising to not take work from struck studios in solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.
Speaking of funding, which is of the utmost importance for the success and longevity of guilds; Membership is $99 per year, and eligibility is specific to the three categories of digital creators that the CGA recognizes. “Media” creators (influencers, online personalities, and gamers) qualify if they have at least 15,000 followers and made $15,000 in brand deals within a year. “Marketing” creators (social managers, videographers, designers, and photographers) can join if they have active employment at an agency or if they have at least 25,000 followers across five managed accounts. “Makers” (founders, developers, and producers) are eligible for membership by raising $500,000 in venture capital or reaching 50,000 streams, downloads, or installations. If you don’t meet the qualifications to join, a creator can still join at a free Associate tier, and receive some benefits of membership such as access to networking and to the monthly newsletter.
Additionally, members get advocacy to ensure best practices and fair treatment, accreditation for all works participated in, and award eligibility, marks (the CGA mark on all published works), and resources including sample contracts and paid averages, as well as business opportunities and experiences such as members only retreats and networking events.
While CGA may not be perfect, it is certainly a start for protecting creators.