Are Influencers on Strike Too?

Hollywood’s actors are on strike. Many social media influencers have joined them. So what happens now?

SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, has allowed select content creators to join since 2021 under its influencer program. And many influencers work directly with movie studios and other Hollywood entities, who pay them to promote shows and movies, whether it’s on TikTok, YouTube or the red carpet.

Well, not anymore.

This week, SAG-AFTRA announced specific guidelines for influencers during the strike. The rules are broad. Influencers are advised to “not accept any new work for promotion of struck companies or their content.” That means no TikToks about Barbenheimer or red carpet walks for “Meg 2: The Trench.”

And SAG doesn’t care if influencers are being paid for those posts or not. Any posts about struck work are considered to be crossing the picket line. An influencer who films a “Get Ready With Me” video by putting on a pink dress and heading out to the theater to see “Barbie” could be in violation — and anyone deemed to have crossed the picket line will be barred from joining SAG in the future.

A number of creators I talked to this week see joining the union as a goal, one they don’t want to jeopardize.

Creators are divided. Some have gone full Norma Rae, vocally turning down lucrative deals and encouraging their viewers to support the strike. Others have no interest in joining SAG and will probably be continuing business as usual, or they are dubious that the consequences will ever arrive.

“I just think that’s an empty threat,” Jessy Grossman, founder of the networking group Women in Influencer Marketing, told me. “Enforcement of that is going to be impossible.”

Erin Orsi, a self-described “tiny content creator,” went a little bit viral on TikTok after announcing she had turned down a potential $5,000 sponsored partnership from a company working with a major superhero franchise. For Orsi, who has just under 20,000 followers, that’s a lot more money than she usually gets paid to post. Still, she took a pass.

“I’m trying to push this to be my full-time thing,” Orsi said. “I don’t know what the future holds. I would not want to close the door on an opportunity like joining the guild.”

Darcy Michael, one half of the comedy duo Darcy and Jer, told me a network offered him a $25,000 sponsored deal in the days leading up to the strike. He was initially interested, particularly given that the rate was higher than usual for such work, but he ultimately declined to pursue it further after realizing the impending strike was probably what was driving up the rate. (Michael lives in Vancouver and is in ACTRA, the Canadian equivalent of SAG-AFTRA.)

“I told my team, I was like, ‘in no uncertain terms until the strike is over. We’re not crossing picket lines,’” Michael said.

“I also just feel like this strike in particular is monumental for all industries,” he added. “I think we’re leading the pack in making sure that workers are protected, especially from A.I. intervention. If it means that we’re going to pinch our pennies for a few months, we’re going to pinch our pennies.”

Influencers who indicated in videos that they planned to ignore the guidelines have found the online reaction to be swift and sharp. At least two entertainment creators, including @collinnurrmom and @straw_hat_goofy, have already deleted such videos. The latter now has a “SAG-AFTRA Strong” image as his TikTok profile picture.

“I spoke way too soon on my page and upset a lot of people,” Collin Everett, a.k.a. @collinnurrmom, wrote in an email when I asked about the now-deleted videos. “I do not believe that I am scabbing,” he added.

Some small creators are just plain confused. Rosa Romero runs a TikTok page of memes about TV shows including “The Bear” and “Succession.” “It’s really hard for me to categorize myself as an influencer in this sphere,” Romero said. “It’s really just my personal page that accidentally ended up having 11,000 followers.”

Romero sent SAG-AFTRA an email asking whether it was still OK to post about movies produced before the strike went into effect (specifically, “Barbie”). Still, Romero worries that doing so might generate backlash online. “Any questions or clarification is treated like someone’s trying to cross the picket line,” Romero said. “It’s just unfortunate.”

John Monterubio, a senior counsel at Loeb & Loeb LLP who advises influencers and advertisers, said the firm had fielded questions from influencers and brands about how the strike would affect them.

People who are not in the union and don’t have their hearts set on joining have a decision to make, Monterubio said. “They’re not legally bound one way or another,” he said, “but they have to think about how their decision will impact them in the future.”

Influencers are not the only ones confused, he added: “The different agreements are quite complicated, even for attorneys to figure out.”

Here’s what else is happening online this week.

I promise, we have non-dairy interests. Even though we wrote about milk-themed beauty last week. And Grimace milkshakes the week before that. Sometimes there is a TikTok trendlet that is just too good not to share.

Behold this genre that features ice cream shop employees hurling frozen desserts at one another. The format goes like this: A customer tells the cashier that they were given the wrong order. The cashier apologizes, then turns around and launches the incorrect order at a coworker’s face. Splat!(Do not keep reading if you have not watched the video with your sound turned on. The sound is crucial.)

What appears to have been started by a few kids goofing around at their summer jobs has been eagerly adopted by ice cream shops across the country. Vendors in Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma have all hopped on the trend.

If you find yourself behind the counter of a Dairy Queen, just remember to duck.

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Callie Holtermann contributed reporting to this newsletter.