Thursday, June 13, 2019

Instagram "Collabs" - What Happens Behind the Scenes and How to Avoid Being Taken Advantage Of

This topic is a little..."off-brand" for this blog.  But, it's something I talk to my friends and family about from time and time and their reactions seem to vary from intrigued to shocked. The question that usually starts the conversation to begin with? "How do you even make money through social media or your blog?"

To start off, my blog and social media accounts are not highly monetized.  Not at all. I didn't start this blog with the intent to make money from it. And I don't want to promote anything that seems sketchy just to make some cash. But I do accept sponsorships that "fit the blog's brand", seem interesting/useful/innovative, or that I know you all will want to see/hear about. I'll also participate in "collaborations" (I work with a brand, may be given free product, but am not paid) that fit that same bill.

When I first started my blog, I did a lot of the outreach for collabs.  I contacted brands I was interested in working with and promoting. As the years have gone on, I am fortunate enough to do very little outreach and have brands contact me daily. How does that happen? Honestly, I think it's because I have a long-standing relationship with COVERGIRL and I'm pretty sure they entered my information into large PR databases like Cision. (Thank you, COVERGIRL!) I also have learned to sign up for different third-party agencies (who act as the middle man between brands and "influencers") along the way.  It's very simple and a lot to explain all at the same time. But basically, that's the gist of it.

Since my contact information is available in PR databases, most of the more legitimate sponsorship or collaboration offers come through my email. Now, I still get sketchy ones that come to my email. And I do get legitimate offers in other places. But, generally, PR companies and brands like to contact me through email.

Every now and then, however, I receive messages through my social media DM's or comments asking me to DM an account for "collabs." Some of them are 100% on the up and up...others are a little questionable. Most of the time the brand wants me to promote their product but will give me something like 20% to 50% off. So I still have to purchase the product in order to promote it. And they may throw in an affiliate link with a commission percentage. I normally pass on those unless it's a product that I would (or already) buy at full price.

But recently, I've been seeing an uptick in [mainy instagram] companies offering a product deeply discounted in exchange for posts. But the thing is, they are selling these products at incredibly inflated prices. The first time I noticed it was with a sunglasses company (if you know me, you know why I get contacted by and consider collabs with anyone selling sunglasses).  They had a ton of super cute sunglasses and were offering me 60% off. Whaaaat. I am always down for some cute sunnies.

I went to their website and noticed the prices were around $70 or $80. And then recognized a pair (hi, I'm obsessed with sunglasses)... that I had seen on Amazon for about $12. So I started to do a deeper dive. I read reviews on the company located on third party review sites and what I suspected was unfortunately true. They were buying cheap sunglasses wholesale from China and selling them for much more than they were worth.

Since then, this has happened over and over again. And it's usually through Instagram. To the point that now when I get a collab request from anyone on Instagram, I usually research the company before I even respond. I can imagine that influencers who are much bigger than I am but don't yet have "people" to sift through requests for them, probably don't have the time to research every request they are interested in and may end up promoting something a little sketchy unintentionally.

So I'm giving you guys the "heads up" on what to look for.

1. They usually leave a random comment like this on a picture. 

I know they found me through one of the hashtags. The reason why this is odd is that MOST brands will either take the time to go to my bio to find my email and contact me that way. OR they at the very least send me a DM.

2. The conversation is usually a

Now, this is something you won't be able to see as a follower. But I wanted to include this for anyone just starting out in blogging or social media. Typically when brands contact influencers, they don't do a lot of back and forth before getting to the pitch. It's usually one message that goes something like "We love your blog/account/youtube etc. and think your followers would be interested in our product" and then they get straight into their company and what they have in mind as far as collaboration goes.

3. Their followers are all or mostly accounts with little content and/or most of their likes come from these empty accounts

If they have a ton of followers that have little to no content and little to no's a red flag. Everyone has some bots that follow them. I don't know why, but bots do just start following influencers, celebrities, and public accounts. But when a company has MOSTLY followers that look fake... there is a good chance they paid for their following.

4. All of their content was posted on the same day or not too long ago

If it's a brand you've never heard of, they aren't big anywhere else, and they have thousands of followers but their first piece of content was only posted a day ago... ehhhh.  Now, this could be a brand that has had an account for years and decided to hit restart and redo their image, wipe their account of content, and start over. But, it's not very common and it is still something to watch out for. Also having most of their content posted on the same day throws up a red flag since most brands will post a little bit each day or each week... Not all at once.

5. Their products don't seem to match the price

With things like sunglasses and clothing, it's hard to tell if the quality matches the price without actually seeing the product in person. But jewelry is a little easier. If the website doesn't list what the jewelry is made out of (examples: 925 sterling silver or 18K gold) then it's most likely alloy or another cheap material. And not worth $40.

You can also check this by doing a simple google search of the product name or reverse image search the product photo found on the website/ social media account. Most of the time you will find the same exact product (sometimes the same exact image) listed on wholesale websites and Amazon for 75%-90% cheaper.

*Bonus* They are following ... their other accounts?

This was new for me. I normally don't check who the brand is following. But this particular account was only following 3 accounts. So why not? Who were they following? Themselves. Yep. They have 3 more accounts for the same company. I'm assuming they have multiple people doing "outreach" via Instagram to influencers and that each person has their own IG account for the company...but that's not how things normally work (normally a company has one account or one main account and one PR/outreach account.... or their PR department contacts you through email). I can't know for sure if that's what's going on...but that's what it looks like to me.

And lastly, reviews are your friends! Check the comments on the companies' social media and search "[company name]+reviews" or "[company name]+scam" on google before giving them your coin.

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