Until mid-2018 my Instagram account had approximately 9,000 followers. For those building an account from scratch, with no help of bots, PR or dubious practices, this is a decent amount of people interested in what one has to say – or show through photos. For brands, this is far from an impressive number. So, I didn’t receive an invitation to attend events, I didn’t get free products to review, nor was I approached by a marketer or agency to publish a paid piece of content.
However, a soon as I went over the 10k follower’s mark, my inbox started to see an unusual increase of emails offering ‘collaborations’, some of them in exchange for products, some of them in exchange for money. Most of them I didn’t reply to because the product had nothing to do with my feed. My approach to branded content and partnerships has always been pragmatic: if someone wants to work with me, but can’t take the time to check if we are compatible in terms of feed/imagery/core values, then we shouldn’t be working together.
The truth is: most of those polished emails you will receive inviting you to join an influencer program, or to become a brand ambassador, are scams. There is no product, nor paycheck.
Here is how to spot them:
Paid post and packaging
Don’t even bother replying. Companies that ask a content creator/influencer to pay to receive a product at home are not genuine. They will charge more for the postal services that the product is actually worth, and there is no guarantee that you will even receive that.
No company email
I love Gmail, and my first ever email was a Hotmail account, which I no longer use. However, when it comes to outreach, if someone, on behalf of a brand, is using an email not even remotely associated with the business supposedly interested in working with you, that’s because such a company doesn’t exist. Run. And run fast.
Do your research
If you are not sure but think it could be a real gig because, you know, your Instagram is awesome and you are a great creator, then turn into a good detective, too. Check LinkedIn to see if the person exists and works at the said company; Google the product being offered and read the reviews about it; hashtag the product on Instagram to see where it will take you.
If it is too good to be true
It probably is, and your mother was right. Brands don’t go around offering to send you tons of products, for free, unless you are Beyonce.
Learn from a content expert
“Yes, I do get spam emails offering unrealistic collaboration and also unrealistic deliverables. The best way to avoid engaging with fake proposals is to look for the source of the email and if the company has a genuine website. Once I identify the domain, I look for the website on google to get a company background. Most of the times these emails come from a dead domain, so it is very easy to spot when it is a spam email. I always pay close attention to the subject line and content of the email, particularly the words used and the tone of the email. Sometimes you can see that it was badly put together, or that a message has been sent to thousands of other people. It can be the first sign of a fake agency or nonexistent campaign”.
Next time you receive an offer that you are not sure if it is real or fake, don’t hesitate: simply mark the email as spam and delete it. Good – and genuine – invites for collaborations come to those who wait.
Photos: © Marcio Delgado
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