Instagram Collab Scams: Brands Preying On Small Influencers

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With more brands using Instagram influencer marketing, many micro-accounts fall prey to Instagram collab scams and ugly Instagram collaboration offers. Learn how to protect yourself and determine a good collab from a bad one.

Instagram Collab Scams with white woman holding up a pink phone, next to a white mug and laptopPin
Keep reading to learn about Instagram collaborations. Learn what makes for a good Instagram collab for your brand and business versus a total Instagram scam.

A Different Kind Of Instagram Scam

If you follow The Uncorked Librarian (TUL) on social media, you know that Instagram collab scams and ugly Instagram rear their vicious, greedy heads in the form of kissy emojis and overkill cutesy terms of endearment from smaller clothing and makeup brands.

“Hi Sweetie. You are so beautiful. DM for a collab [Insert 10 feminine obnoxious emojis].”

Or, you already have the DM in your inbox:

“Hi Lovely, we just ADORE your gorgeous feed. Let’s work together in a partnership. Respond for more info, beautiful [kissy face, heart, smiley].”

First, what happened to the days of professionalism? Why are mostly women talking to women in such a sexist manner?

And once you message back to learn about these so-called ‘partnerships’ and ‘collaborations,’ you learn what Instagram collaboration scams these brands are offering.

They want your money. They are the influencers, and you become the sucker.

Don’t fall victim to crappy influencing ‘offers.’

5 Ways To Quickly Pick Out Instagram Collab Scams:

  • A brand uses cutesy language and emojis
  • A brand contacts you via a brief IG comment
  • The collaboration offer is vague, leaving you with questions
  • You are expected to buy the product and aren’t getting paid for the work
  • A brand isn’t engaged with or even following you

Keep reading for the FULL details of what IG collabs entail, good vs bad Instagram brand work, and how to respond to brands when you want to ask for payment.

These are the tools I recommend for blogging and Instagram collaboration success:

Travel In Her Shoes Presets
Lawyer-Written Sponsored Post Contract
Lawyer-Written Privacy Policy, Disclaimer, & Terms & Conditions For Your Blog/Websites

What Is The Problem With These Scammy Instagram Brands?

Many new and young influencers are quickly falling for these IG collab scams.  Some even welcome them. Most are in the 20 to 30-something-year-old female demographic. I was there too, trust me.

Why? WHY!?

I am a minor Instagrammer and ‘influencer’–2+ years, as of 2019–who does extremely selective affiliate and Instagram collaborations with brands. This website and blog are my main business. IG is just where I build community and an online presence.

Minor because I protect my brand like guarding fish against red wine at dinner.  ‘Influencing’ because my following is minuscule compared to accounts with 500K followers. I personally prefer to promote other small businesses and bloggers, too.

Instagram Collaboration Brand Scams TUL IG AccountPin
The Uncorked Librarian’s Instagram focuses on books, booze, and travel. Above, find some of my quirky brand work. I use Travel In Her Shoes’s presets.

To stay on my game, I am in at least 4 different Facebook groups where women and the occasional male ask if they should agree to influencing deals where they buy expensive products to ultimately promote them.

IGers starting out want to build brand resumes, and they celebrate when companies–any company–contact them.

I get it. I do a happy dance too.  We all want our hard work to pay off on IG.

Sometimes, these opportunities turn out to be fantastic deals that match your business model and help you earn money.

Unfortunately, many offers are duds and just insulting Instagram collab scams.

Brands assume that micro-influencers have little experience and are, quite frankly, easy targets. The smaller the audience = the bigger the IG scam.

I watch as IGers pay brands to market their products freely for them. This is not a partnership and is definitely not influencing.

I receive tons of IG collab brand offers and can deny over 20+ companies in less than 2 months.

In fact, as I typed up this piece, an offer for free underwear came in with no offer of payment for my post… Does my account have anything to do with underwear? Do I work for free? DELETE.

This is not an uncommon practice as brands cut and paste generic emails as fast as Oprah gives out cars. 

I don’t feel honored.  Instead, I feel like I need to clean up my business even more: Hashtags. Comments.  Ways to contact me. My mission.

Ugly Instagram Scams TUL IGPin
Another example of TUL with some paid ads.

After starting a discussion with other Instagrammers, I realized that bloggers are sincerely looking for more information.  Not everyone knows what to do with these brand collaboration offers. 

New IGers think this treatment is the norm.

Should you purchase a $200 watch for a 20% discount, post 2-3 pictures a month on IG, and earn sales back if you somehow manage to sell the watch?


You should never pay to promote someone else’s product.

I repeat: You should never pay to promote someone else’s product.

You should receive free products in exchange for reviews/posts, and most companies will pay you to promote their items.

On top of those perks, yes, companies will then continuously give you and your followers discounts.  You may become an affiliate and earn a commission. 

You may also receive compensation for likes and comments.  Flat fees are great too.

You also need to have a formal contract stating all of this. A DM confirmation won’t cut it. You want to protect yourself and get paid. Many legit companies will have a contract for you, but sometimes smaller businesses expect a contract with terms of the agreement from you. Even if they don’t, you want your transaction legally on paper. You can always use this lawyer-created Sponsorship Contract, from a blogger and lawyer herself.

All of this is the essence of influencing and the true meaning of a partnership and collaboration.

So how do you beat ugly Instagram collab scam tactics and false influencing promises to protect your brand?

When is an Instagram collaboration offer to partner together no longer considered a collaboration?

What really is ‘influencing,’ if we choose to use that term?

And how can we clean up the industry?

Uncorked Pro Tip:
What if you no longer want to review the product? What if a brand refuses to pay?
Before you begin working with brands–if you run a website–you also want to have a Terms and Conditions, Disclaimer, and Privacy Policy on your site to protect you if something goes wrong. You cannot blog, make money, or join ad services without these basic pages.
My recommendation: Protect yourself with these lawyer-written legal documents (as seen in my website footer).

Red Flags Instagram Collaboration ScamsPin
Not ready to work with brands yet? Pin this post for later!

What Is Instagram Influencer Marketing?

What is an IG Influencer?

Let’s start at the beginning.  What is Instagram influencing?

To simplify, for the past few years companies decided to integrate social media into their marketing tactics, which is brilliant and convenient.  Just look at how many people use social media.  Even your 80-year-old grandma is probably scrolling Facebook right now.

Influencing For Brands

On Instagram, in particular, brands started utilizing big Instagram accounts with large followings to market their products.  Originally even IG accounts with just 10K-40K followers had larger influence–but this is slowly changing. 

Accounts now have millions of followers and make full-time salaries on influencing and Instagram collabs–including press trips, ads, and sponsored work–alone.

“Influence” is encouraging consumers to purchase highlighted items.

Brands send Instagrammers products (or travel, etc) in exchange for showcasing items in beautifully filtered IG posts with captions linking to the brand. 

The picture = an ad.  Extremely well-done ads from an individual person versus the company itself equal more engagement and trust. Hence, more sales. 

It’s the whole face of a brand concept. Now, you become the face of a brand.

Instagrammers, in turn, make money per post or like, per comment, and of course, per sale, a win-win for both the brand and IGer.

A Change With Small Influencers

Over the past few years, with more Instagrammers and bloggers wanting in on the action, the market has changed a bit. 

Now, there is competition, oversaturation, and quite frankly, cheap brands preying on hopeful influencers. 

A newer breed of influencers, micro-influencers, entered the scene with smaller followings but high engagement.  Brands flocked to these IGers with newer, faulty tactics.  Hello, Instagram Collaboration Scams!

Mind you, many are debating the term ‘influencer’ these days, but that’s another post.

How The Influencing Market Targets You

Good Instagram Collaborations: Example Of Book Collabs That I Accept

I am a book and travel blogger, which means my opportunities vary. I should also mention from the start, too: I don’t love Instagram but I know its importance for my business, The Uncorked Librarian, LLC.

In the book world, I have yet to meet a bad deal.  Book people are cool. 

I promoted a subscription book box for a flat fee.  I provided one social media post on IG and Twitter, and my PayPal burped. Here’s an example:

Instagram collab scams the good deals Indie Book BoxPin
Here is one example of an Instagram brand collaboration that I loved.

Amazing Travel & Booze Instagram Collab Offers

In the travel and booze world, I work with clothing companies, go on sponsored Press Trips, and have created ads for rum–it’s a good life.

Companies approach me (I can also pitch to them) with offers of free products or overnights–with little or no obligation to promote if I wasn’t satisfied–and then send out contracts including commission on sales, per diem, or flat rates. 

I promote what I believe in to make cash, and they do too. Win-Win.

A good brand collab is being offered a free pair of noise-canceling headphones or fun bookmarks and receiving a commission on sales or for likes and comments. 

Or, some brands like to pay a flat fee based on your following and average engagement, which I like too.

Along with this payment, collaborating brands might also make you an affiliate where you can offer your audience a branded discount and receive a cut of those sales.

Instagram Influencer MarketingPin
This is a paid-for ad that I did for a fabulous company that paid for all of the supplies and provided me a flat fee with a surprise bonus for amazing engagement.

In the spring, I participated in a monthlong rum campaign for a flat fee.  When the campaign ended, not only did I get paid my flat rate, but the company surprised me with a huge bonus for top engagement. I only had about 4,800k IG followers at the time.

Don’t get caught off guard with brand work either. If the brand is missing a contract, use this blogger and lawyer-written Sponsored Posts Contract. You want to make sure that you get paid and protect yourself.

Bad Instagram Collabs & Downright Ugly Instagram Scams

Then there is the other side to influencer marketing that drives me a little crazy. 

Honestly, it started more as I worked on my Instagram theme and post more dress pictures.  I always joke that Instagram loves girls in pretty dresses in ‘interesting’ places–like rice paddies in Indonesia. 

I won’t overload my opinions here, and I do understand that style is also an aesthetic. Please put your thumbs away, and don’t troll.  It’s just not my personal niche.

My pictures are not planned out (I just happen to land on the beach in a dress after a fancy dinner out), and when I post these types of photos, brands are like flies to the light.

Hello, shiny object. 

Here come the unprofessional comments and offers from businesses.  Dear lord. 

Forget that I write heartfelt captions, have a business email listed on IG, and I also have a micro influencing policy on my site. 

Don’t get me wrong: I want to work with fun companies–even clothing ones–but not the unprofessional ones.

I also understand my limitations: I am not the ‘perfect’ influencer. My pictures are fun vs professional, I rarely theme my content, and quite frankly, I want a more realistic account for my blog.

Screenshot of The Uncorked Librarian's account on InstagramPin
This is The Uncorked Librarian account on Instagram when scammy brands flooded me.

Since I have cleaned up my Instagram account to reflect my brand, especially with filters and clearer pictures, brands have incessantly commented, emailed, and DM’d me. 

None of the offers are flattering or viable.  Instead, these companies are scamming me (and you).

Instagram Collaborations Brand Work PinPin
Learn the red flags to spotting an Instagram collab scam. Don’t fall prey to Ugly Instagram tactics.

Companies Preying On You: 5 Warning Signs Of Instagram Scams

What are some of the red flags that you should not be working with a brand?

Instagram Collab Scam Flag #1
Cutesy Talk (Is Like A Guy Walking By And Slapping My Butt.  TURN OFF)!

When the nature of contact is insulting and degrading, goodbye.  The door is closed.

Can you imagine a boss talking to you like this in an office?  Can we say ‘sexual harassment’ and unprofessionalism, anyone?

Instagram collab scams and bad instagram collabs DM for collab examplePin

Bloggers work hard on their content and social media accounts.  For many, this is our part-time or full-time job.  We run businesses and are professionals.  We have email accounts, policies, and ways to contact us.

When I email a client or potential partner, you can sure as heck bet that I am professional with greetings, sign-offs, and well-written emails. 

Emojis rarely enter my text.  I am not a lovely, sweetie pie, babe, or cutie to anyone but my husband. AND EVEN THEN.

So why is it that we accept this baby talk from brands? 

In business-mode, I respond to almost all emails.  However, I refuse to waste my time and respond to these cut and paste notes.  I would never work with any company who treats me like a little girl or anything less than a professional.

Instagram influencers are not bimbos.  Can we start a hashtag campaign against this? #InfluenceTHIS

Instagram Scams Flag #2
Lack Of Formal Communication Such As Cheap Comments and DMs From Brands Asking You To Reach Out To Collab

These, quite frankly, lazy and generic methods of contact and unprofessional terms of endearment filled with emojis are your number one hint that this brand ‘partnership’ is an immediate ‘NO.’ 

You are your brand.  Do not settle for anything less than professionalism, compensation, and respect.

Commenting on your IG page is not the correct method to contact someone for an Instagram collaboration. 

Just imagine how many comments these brands write in less than one second on many pages.  This shows how truly expendable and not worth their time you are.  Why give a brand your time in return?

Instagram Collaboration Scams Flag #3
Is Their Message Vague?

So say these companies reach out to you, and you now have to contact them.  Say you do.

Are they upfront in their offer and Instagram ‘collaboration’ plan?

Most of my bad experiences are from brands who make you ask questions.  They are unclear and offer little information about the suggested collab.  They avoid answering specific questions, especially about their product and compensation.

These Instagram collaboration brands try to lead you on.

Their policies change: “Well, actually this is a short-term, free international shipping deal for you and your followers.”

Your time is precious and no one has the right to waste it.  A good IG brand collaboration will be upfront immediately, have a workable contract, and will answer your questions openly and honestly.

Instagram Scams Flag #4
Do They Want You To Make A Purchase?

Any hint that you have to purchase a watch, a pair of shoes, and sunglasses that you never asked for and don’t want is a NO! I don’t care how many followers you have.

Please know that IGers with 500 followers still get paid.

Getting a percentage of a discount on a brand’s item that they have asked you to purchase and showcase on your sacred accounts is not a collaboration; it’s a consumer purchase.

And guess what?!

Big influencers DO NOT PAY.  That is laughable.  Neither should you. 

Plus, you are doing the work.  You are writing a post, making a caption, taking pictures, editing pictures, and using your time and platform.  Of course, you should be getting paid for that work.

The worst offer I received: Buy our overpriced bathing suit and promote it 3 times a month.  If you do well, you can one day become an influencer with a special code.  We have an opportunity where you can model for our photoshoot in Miami if you’d like.  International travel is big for our company and influencers.

Hmmmm, OK; so, you won’t give me a free product or pay me to promote it now. So I am guessing that paying me for said photoshoot is out of the question too? Did anyone watch the Fyre documentary?

Why else you shouldn’t purchase a brand’s Instagram collab product:

  • If you are a smaller influencer, making that money back is slim.
  • You risk losing followers and their trust.
  • You may buy the product and realize it’s just poor quality.
  • Do you even want the product?  Chances are no.

Spoiler Alert: I don’t wear watches.

IG Collab Scams Flag #5
Is Their Following Even Smaller Than Yours? Are They Not Even Following You?

If companies have a small following and are offering you a terrible deal, then you are truly doing them the favor.  They need you.

The brand might not have taken off for a reason, and yes, they probably do not have money to compensate you.

The funnier part is if they aren’t even following you on your platforms.  This lack of care shows that you are just another random pick. They have no real interest in you. Clearly, they have no idea what your brand is about.

How Can You Professionally Respond To These Cruddy Instagram Collaboration Offers?

1. Ignore or Delete

First off, you don’t have to respond to a bad collab offer. If the offer came via an IG post comment or cut and paste email with your brand handle, feel free to delete. The brand will never notice. On my Instagram pictures, I report these cheap comments for what they truly are: spam.

2. Respond With Your Media Kit And Rate/Fees

If you want to work with the brand and they haven’t offered to pay you, you can respond back with your Media Kit attached and let them know how much you charge per post and story.

How do you know what to charge if you are new? Check Social Bluebook as a *guideline.* Know that these rates are extremely low, and you can charge much more.

I also refer brands to my Work With Me page on my blog.

If a brand still won’t pay you, and you want to decline:

Just let the brand know that you appreciate their message. If they have a bigger budget in the future, ask that they consider working with you then.

If a brand still won’t pay you, and you want that free product no matter what:

Then, you are dead to me. No just kidding.

Make the best decision for you, your brand, and your audience.

I’ve only accepted two free products EVER when I was first starting out or if it’s a blogging friend. I completely regret working for free for non-friends as these posts gave me no street cred and only proved that someone will always work for free. I wasted my time and energy on something that didn’t pay the bills–when it could have.

3. Politely Say “No Thanks”

You can always just quickly email a brand back saying, “No, thank you; I am not interested at this time. Thank you for your consideration.”

Sigh, Don’t Get Taken Advantage Of With Ugly Instagram Scams

I understand that influencers and IGers want to make it out there. You want free products. Plus, maybe you want to be a pro-IGer or score some sponsored travel work.

Yes, I wish other IGers would just say ‘NO WAY!’ to these companies and stand up for themselves.  I wish they would stop setting the precedent for others.

I get that some IGers don’t mind buying a product, taking a chance, and trying their luck to earn a commission.

Just know that you are worth more and should demand as such. 

Companies are preying on you. 

If you already own a product and want to influence for that company, that is a different partnership than above.

And IG collaboration brands know they are playing you:

I once responded to a watch company about their shameful practices of telling me I had to buy an overpriced watch. 

In a tactful way, I mentioned that I, like them, run a business.  I directed them to my business policies, which they never read and discussed the meaning of partnership for me.   I asked them not to contact me again unless they had a budget for me, but they felt the need to respond:

“…Thanks for your time.

We have collaborated with many influencers in a previous time and they all cooperate with us at 60% discount code off, however, there’s a few influencers we have sent the free watch in the past but the effect is not good for a long-term collaboration.

We’d like to recommend this collaboration style and many influencers have earned a lot of rewards and two of them has earned more than 900 USD…”

I just don’t get it…and neither do they.  (P.S. my channels had double their follower count)

Why is a free watch not a long-term collaboration?  If not free, I cannot even afford a short-term relationship with you.

And yes, let’s brag about how other influencers agreed.  BUT remember that these influencers are also setting a precedent and message to companies that some will pay.

And PS. $900 over the course of how long is just not a good deal.  Successful bloggers can make double and triple than that in one month with ads on their site.

Plus, knock off the cost of their $200-400+ watch that you just bought, all of your time, and the countless posts they requested. 

Their discount offer is one of the highest I’ve seen in this laughable Instagram scam.  Many match the discount offered to everyday consumers.

Should I mention that even after I told this company what a scam they were running, they still wanted to ‘partner.’

How Do You Avoid Ugly Instagram Scams?

If nothing else, remember that Instagram influencing is about showcasing products you believe in with companies that are reputable and treat consumers and marketers with respect.

Products should be free and you should be compensated fairly.

If you work with a shoddy brand, that says a lot about your own brand.  I sure as heck know that I won’t follow, trust, or buy from you if your brands are scammy. 

Others will see transparency as well.  Don’t fall victim to ugly Instagram collab scams.  Work to make it a platform you are proud to be a part of.  AND GET PAID WHAT YOU ARE WORTH!

Where Should You Head Next?

Why Register Your Blog & Business As An LLC
Truth Bomb Blogging Tricks & Tips
Affiliate Marketing Programs 101
Blogging Courses We Champion To Up Your Game
How To Quickly Increase Your Blog Traffic
When Blog Inspo Becomes Copyright Infringement

Christine Owner The Uncorked Librarian LLC with white brunette female in pink dress sitting in chair with glass of white wine and open bookPin
Christine Frascarelli

Christine (she/her) is the owner, lead editor, and tipsy book sommelier of The Uncorked Librarian LLC, an online literary publication showcasing books and movies to inspire travel and home to the famed Uncorked Reading Challenge.

With a BA in English & History from Smith College, an MLIS from USF-Tampa, and a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in Christine's back pocket, there isn't a bookstore, library, or winery that can hide from her. Christine loves brewery yoga, adopting all of the kitties, and a glass of oaked Chardonnay. Charcuterie is her favorite food group.


  1. Hi! Stumbled upon this trying to research a bit. I’m a micro influencer. I did Octoloy and am an affiliate for just a few brands & paid collab with 1 other…. I make a little, I’m building… but I have never paid for product. BUT I recently had a brand reach out and ask to collab. They were very professional & contacted me through email. They have a contract drawn up with all the terms and a pay rate of 720.00 for 6 photos, creative freedom etc. and no requirements to post on my page. (Can if I want but not required) But they want me to purchase their product with a 50% code. Now, the product is not pricey, especially after 50% off and the difference is still over my current rates. But the product purchase requirement still gives me pause.. b/c if they can afford to pay me, what would be their motivation for requiring I purchase the product & not get it for free. Something to do with sales or worse!!?

    1. Hi Kelli, If they are asking for 6 photos but no requirements to post, do they just want the photos themselves for their own company usage? I’m definitely not sure why you’d need to purchase the product. Maybe you can ask them? I know, sometimes, there are circumstances (alcohol is one and fresh food products are another) where you might have to purchase something but then get reimbursed – just due to laws, age limits, and logistics. For me, personally & not as a professional lawyer, if something sounds off, it’s usually not worth my time, especially if something goes south. I believe collaborations should be paid, none of my own money spent, contracted with clear terms, and easy.

  2. Hi, so i got a polite email twice from the same brand,

    Hey there!

    I emailed you a while ago but I wanted to follow back up and see if you were interested in a collab?

    I wanted to reach out bescause you’re crushing it on IG 😉 and I think you’d make an awesome fit with our brand ***** and the IG***** . We would love for you to be part of our growing community of influencers.

    If you’re down here’s how a collaboration would work: 1. You’d get 50% off our products for life. 2. You’ll get 25% of any sale you send our way, and 3. Your followers will get 25% off their orders. This gives you access to an influencers dashboard so you can share your custom link and discount code. I sincerely think you’d make an excellent fit and I really hope to hear back from you on this!!!

    Influencer Collaborations

    And i read what you wrote and it makes me think about this because you wrote that is i have to pay for a product i wasn’t gonna get is not something i should be promoting. What do you think about their proposal? is a uv teeth whitening products

    1. Hey Rey,

      They are asking you to be a paying customer. Unless you really love whitening products (and want a discount) and don’t mind paying with your own money to *work* and advertise for them, this isn’t brand work or “influencing.”

      Brand work is you getting paid to promote a product. You get the product for free. You have a formal contract with the brand. You work out a fee where you make money for the ad you create. You would not spend any money of your own.

      Think about it this way: would you pay your employer to work for them?

      I personally delete these messages and block the account.


  3. Thank you so very much for this information. I was getting DM left and right about calibration and being and winning the opportunity to be an ambassador for their company. Each one of them wanted me to purchase products from them. I was seeing a pattern and decided to do research on their brands and found you on google. I thank you so very much for this information. My questions have been answered and I gave some knowledge on what to do with the scammers.

    1. Hey Daphne, I’m so glad. I get DMs every day with ‘brands’ trying to get me to be a customer. Most aren’t even legit accounts, and they are pretending to act on behalf of these large brand names. I just report those messages as spam and delete. I’m so glad this post was helpful.

  4. Thank you very much for this post. As a new small business owner, I found it very helpful and informative. It’s nice to hear things from a different perspective.

  5. Hallo Christine, thanks for the very informative article. I’ve recently been receiving those “cutesy” comments on my last IG post from the so called brads, asking me to dm them so that I promote their product. Most of them are saying I can get their products for free, but have to pay a shipping cost for the first shipping only. What’s your take on this? Shouldn’t they cover all the expenses?

    1. Hey Natsai, Thanks so much! You should not have to pay for anything, including shipping. I’d also ask for payment for the post. I never recommend working or posting for free. Your time and content is worth so much more.

  6. I’m just starting with social media marketing nd I’m a bit confused !!!
    What if some foreign brands approches us through ig comments and they want to sponsor nd give free products …
    What questions should I ask next to the “foreign brand” before collaborating with them????
    Hope you wld surely answer my question and help me taking the right decision!!

    1. I’d either send them your rates, ask if these are paid sponsorships, ask what they expect in return, and ask for a contract. If a brand is extremely vague to start, I don’t waste my time and just ignore or delete the comment/DM. A good brand will be fairly clear right away.

  7. This is a very informative article! I received an offer which initially asked me to purchase an item but then upon my insistence, offered to provide one free. I also was able to get them to agree to write a contract. It’s for a fashion company based in California and while I am very into fashion, my social media mostly focuses on things related to my career (I’m a political science major, so like politics-related). I’m not sure if I should take the offer but I kind of want to just throw caution to the wind and do it. I would love your insight on this.

    1. It would be great if they paid you to promote their product. If the product is off-brand, I’d say no, though. If your followers are not into fashion and that is not what you typically promote, this will confuse your followers, they might eventually unfollow you (if you aren’t sharing what they follow you for), and it won’t help you or the company.

  8. This blog was really helpful and informative. Thankyou for sharing the much needed knowledge in a world where scams are pretty common.
    I have a question, is it normal to receive messages from 0 following 0 followers account saying ” hello, I am …. from …. we are looking for brand ambassadors who support ….. please send us a message on our main account @… Hope to hear from you!”

    Lately I have been receiving a ton of messages from such accounts and being a newbie I don’t know how to deal with them. Is it normal thing that brands contact you like this or is it a scam? Should I reply them on this account or their main account or should I simply decline their offer? Also I have a private account with 500 followers.

    1. Hey Nazam,

      Thank you so much!

      So, it is normal to receive those spammy messages from accounts with 0 followers/0 following ‘acting on behalf’ of a large brand. This is a huge red flag that yes, it’s all a scam. I don’t respond, and I will flag the message and account as spam so IG knows that the account is bad/engaging in bad practices. I don’t recommend responding to accounts like this since it will get you nowhere and they really aren’t going to offer you anything worthwhile or legit. Just delete.

      I hope that helps. Good luck!

  9. I received an offer on my newly made IG page and first I was so enthusiastic.. but then I decided to do ONE last Google search before agreeing to their offer and found this post. Thank you so much, you are so right! I declined it politely and made sure they knew why 😉 I honestly felt the need to put that out there as I felt so nearly-scammed…

    “I am sorry but I have done some research and I decided I have to decline your offer.
    It is easy for a beginner like me to become enthusiastic about a comment like the one you sent me, but come to think of it, there is something missing. A sponsored promotion is something that needs professionalism and at least some form of contract and policies. This Instagram page of mine is a showcase of my passion for photography and for my dog, and in a collaboration I would invest my time, my precious platform and followers to promote your product. I am advised, and I agree, to not do so without the previously mentioned professionalism, contract and policies of a business.
    Your way of contacting me is through a comment on a picture, which is not particularly professional. Also, when asking a myriad of questions, I either get a super quick mega-long (and thus highly likely copy-and-pasted) answer, but the next answers on following questions are short and again not very professional.
    Your products are super cute and I was on the verge of purchasing one.
    Honestly, I would advise your company to truly seek out accounts you support, then contact them personally and professionally, with a contract and policies signed by both parties, and then send them a product for free (as they are investing their time and platform in promoting it).
    I’m sure you have your reasons for doing otherwise but it would be way more legally risk-free and fair this way.

    Have a nice evening,

    Adventures of Alba”

    As a reply, they literally just LIKED my sign-off… To think I almost went into “business” with them.. if you could even call it that.

    1. I’m so glad that you didn’t fall for it, and good for you for telling them why, too. I sometimes will have that conversation and other times, I just delete, report, or ignore.

      Lately, I keep getting spammy DMs from these zero followers/following accounts asking me to go to this main page to contact a brand that I have no interest in to become an ambassador (aka a paying customer). I report them all as spam. It’s always something!

  10. Hello,
    Thank you so much for this! It was really helpful!
    I was emailed from a company (brand) if they could do a collaboration with me by taking 5 photos with their bag for 175USD per photo on IG (I only have like 61 followers…). I haven’t emailed them back because i’m scared that its a scam but I was wondering if I could get your opinion if you think its legit.

    Thank you so much!!

    1. Hey! $175 per picture sounds pretty high with only 61 followers… Did they possibly mean $175 for all 5 photos? I typically charge around $75 to $125 for a photo with stories on IG with 6,100 followers, just to give you an idea.

      If they are legit, they usually will send you a contract after you agree on the price — which will lay out how they will pay you and when.

      I hope that helps! Good luck, Lina. Thanks for dropping by.

      1. I was recently DMd by a company that sells smart backpacks. They had a formal contract agreeing to send me the backpack for free and pay me $200 per picture for a total of 5 pictures, as well as a 30% commission on any sales made with my link. I had to pay $15 for shipping but I didn’t mind seeing as the backpacks were worth over $100 each. Shipping said it would take 3 weeks but after 3 weeks, nothing has arrived, when I went to DM them about it, they had blocked me. Some of these might not even be real companies and they’re just scammers, I’m trying to reach them through another account. Any advice on this??? (Also, my page has 13.3k followers and I am looking to do collabs if anyone can hook me up with a company; demographics are mostly 18-26 in the Miami / South FL area)

        1. If you had a formal contract, those are normally sent via email and not DM. Do you have their email address to contact them? Usually, any legitimate company will never make you pay, even for shipping, and you should have a direct contact name with an email address for someone who works directly for the company. Someone could have pretended that they worked for the company and also scammed you. My advice is always never pay — that’s not really a thing when you are working with brands and sponsors. If you want to do brand work, make sure you have a media kit and pitch to brands that you want to work with.

  11. Hey there!

    I just want to let you know completely relevant and refreshing I think this blog post is, and as per the comments above, I see that this also hits home for many others.

    My favourite of-the-moment Instagram con:
    When burner accounts – typically with no profile photo, zero followers, and a questionably garbled @handle – reach out and ask you to message another account/”business” with a higher following, because said account “would love to collab.”
    Usually these messages are riddled with grammatical errors, and dripping in ambiguity.
    You’d think that if the big account wanted you so bad, they’d get in touch with you themselves.
    These are pseudo talent scouts buttering up helpless hopefuls for the purposes of self-interest and exploitation!

    What a time to be alive.

    Thanks for your insight into this super sketchy digital scene.


    – Caroline.


    1. Hey Caroline,

      Thanks so much! Cracking up at your P.S. I occasionally get tagged on IG with that hashtag, and it makes me so proud (and of course, annoyed that brands are still pulling all of this garbage in 2020).

      Those burner accounts drive me nuts! I have a feeling they also have to do with avoiding those spam flags. …Because you know the second we all get a cheap comment from one of them, tons of us mark them as spam/report, and eventually, the account starts to fail even more. But who even has time to even get all those feeder accounts going?! I honestly don’t get it besides that those brands just want everyone’s money. They certainly don’t want influencers or brand ambassadors. Scummy marketing at its best. Ugh.

      What a time to be alive – haha. Thanks for dropping by and the thoughtful comment. I always appreciate it.

  12. Hi, I just wanted to say thank you for this article. I don’t really ‘do’ Instagram but my teenage daughter does and she came to me very excited because she had received a number of comments and messages like these. I read them and felt alarms going off all over the place but couldn’t immediately see the scam but was pretty sure that it was there – your article made the whole thing very clear and helped me to explain it to her. She’s understandably disappointed that there aren’t queues of companies lining up to give her free clothes but pleased that she didn’t fall for such unscrupulous tactics.

    1. Good Morning, Rachel, Thank you so much for the kind message. I hope that one day, your daughter does receive wonderful offers — they are out there — just not from the companies that leave these short, bait-like comments and kissy-face DMs. I received about 4 myself over the weekend alone. I’m glad it helped. Have a great week!

  13. I’m so glad I read this. I’ve been approached so many times by companies on IG that want to do a collab, and it all looks and sounds appealing, but they are still making you pay loads for something that you could probably get for a fiver from PLT. The only thing is, I’m not really sure what’s real and what’s not anymore. Do you have any idea on what companies are actually legit anymore?
    I’m stuck in a rut where I don’t know whether to accept their offer or not. Should you really have to buy anything in the first place if they want you to be an ambassador?
    Phoebe xx

    1. Hey Phoebe,

      Thanks so much for the message.

      You should definitely never have to buy anything if a brand wants you to be an ambassador or work for them. Once you make a purchase from a brand, you are not working for them or being a real ambassador; you are just a customer who gets extra perks by showcasing what you bought.

      If a company is dropping short, cut-and-paste comments on your IG pictures, they most likely aren’t legit. I ignore all of those. If companies are dropping into your DMs, it should be to ask you for your brand work policy and the best way to contact you. Those are the first signs to know if you should work with a brand. It also helps if they start by asking you for your rates, and they are very clear with what they have and want.

      I hope that helps!

  14. I wish I read this before I bought a product!! I was definitely looking out for scammers, but liked this one company and their products, and it was the best offer I had seen so far. But now reading this article, it seems like I’ve been duped. Not to mention I ordered the product weeks ago and still haven’t gotten it (ugh I feel dumb). At least I haven’t done any advertising for them yet, so that’s a plus I guess. A question though—how do you find appropriate and professional companies to work with? Or do you just wait for them to come to you?
    Thanks for the great advice!

    1. Oh no! Have you asked for your money back?

      Many brands reach out to me (brand work isn’t something I actively seek out these days since I monetize better elsewhere), but you can always reach out to a company you like. Have your media kit ready to go with a very personalized pitch. I mostly seek out companies where I think we can best work together and help support each other. I know people use bigger programs (Brandbassador and Influenster, for example) where you can put up a profile and search brands in one place–but those aren’t for me.

      Thanks so much, and good luck! : )

  15. Thank you so much for this post. Ugh, my beautiful nieces are constantly getting these scammy comments from tacky Chinese brands on their feeds. Luckily they ignore them – BUT, I think one BIG problem is that young girls (17 years old and even younger) fall prey the this, because they want to be able the say they are “fashion models.” I see this as a big problem – these companies are basically exploiting minors. Another problem – and I fault Instagram for this – is that most of these companies are straight up scam sites out of China – meaning that in addition to exploiting *influencers* – they are scamming buyers – most times If you order a product (from photos stolen from legit companies and bloggers) – your bank account will be charged and you’ll never see the product. I suppose it’s unrealistic to think that IG will ever police itself??.

    1. Hey Sandi,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. And yes, I agree: I do think these international brands target younger women (and they could care less about abiding by U.S. regs and laws). I am in my mid-30s, and I get quite a few DMs about Instagram collab scams because of this article. Women aren’t sure if their offer is valid or a scam. Many of the women with questions are younger, and I totally understand that: brands seem to be very specifically preying on them–I know that in my teens and early 20s, I would have had no clue what the norm was or what to consider acceptable. Social media doesn’t exactly have strict rules and business practices. Plus, some people desperately want to make money from IG and ‘influencing.’

      The fashion model comment made me sadly chuckle because a scammy and spammy brand told me that they wouldn’t pay me to collab (even though they aggressively sought me out), but one day, if I sold tons of merch for them, they’d send me to Miami for a professional photoshoot. I cracked up. Like OKKKK, you won’t pay me $50-125 for one IG post, but you are going to buy me flights, put me up in a hotel, and invest in my newfound modeling career?!? IG needs some serious regulations…

  16. Hi! I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. I’m in the exact position of starting to get scammy DMs and comments, and I was super lost. Your honesty empowered me and made me realize that (a) I shouldn’t brush aside creepy talk like you showed in your examples and (b) staying true to yourself and not giving shallow brands undeserved attention is so important. The whole preying on women and smaller accounts makes me frustrated and I hope that the culture changes, and people become more aware that shallow offers like this aren’t out for anyone’s interest. Thank you for using your experience, voice, and platform to help others stay aware.

    1. Hey, Yulian,

      Thank you so much for the kind words. And yes, I completely agree. I just posted a selfie yesterday on IG, and I was appalled at the IG collab scammy and spammy comments. I knew they were coming, too, based on the type of pic I posted (nothing crazy but still a selfie). I just ignore them, but I really wanted to write back, “I’m pretty sure no one wants to start a business relationship with a kissy face emoji and being called lovely and hey there gorgeous…” It’s so insulting.

      I’m not sure if the culture will ever change with some of these brands (like you, we can hope!), but I do know that amazing brands are out there doing things right, too. They just don’t behave like that. I have two collaborations coming up, and for both, I received professional emails. They are more local/smaller, and it’s so nice to be able to support indie business owners while getting paid for that work, even if it is sometimes modestly.

      Thank you, again! Have a great rest of the weekend.

  17. Hi,
    Thank you so much for this post!!! It has really helped, I have recently posting my own skincare/makeup videos on IG as just for fun in lockdown. I’ve recently started getting comments asking me to DM the brand on a specific page and the automated response, makes out like I’ve reached out to them!!
    I don’t feel comfortable endorsing brands I barely know much about, also I thought I had to reply and DM this pages of their comments.
    Makes me feel better about not replying to their messages.

    1. Hey! I swear with lockdown, brands are getting even more wild and aggressive with terribly fake “collab” opportunities. I completely ignore almost all brand DMs unless they are tailored and asking for my email to further discuss opportunities. My website is easily searchable with sections for how to contact me for brand work–with my email address. If they truly want to work with me and are a reputable brand, they will go through the effort.

      It’s smart to endorse only brands you know or have some sort of growing relationship with, too. I am 100% about being honest, open, and promoting only meaningful items that match my business. You really do want to build that trusted audience.

      I get so many emails and DMs as a book and travel blogger, I just cannot possibly respond to them all. I don’t have a VA and it’s just me. When something like a comment or email is just cut and paste, I don’t feel bad about not responding. Cheesy comments, I completely ignore, too, in an effort to discourage more like them.

      Thank you so much for the kind message. I am so glad that this post helped. Congrats on enjoying and using IG so well during the lockdown. It’s the perfect time to be creative at home.

  18. Wow! Thank you so much. I’m brand new and I was kind of excited when someone reached out to collab. My instincts were telling me that something was wrong though. And guess what? It was for watches! Lol My wrists are too tiny for most watches so I never wear them. Pretty much everything you said they did, so it’s a classic scam! Anyway, I’m glad I found your post. It was very insightful and what I should look out for in the future.

    1. Right? That was the same for me when I first started. You want to be super excited that brands are noticing you until you start realizing that some of them are being shady and just deceiving. I actually had a long conversation with a (popular) watch brand about why I wouldn’t work with them for free. They were kind, supportive, and inquisitive about my thoughts. I still decided not to work with them since they wouldn’t pay, but it was nice that they cared. The problem is, many of these brands know that they can find 1,000 other accounts who will easily work for free and sometimes even pay for a product (which again, isn’t actually working with a brand once you purchase their item–it makes you a scammed customer).

      I am so glad that you found this post helpful. Thank you so much for letting me know. Good luck! I am sure that in the future, you will have wonderful opportunities. I am still small (by choice and time) and get invited to participate with good brands.

  19. So, what if I was dumb enough to agree to a scammy collab? Am I still obligated to showcase the item?

    1. You are not dumb: we’ve ALL been there. It depends on what your deal was with the company and if it’s in writing or a contract. I’d just post what you agreed to (to not burn any bridges–even crappy ones) and learn from it–I’ve definitely learned my own lessons too.

  20. I absolutely love this! It puts in to words exactly what I want to warn people about. I was contacted yesterday by Mellow Cosmetics, a once legitimate makeup brand, to do just this. I knew it was a scam, but it shocked me to see a powerful presence utilizing this petty cash-grab technique. I’ve seen a few people fall victim to it, and yet they are still supported by brands such as Ipsy. It’s shameful.

    1. Thanks so much! Lately with everything that has been going on, too, the IG brand scams having been raging. I get so many emails that I just delete them all at this point. It makes me sad, though, when I turn down an awful offer and then see someone I follow totally fall prey.

  21. Hello,
    And I have another problem – I have a shop on Etsy (wall art).
    I’m trying to find Insta bloggers in my niche (and I even had a few productive collaborations), but 95% of all bloggers I message via DM or email do not respond…
    I checked all scam flags you mentioned and I don’t use them in my messages.
    I wonder if you can advise me, is there a way to find bloggers who are opened to collaboration?
    For example, I use when I need help with design or marketing assignment. Is there a service which connect bloggers and business?
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hey Tanya, Are you looking for bloggers to write a blog post or Instagram marketers to share a picture and stories with your products? They are definitely two different beasts, although many do both (having a blog and also an IG account for their business/blog). I know that most charge a lot more for a blog post vs a static IG post.

      I know some use big apps for brand work like Influenster and Brandbassador–I don’t use these so I cannot personally recommend them. I typically message a brand or they message me.

      Are you offering your Igers upfront, good incentives in your emails? Have you researched their brand and made your email more personal–using their first name and not the brand name, talking about how your products fit into their niche, following them on SM channels, and noting what you like about them, etc? If a brand messages me and seems to be beating around the bush, hasn’t talked compensation and isn’t detailed/clear/a good fit, I instantly delete, too. I usually look for the words ‘paid collaboration’ right away. Just a few ideas if you aren’t already doing this.

      Maybe trying searching the IGers you want by niche via hashtag.

      1. Hello Christine,
        I search for Instagram marketers. I’m interested in Stories.
        Yes, I do almost everything you mentioned. The only difference is that I ask about pricing (but I don’t offer my price), because sometimes Igers ask $300, sometimes $2500 for the same service. I search Igers with 150-500K followers in home decoration niche.
        Thank you for Influenster and Brandbassador and other tips!

        1. Usually asking about pricing is a great sign for me because it shows you are willing to invest in us both. Hmmm… Stories are definitely the way to go these days with the algorithm. Good luck!

  22. This is awesome advice! I need to look into copyrighting my work. I have yet to respond to any of the DMs complimenting me on how gorgeous my feed is (it’s a hot mess, I know that) and what a good fit I’d be. 10 times out of 10 when you look at their page it’s nothing to do with my niche.

    1. Thank you so much! I once got an offer for eye masks… I thought: For when my eyes get tired from reading?! I feel you. My favorite was for a bed mattress, though… For when I pass out from too much wine?! It’s a stretch.

  23. I love this article. It was full of a lot of helpful information regarding working with brands. I have been approached by so many scams and definitely fell prey to some of them in the beginning when I started my influencer journey. I feel like reading this article gave me hope again and the confidence to say no to ridiculous discounts and terms with these brands. I feel like I now have the knowledge I need to find brands that are better to work with and better avoid the ones that are a waste of time.

    1. Thanks so much! I appreciate that. I definitely find myself saying no a lot–and I am completely OK with that. We all deserve to get paid what we are worth and then some.

  24. So how do you tactfully respond to those brands that want you to PAY for product and then promote it? As a teeny influencer I want to grow my following and would like to try and work with that company IF they agree to send me the product for free.

    1. Hey Olga,

      You can always ask the company for the product for free, if that’s what you think is best for your account and audience. You can just let the company know that while you have a limited budget yourself, you would love to work together and would be willing to create a beautiful static post free of charge if they could provide you with a free product (and cover shipping too). You could also ask if they have an affiliate program and would give your audience a special-coded discount. I hope this helps. Thanks for the question. Good luck!

  25. Thank you so much for this article!
    I got an email from an influencer who has over 100k followers and they wanted to charge me to share my pictures on their profile. I’m totally new to this so I might’ve fell for the trick. I’ve been working so hard on my blog and my profile, and I didn’t do this so I could get jipped. You saved my ass with this post. Thank you.

    1. Hey Brianna, I am glad that this blog post helped. I have seen this, too: where a big influencer will charge you for a feature. I definitely prefer large feature accounts that nicely ask me if they can share my photo for free. Many times, if you just tag those large feature accounts in your posts, if they love your picture, they will share it (as long as you have been following them for a while and engage sincerely). I doubt paying a large influencer would have done you very much good. It seems like with so many people mindlessly scrolling and liking pics, it would have hardly been worth your money, especially when you can get that for free in so many other places.

  26. Hi! This post is absolutely amazing and I’m so happy that I found your blog, it helps me so much!! I personally, was approached by different scam companies, even if i have 15 followers on insta (I know is funny) but I just started my account a few weeks ago. They were trying to make me buy their products and so on, but when I asked them for promoting my insta in return they didn’t even relpy, whatever.
    Also, I want to ask you something and I’m very curious about your opinion. I just started a small business and because I don’t have a strong insta account I am in need of influencers that can promote my products. And by now I sent a few messages to different influencers about a collab and I tried to be friendly, to present myself and to be concise but at point at the same time, but no one replied to me by now. Do you have any tips for me? I don’t have any type of experience in collaborations and for now I can’t provide contracts because I’m on a very low budget, being a med student is hard…Thank you in advance!

    1. I forgot to add that I didn’t ask them to buy my products, not in a milion years, the collab was about posting a pic for 24h with my products in exchange of a sum of money…is this a bad collab?

      1. This doesn’t sound like a bad collab offer to me as long as you were paying the influencer/IGer a fair price and they were within your niche. Sometimes people reallllllyyyyy want me to sell their watch and will pay but 1. I don’t want a watch (and don’t wear them) and 2. Watches have nothing to do with my niche.

    2. Hey! Thank you so much for the kind words. I was just thinking of updating the post to answer all of the questions that I have been getting. I am so glad that you found this Instagram collaboration article helpful.

      *Bad* companies are so funny like that (and transparent): they only want your business or to chat if you are giving them everything. I had a company aggressively email me 2-3 times asking to work together. The second I said that “here is my price; let’s negotiate,” they never emailed me again.

      Since you cannot provide a contract (I am not a lawyer sooo take this with a grain of salt), you might be able to find a quick sponsored contract online for free. Just draw up the basics even: what, when, why, how, and where. When I first started, I took a few more risks that worked out (but I got lucky and have regrets). Some people work without contracts–it’s not the be-all, end-all, but I personally advocate for something–anything in writing.

      Are you reaching out to IGers who have done collabs before? Are they in your niche? Are you taking the time to personally seek out their business: maybe check out their website if they have one, start commenting sincerely on posts, and maybe engage on IG for a month first (again, sincerely). I know that I prefer when brands are personal with me and know exactly what The Uncorked Librarian is about and stands for. I appreciate emails with my first name and emails that show brands researched me/know I am a good fit. I also appreciate when the brand is following me on social media channels.

      My other piece of advice is to make sure that your product is something that fulfills a need and that people really want. Have you done your market research and do you have reviews or testimonials to share?

      You could always work with smaller influencers first. From my experience, it doesn’t matter how many followers someone has. Those numbers are super contrived these days: people buy followers, beg for them in reciprocation threads, and play games. You want a brand ambassador who has sincere engagement. Look at their comments: are they real and heartfelt. Are the comments a few sentences or are they fake BS from sharing threads? I once won a bonus on an ad campaign over BIGGER influencers because the company deemed my engagement the best (and these influencers had 10s of 1000s more followers).

      I hope this helps?

      1. Yes, I am doing all that you said, and I was looking for people who doesn’t have thousands and thousands of followers and the most important thing was for me to like their content because that would be easy for me to interact with them. I was thinking that maybe they think that my account is fake or somewhere I do wrong.
        I didn’t do the market research properly, but thanks to you I’ll pay more attention to that aspect.
        And about my collab offer, I would never tell to anybody to buy my products in exchange of promotion, this sounds to me more like enforcement and I just hate when people just put you in a situation like that.
        Your advice is more than enough for me and thank you very much for your time, I will definitely recommend your blog, take care and I’m ready to go through all your posts. Thank you again!!

        1. I am so glad this helped. I really appreciate both the kind comments and positive feedback. Never hesitate to message me either. Good luck with your product, and I hope IG works out for you really well. You’ll find the right brand ambassadors one day; it might just take more time. It’s hard out there!

  27. Hi! What about companies that give you free products but you pay for the shipping? Example $5 shipping ? also I wanted to click some of the links within this post but they weren’t working!
    Really looking forward to taking my brand and blog up a notch! Thanks

    Leilani Salgado
    Way of Vida

    1. Hey! Is the brand reimbursing you for shipping? I once worked with a company where I had to pay for some of my perishable materials (food), but they comped me in my payment (and all of this was noted in a 12-page legal contract). That practice, I completely understood. If a brand isn’t paying shipping, I guess you’d have to see if it’s worth it based on how much they are paying you for the post and your work. Also keep in mind that how brands treat you is how the will most likely treat their customers (that you are sending to them and putting your own name/rep on the line for)–if they seem off-putting with shipping, you might not want to endorse that company anyway.

      I am sorry my links aren’t working for you. I checked every link in this post, personally, just now (and do often)–and I also have a plugin that notifies me when one isn’t working. They worked for me and they are cleared in my plugin–if you have a chance: what links are not working for you? Thanks so much, and again, my apologies there. I am not sure what’s up.

      1. I am new with collaborations so I am not getting paid, simply receiving free products. Do you sign a contract with every collaboration? (In this instance there was no contract. I got the collab off a platform called Perlu). I double-checked the links and it turns out I was trying to click on the text instead of the images! My bad! I also wanted to ask for future reference, if I’m collaborating with a brand on Instagram you mentioned you can charge based on likes and comments. How do you know how much to charge for this? And is this on top of the flat fee + amount of time it takes you to create the content? Thank you!!

        1. Hey Leilani,

          Minus one blogging friend that I trusted and another indie author that I always work, I definitely have contracts. Most brands that are serious and on point will have their own contract, usually created by a lawyer on their team. You really do want a contract to protect yourself and your content, legally. I have this sponsored post contract in my back pocket (affiliate link): One of my blogging friends is a lawyer, and I use all of her stuff (like the disclaimers, privacy policy, etc that you see on my blog). Basically, they protect me more from getting sued and letting everyone know how I operate so that there are no surprises.

          Keep in mind (because I want you to make money!) that I see bloggers with 700 IG followers getting paid. My IG account is only 5k, and I get offered press trips and paid sponsored posts that I don’t even seek out. Good companies always pay. Just think: my first job was at CVS. I didn’t pay them to work or get experience. They just paid me less based on my experience.

          You can use Social Bluebook for free for up to one platform (like IG) to estimate what you can charge: Note that they estimate very LOW. You can ask for more based on engagement and how much time it takes you. My first ever static post, I think I charged around $55 with 3k followers. That was too low… Oops.

          I am going to update this blog article based on all of the recent questions I’ve received. THANK YOU SO MCUH for letting me know about the links–I need to make them more clear and easier to use since it’s confusing. That’s great feedback for me, and I really appreciate it.

          Hope this info helps!

  28. Hello, I have about 160 followers on my IG and I received a comment from a Watch company, like “Nice feed <3 We would like to collab with you! Please DM our main page if you are interested." When I DM them for more info, they offered for me to purchase their products for 50% off and offer a commission fee for anyone who use my code or link to purchase the items. Should I accept the offer, ask for more questions, or ask for a better deal like offer a free product? If I ask questions, what should I ask? Do you think this is a spam?

    1. Hey Jasmine,

      I guess this depends on what your niche is, what your goals are, and if you want a watch that you have to pay for (like a customer instead of being your own business). If you are looking to do paid collaborations or become an ‘influencer’ this is definitely not a job, brand deal, or collab. This company sounds like they are treating you as a customer, and then asking you to market their product for free. I, personally, never pay to promote someone else’s products and never recommend starting this practice either. The company should be paying you. Commission fees are rarely ever worth working with them either, especially if you are paying any amount of money for a product. This, in my opinion, is the brand taking advantage of you and your platform. Also, if you do want to become a brand ambassador and make money in the future, companies will never want to pay you if you are willing to not only work for free but also pay them to promote their products. If this is your hobby, though, and you don’t want to earn money now or in the future, want a discounted watch for yourself, and have no other intentions, then go for it.

      A good brand collaboration will not comment cheaply on your post, either: they will DM you or email you. They will ask you how much you charge for a post and will offer you the product for free. Usually, they’d send you a written contract once you agree on some terms. On top of a static fee for a post, you can also seek commission or an affiliate code where you can earn even more money (but also know that it’s easiest to make money with an upfront price with bonuses for extra engagement).

      1. Hi Christine,

        I had a similar dm to Jasmine’s, but they offered their products for free, 20% commission and a code that gives my followers 80% off. Does this seem worth it to you or no? I was thinking about seeing if they would pay me for making a post, but I wouldn’t even know what to charge them with my mere 150 following. Thanks!

        1. Unless you really want the item, I would never work for free. I would ask them for a small sum of money–a flat fee, at least. With that amount of followers and the fact that most of them will be very unlikely to purchase a random item, I wouldn’t expect to make any sales/commission, personally. Plus, if the brand isn’t paying you, you will need to provide some sort of contract (or ask for one) and see how you can also track those sales to get paid. I wouldn’t just trust them to tell you. That’s a lot of work to work for free…

    1. Instagram all around is tough! I find myself taking extended breaks lately, even though I know how bad that is for business and engagement. Good luck! I am so glad that this post helped.

  29. Thank you so much for this post, I was really struggling with how to deal with these offers and I finally came across this post so thank you, it will save me so much hassle in the future now I know how to spot the real from the fake!

    1. Hey Crissy, Thank you so much for reading! I am glad that you found this write-up so helpful. I definitely went through my phase of bad IG deals and just complete scams. I know that people always worry about how they respond to these brands too, and most of the time, it is completely acceptable to not respond at all–more so because they are generically cutting and pasting in comments. I usually politely say no if I get a more formal email and the deal is still bad. It’s a bummer how many brands take advantage but good ones are out there looking for big and small accounts. Best of luck!

  30. Like others I found your post after getting a similar spammy offer on my tiny personal Instagram. I have about 120 followers, mostly family, friends, and people in the same activism/chronic illness/nerdy interests I’m in. I didn’t feel comfortable buying a product and then telling people I know to buy it too. Especially since it’s not something I would actually buy.

    Here’s an example of one (of several) comments I’ve gotten, and their offer in my DMs:

    Comment on a post of my dog:
    Hello (emojis) We really like your Instagram (emojis) and were wondering if you were interested in modeling our products (emoji) Please DM us for more details (emoji)

    Here is the DM after I asked for info:
    Here are the details ?:We will give you a free product with every product you buy of your choice plus free shipping in return you will promote our website wearing our products ? and we will feature you in our Instagram ?Plus if the order contains more than 2 products we create a special code for you so you can put it in your bio and your followers can use it and you get some gifts ?

    I responded that I wasn’t comfortable selling products to my tiny Instagram following, that it felt like betraying their loyalty. But I would contact them in the future if I changed my mind. So far they have not responded.

    If anyone has a better way to respond, particularly that I would be willing to consider working with them for a small per post fee (and or free product if its something I already use), I would love some suggestions. And or how to decline offers like this politely while mentioning I wont purchase a product just to work with them.

    1. Hey Nina– Thank you so much for the detailed comment. That is definitely a very spammy IG comment and not really “working with a brand.” They are just taking advantage–which if you are a hobby IGer and actually really want the product for a discount, is semi-OK too. Just remember that eventually, all gifts add up for tax purposes. There are liability issues too if you ever look into legal stuff. You want a solid contract with any brand. I am not a lawyer but do your due diligence there. You always have to disclose on your posts too, and you want your audience to trust you.

      I truly think you responded in a good way. Typically, I let brands know how much I charge upfront and to send me a contract if they are OK with the price.

      If you are wondering what to charge: You can start by looking on Social Bluebook (it’s free to use for one platform like IG) to get an idea for how much your IG platform would be worth. Social Bluebook gives a very LOW estimate (just a warning), but it does look at stats like engagement, likes, and followers. Tack on extra, though, because again, the value is lower vs accurate. I usually let a brand know my average price, and that I am willing to negotiate when they contact me.

      Truly, a professional and good brand will email you and not leave cheap comments. They might DM you first by asking for an email if it is not listed on your account. I have never accepted an offer not through email. They are never worth my time, work, or trusted audience.

      If a brand asks me to pay for a product, I always say no and remind them that like them, I am a small business (which may be different than you–my IG is business only and not really just for fun/hobby–which is totally OK too) and work hard. Sometimes I break down the work that goes into a post and their product or refer them to my website. If it is a brand I might be interested in, I ask them to contact me in the future if they can pay me.

      A lot of bloggers and IGers always seem nervous to ask for compensation, but at the end of the day, you are a business doing them a favor and trying to make a living too. They are asking for an ad. They are a business. A ‘thank you for thinking of me, but no thank you’ is totally OK too.

  31. Hi Christine,
    Thanks so much for your wealth of information….we are just helping our 16yo daughter navigate all of this as she has just hit the 12K follower mark on her art IG account. She has just accepted her first collaboration with a well known art company…it is for product only, and they are posting her post on their site. It seemed a good one to cut her teeth on. I just read your comment above re too many working for free and that rings true….just not sure that she can demand monetary payment as yet……or do you think she should? We are so new to all of this and just feeling our way!
    Thanks again for your insights!!!!
    Sarah 🙂

    1. Good Morning, Sarah,

      Thank you so much for the kind note and words. Congrats to your daughter for hitting the 12k follower mark. I definitely think that she could and should be getting paid. Some brands will pay for as low as 500-1,000 followers. I made my first $50-90 for one post when I had maybe 3K followers. I only have a little more than 5k now.

      Social Bluebook will give you a very low estimate for what she can charge. You can probably add at least $20-50 to that amount. Social Bluebook looks at followers and engagement for you.

      The problem with working for brands for free is that they are now starting to always find someone willing to work for nothing. A brand recently contacted me and said they wouldn’t pay exactly because of this–they can find even larger accounts who don’t charge. Also, it sets that expectation that you have and will work for free–so in the long run, they will be less willing to pay. It’s up to you guys, though. Accepting one or two free products just to add it to a ‘resume’ isn’t awful, but I’ve always been taught to ask what you are worth too. Other IGers are definitely getting paid.

      Don’t forget about the tax aspect too. Depending on where you live (and I am not a professional for any of this so please check all info.), you do have to claim these ‘gifts’ on your taxes if you hit over a certain dollar amount. It’s the same for blogging. Most say they have a ‘hobby blog’ but earn some cash from it. Any income over $400 (or maybe $600…you’d have to look), transforms that blog out of a hobby and into the tax world. Just another thought…I’m sure she’d have to earn a ton of free stuff first.

      Hope that helps.

  32. I have ~20 followers on Instagram, so I was imderstadably excited about and confused as to why I was recieving an offer for a ‘partnership’. I was concerned that it was a scam, and this article has definitely helped me identify it as such, as well as informed me about other shady practices to look out for and what a partnership should look like. Cheers!

    1. Companies are so bad about this and getting worse.

      I just turned down a larger company who didn’t want to pay. They at least offered a free product, but I don’t work for free. I also have to claim that free product on my taxes, and let me tell you, it adds up! …But then I saw a few accounts working with the same brand that very week for free–which is why brands are starting not to pay anyone anymore. They can always find accounts who will do the work for free. Not to mention, those ‘influencers’ didn’t even fully disclose the ad. Drives me nuts. There are so many scams and unethical practices happening on IG and in blogging lately.

      I am glad that you found this article helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me a comment to let me know. I always say if it looks bad, it probably is. Good luck with IG.

  33. Thank you for this! I have a tiny craft Instagram that I haven’t touched in over a year and just got a comment to collab. I wasn’t sure what to do but did contact them…. I briefly considered it but felt uneasy. I’m so glad I did a little research and read your article. You make so much sense! Glad I didn’t waste my money or time with them.

    1. I am glad that you found this post helpful–and thanks for commenting to let me know, too.

      It must be that time of year: I had at least 2-3 brands contact me this week alone with awful, sad, and semi-funny collab offers. I just don’t get it–I think they are hoping for that one person in 100 to bite. I don’t want your stupid watch!!! lol ; )

  34. Hi, thanks for this thorough post! I actually had a question regarding something like this. I had a smaller brand approach me and ask (in a rather unprofessional email) to buy their product and write a review and they would “pay [me] back via PayPal later” so that I’d really be getting the item “for free”. I didn’t go through with this because this “process” seemed unprofessional and annoying, and the email itself just irked me…but I’m wondering if this is a normal way that brands do business with influencers and/or bloggers? Something tells me no but I wanted to check anyway.

    I’m pretty new to the Instagram stuff but I’ve already noticed a lot of what you mention. The cutesy, patronizing way so many of these brands/profiles use IS sexist, you’re totally right there.

    1. Hey, Susan. I would be wary too.

      Typically, a brand will just send me the product for free from the start (a Florida painting, a sweatshirt, a book, or a mug). Even for the affiliate marketing that I do on my site and sometimes IG, a company/brand will send me a promo code that completely zeros out the balance from the start.

      Only once did I have to buy the product first, but I had signed an 11-page lawyer-written legal document about payment as well as a 5-page-ish document of expectations from all parties. In this instance, I was working for a large and very reputable brand with other influencers. The campaign was longer, too. Plus, the items were perishable, and I could pick which ones I wanted unique to my brand throughout the campaign. The particular job also involved alcohol, which has its own set of lengthy rules for corporate social responsibility, age proof, etc. Because of the contracts and nature of the ad, I knew that I was 200% safe with getting fully compensated from the company (the contract also listed payment dates). I had no trouble. This was a more unique situation.

      However, that one case is not my norm, and I’d be cautious. Use your instincts. If it looks wrong, it probably is. Make sure there are legal contracts in place if they are asking you to pay first. No product is ever worth that kind of hassle.

    1. It’s never-ending. As you saw on Twitter/IG yesterday, these crappy practices are STILL happening. I do appreciate that some brands messaged me after reading this post asking me what they could do better. But the brand staff member yesterday just didn’t understand why I would never pay to promote a product period. Forget that I didn’t want their stupid wall hanging to begin with. lol Thank you!

  35. This post is such a life and time saver for newbie content creators like me on Instagram. I have been getting so many of these “cutesy” comments and I am sick and tired of them already. I knew something was fishy and I tried to research more about this and that is how I landed on this article. This is so well written. Thanks a lot for making everyone aware of this and being helpful to all the new “influencers” out there 🙂

    1. Hey! Thank you so much! The cutesy comments get annoying pretty fast. I was recently excited to agree to a campaign where I was professionally contacted from the start via email. The company had read my policies, researched me, and made sure that we were both a great fit for each other. They had a formal contract, clearly drawn up by a lawyer, and there was no room for doubt about our agreement. I loved this clarity and professionalism.

      Thank you for the kind words and for reading! I know when I first started out, I had no idea what was happening. Like you said, you definitely start to realize something is up/wrong, but as a newbie, you aren’t 200% what is good and bad.

  36. Great post! I’m at the beginning on blogging travel and indeed I received this type of unprofessional messages or likes from different resorts or travel agencies. What I don’t like at Instagram is the numerous photos that are not real or that are planned. Yeah, it’s nice to be in a red dressed but come on, it’s freezing cold. I would like Instagram to be more real and less superficial. Or this is what I’m doing, to post photos without filtres and show the reality and not some fantasy world.

    1. I was just talking about this on Twitter today. A travel blogger did an entire segment of Stories about how she wasn’t leaving her room because it was too cold out; she said she refuses to wear a coat in her IG pictures. Because she couldn’t shoot content without a coat, she wasn’t going out, period.

      I couldn’t imagine changing my travel experience or killing a day because I didn’t look cute enough in my coat for my IG followers. Why would my followers even care? And is it really realistic as a travel blogger? You need a coat in Amsterdam in December ice-skating in the snow.. I get that models and fashion bloggers need to shoot differently, but I’m more about being honest in my travels with my clothes vs temperatures.

  37. OMG ALL OF THIS!!! I recently started putting out feelers that my site was ready to start partnering with brands. Within 2 days, my Instagram DMs were overwhelmed with spammy offers like this. And the companies couldn’t seem to fathom why I would turn down their offer for a discount code. Like, why would I accept it?! Thank you so so much for writing this fabulous piece. I definitely think it’s something that all bloggers and microinfluencers need to read ASAP.

    1. I think my least favorite is the cut and paste comments on my IG posts…and then you go to comment on others’ pictures and you see the exact same comment and company on their comments. It’s an impersonal and cheap scam. Sigh!

      I’ve had companies get snarky and mean when I politely turn them down…they love to point out that other ‘influencers’ buy their products and commit to their terms. Ok….well…most just don’t know better; I see those questions about paying for a product to promote it in so many blogger forums. Don’t ever do it! That advice is across the board from HUGE and experienced bloggers and influencers.

      Thank you!

  38. LADY! What an amazing breakdown of such a shitty, ugly side of our little world. Hats off to you! I love #InfluenceTHIS and it should definitely be a thing.

    My own personal tip to add: I’ve found the easiest way to ward off shonky “partnership” and “collaboration” offers is to respond to anything they say with: “Thanks for getting in touch. Could you tell me why you think my blog/feed specifically is a good fit for your company?”. I’ve found, inevitably, they will either (a) not respond (almost always), or (b) send a super-generic response – in which case, I keep pressing them for details until they give up. The good thing about that response is that it’s not overly rude or stand-offish, so on the off-chance that I’ve mis-judged someone approaching me (it happens!) I’m not burning the bridge on that opportunity.

    I’m really heartened to hear you’ve never had a shonky encounter in the book blogging world. Unfortunately, I’ve had a couple. Luckily, the above strategy has saved me every time. I’m, like you, very determined to protect my brand and the integrity of what I’m doing – and my wonderful little growing community would smell a rat a mile off if I tried to sneak in anything that wasn’t aligned with KUWTP 😉

    1. Thank you so much! It’s a mind-blowing world, and I still cannot figure it out. How any business owner big or small could represent like that?! The world is slightly corkscrewed… I am looking forward to working with more reputable and honest brands. They do exist!

      I love your own personal tip. Thank you! I once responded somewhat similarly to a beauty product company for my blog. She wrote how amazing my blog was and so relevant to her products: Eye masks and creams. All beauty products… I was like, hmmmm, I guess reading does make my eyes tired so maybe I do NEED that eye cream?

      You are definitely spot on, too, about not missing a good opportunity and not burning a bridge. People talk. I usually try to follow up, especially with emails (that takes more time on brands’ end), because I never want to tick anyone off. Most aren’t good deals, but we agree to keep each other in mind. Sometimes their business models change and it could work. This one watch company, though, was SO dang rude. Arg!

      You’ll have to PM me or dish about the book world. I have no idea what that looks like yet.

      Thanks for the note, tips, encouragement, and for contributing to my group book Pinterest board. We are in it together!

      1. Hahahahaha cheers!! Happy to dish publicly so that others might benefit: most of the dodgy “offers” I’ve had have mostly been from, shall we say, less scrupulous authors, who really put the pressure on that I review and market their book for them. I stick to my strategy though, and keep pressing them to simply explain why it would be a good match, and they’ve never been able to come up with anything (it’s “business success” guides and other random stuff, not aligned to my blog/brand at all).

        They always want me to BUY their book (not even offering an ARC or a discounted copy) and it’s NEVER been available in hard-copy (when someone approaches me about an eBook, I know instantly that they haven’t even looked at my blog/suggest a book tab, because I state quite clearly that I only review hard-copies at the moment). They’ll harass me for a while (I’ve had one threaten to “take me down” ?) but usually give up after a little while. I’m a tough broad ?

        And thank YOU for your wonderful posts, it’s been great getting to know you across blogs, Pinterest and Twitter ?

        1. Holy smokes in a Dorothy and Toto hand basket! I’ve never had an author put pressure on me to review. DANG! That’s ballsy, for sure. I can imagine what that looks like, though. I haven’t been asked to purchase a title either. I didn’t know that happens–thank you for letting me know. I am so glad that so far almost all of my authors and publishers have been SO kind. They send me free books, and they promote my reviews. Many stay in touch and also share a lot of my work. I love the relationships and definitely try to do the same.

          I did have to write a negative review once about racism that the author and publisher didn’t really see or understand. It was very cringe-worthy and demonstrated all that is still wrong in the world. The book was marketed as a great ‘racial’ insight piece. I got dropped as a reviewer instantly with no communication. I was OK with that, though. I’d rather just silence and a complete halt of communication vs getting some words thrown at me. I do wish they would change up the book, though.

    2. What about Instagram infuencers with a good following that message you stating how much they love your products, they would love to work with you, but yet they have never liked or purchased any of your products?

  39. I found this super informative, especially as a relatively new blogger! If & when these types of brands come a-knocking, I’ll be well-informed and won’t fall for it!

    1. Hey! Thank you! I am glad it helped. When I first started getting these not so great sounding opportunities, I actually thought these collab practices were the norm. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to be an influencer. Then, I started looking more into the issue and talking to big bloggers; of course, these smaller brands are just scamming and taking advantage.

  40. I love everything about this post, thank you for bringing the ugly side of Instagram to people’s attention! It is so important to spread this message about scamming brands, it is so widespread on Instagram now and I’m as sick of seeing it as you are! You’ve captured it all in an honest, sincere post and I really hope scammers read this and re-think their “strategies.”

    1. Hey! Thank you for reading and hopefully laughing (in disgust) with me. It is really getting to be a pain.

      P.S. I might be working on another group book list for the fall. I will let you know in case you’d like to contribute again : ) I feel like the fall is the ultimate time to up my blogging game with the holidays, shopping, and everyone being online.

      Hope the new gig is great! I want to hear about your new adventures. I’m curious how you handle baby spit up too…

    1. Thank you! And exactly!! It’s so crazy how many of these ‘opportunities’ I get and now just ignore. I just can’t imagine anyone’s company director thinking this type of contact is OK or good for business. It’s a wild IG world out there!

  41. Preach girl! Preach! I’m so glad you wrote this post and put together what many of us are probably thinking everyday… a smart, no nonsense post about the downside of brands preying on us. I appreciate the honesty in this post and keeping it real.

    Btw: I don’t wear watches either.

    1. Haha, thank you!! I was slightly worried if this would cause all brands to stop contacting me, but I think the real ones still will. There are some great partnerships out there but others make me laugh. I just get so bummed when I see girls questioning if they should agree to ridiculous terms. As we say in FL, it’s time to have a come to Jesus meeting ??

      Watches make me nervous. I find myself looking at them too much.

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