Let's be honest here- everyone trying to grow their brand on Instagram is looking for collaboration offers. When done correctly, they can be really beneficial. Not only do you get the opportunity to showcase products you really love, but it often attracts other brands and can hugely extend your reach.
However, recently there has been a new influx of scam ambassador accounts. I'm sure you've all heard this term before- but what are they and how do they actually work?
These companies are the ones commenting on your photos, sending you generic DM's and eventually asking you to pay shipping/ hitting you with a discount code. They basically make their money by purchasing very cheap products, then posting them on a website for a very inflated price. Eg- a pair of earrings may be £60 on the website, even though they only paid £1 or £2 for the item. They then message you saying you can have the product for FREE (oh my god, wow, right?) and all you have to do is pay shipping, which is ONLY £20! What a bargain!
But of course, it isn't a bargain. You are still parting with hard earned money for a low quality item that you don't really want, and the company is making a massive profit margin!
These companies annoy me because they prey on smaller, more impressionable accounts. People have often worked hard to build up their Instagram, and feel like it is finally paying off when they get messages from brands asking to collaborate- only to find themselves paying shipping for a product that never arrives, or promoting a really low quality product.
When I first started my blog and Instagram, I had no idea this was a 'thing' and found myself very tempted to just pay shipping, thinking this was maybe the norm? I did a lot of research and I am so glad I did. So to help out other people in the same positions, here are some of the best ways to spot a scam account and differentiate it from a real collaboration request.
Example of a real collaboration offer, sent to my email
1) They Ask You To Pay Shipping
When I first started my Instagram and blog, I got my first ever DM from one of these companies. I was super excited as it was my first collaboration opportunity! I ran around telling my entire family, and spent ages looking through the website and selecting the 'free' products that I wanted. I sent them back my requests- and was hit by the 'great, we cover the products and you just cover shipping!' response.
Let's make this very clear- this is not a collaboration! This is just you being a customer.
A collaboration includes a company sending you out free products in exchange for you advertising and showcasing their company.
A customer pays money to receive a product.
At the time, I still felt tempted and was confused about whether this was how collaborations worked on Instagram. I did a lot of research and after reading some real horror stories of people not receiving their products/ receiving really low quality products to promote, I quickly turned it down. If you are in a genuine collaboration or sponsorship situation you should NEVER be asked to pay for anything!
2) Discount Code
This is very similar to the one above. Rather than a free product, the company may offer you a hefty discount code. This may feel tempting but remember- even 60% off a product STILL means you are parting with money! It just means you are now paying 40% for a product you don't even really want. I would only consider doing this if you genuinely love the brand/ have shopped from them before and are happy with just a discount code. I would steer away from this in a 'collaboration' basis.
3) They Comment On Your Photo
It's quite common for these brands to comment under your photos something along the lines of, 'Stunning babe! Collab? Message [name of company]'. However, a real brand looking to collaborate with you will never make contact by commenting on your Instagram photo! They will be much more likely to send you an email, or at the very least a DM.
4) They Contact You Via DM
Leading on from this, even if they do DM you, this may be still be something to be wary of. I was a little hesitant to put this one in because I have actually had a few successful collaborations stem from a DM, but 9/10 I have done my research on the companies and they haven't been genuine at all. I would say that if you receive a DM from a brand, it is worth opening and giving some consideration but be vary wary and ask a lot of questions!
5) Offer Waaaaay Too Much ££££
I recently received a very official looking email from a company, asking to send me out a bag which I would take photographs of to use on their website. A few red flags instantly jumped out at me:
- They claimed they had got my email because I am 'signed up to their mailing list'. I am not, and had never heard of this company before.
- They asked to continue the conversation over Instagram DM- why would we move from email to DM?
- And biggest red flag of all- they immediately offered me £250 per photo, for five photos. They specifically outlined this would total £1,250, and kept repeating this in the email which I found odd. I don't think a genuine brand would begin by flaunting how much money they are willing to pay. In my experience, the conversation has began outlining the terms of the collaboration and first asking if I would be interested before moving onto compensation.
Of course, after a few emails back and forth of me questioning them, they asked me to pay shipping for the bag. So they were happy to spend £1,250 on 5 photos, but not £15 on shipping? A big no.
A genuine personalised email will always address you by your name, and in my experience will mention some personal comments about why they are interested in you specifically- for example, I usually get comments on my travelling, or compliments on my blog. Any message that begins with a generic pet name like 'babe', 'darling' or 'honey' is likely to have been mass sent, and is therefore less likely to be genuine!
7) 'Ambassadors Wanted'
I think the easiest way to check for these type of brands is to check the Instagram bio. Any page that has 'Ambassadors Wanted' is likely to be companies that are asking you to pay shipping/ just offering a discount code. Whenever I receive a DM or an email, the Instagram bio is the first thing I will check.
8) Items Heavily Discounted
I haven't really seen anyone else pointing this out, but I have found that a good way to sniff out scam accounts is if basically everything on their page is discounted. For example, if there is a pair of earrings that says it was £100, now only £60 and you are getting it for FREE (you only have to pay £20 shipping!) it makes you feel more like you are getting a great deal, because you feel like you are getting an £100 pair of earrings for only £20! But remember, these are often very low quality items which the seller has picked up for a pound or two, meaning they are still earning a huge profit margin by you 'just' paying shipping.
Of course, if you genuinely feel like you love the products there is nothing wrong with agreeing to these requests, as long as you understand what it is you entering into! I would love to hear other peoples experiences with these companies, or if this post helped at all!