If an email sounds too good to be true, we’ve learned to dismiss it as phishing or otherwise fraudulent, even if it managed to evade the email client’s junk filters. However, I’ve seen a rise of new type of automated emails that deserve a closer look, as they behave quite differently from your average spam. These emails are from seemingly legitimate businesses, targeting specific email addresses associated with Instagram Creator accounts, and offering some type of an influencer marketing deal.
Global influencer marketing spend is growing rapidly, and Instagram grabbed a lion share – 8 billion dollars – of it during 2020. So, it’s not out of the question for even smaller Creator accounts to get approached by (smaller) brands, but there’s definitely something fishy about the following emails. Let’s look at some examples.
First of all, the targeted Creator account doesn’t have a single swimsuit photo, or anything even closely related to this market. Second, the Creator in question is male with 80/20 audience split between men and women. So, not really the optimal “ambassador” for women’s bikinis, don’t you think?
Despite claiming to be “head of the Social Commerce team”, I couldn’t find Susann from LinkedIn. I did find the founders and the company page. Based on the information found there, the address seems to point to a residential building in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ok, so let’s give them the benefit of doubt and say that this is a small online business that’s run from founders’ home. No problem. But after declining the collaboration offer, an unexpected reply came half an hour later:
Given the delay, this could’ve also not been an automated reply, but it’s hard to say. Clearly absolutely no attention was paid to the Creator’s reply to the original proposition. Also, worth mentioning is that “strictly personal” ambassador discount code was highly generic and likely the same for all ambassadors. If it leaks, there’s no way to tell who did it. Also, don’t let the 220,000 “active followers” fool you – followers are easily bought (and judging by Bright’s Instagram posts’ engagement rates, they have been). There were no further emails after this, putting more emphasis to the theory that this whole exchange was automated, and they don’t care about following up with their ambassadors. There’s also this quite telling Reddit thread, fittingly posted to r/IsItBullshit.
Let’s look at the case number 2.
Another Stockholm based company targeting women. But two is not yet a pattern, right? Anyway, same complete mismatch of Creator’s content and proposed brand collaboration. After a bit blunter “decline” than with the previous example, a familiar reply came back:
LinkedIn results were more than slim this time, yielding only two hits for random people who were self proclaimed “Banni Jewelry Ambassador at Banni Jewelry”. Also, Banni’s website doesn’t offer any useful information about the company. However, here’s an interesting detail from Reddit thread “Banni jewelry- legit or scam?“:
The quality is like AliExpress and the Package also comes from China that’s why it took 1 month to arrive. Also the contact info is the same as bright swimwear, and I got contacted by them once, so I guess they two are the same company.u/itajazzy
Seems like they’ve since fixed that, because at least in these sample emails there were no common contact information available. Whois data is private, but the domain registrations were done in 2017 and 2019, for Bright and Banni, respectively. Banni seems to also combat against being exposed as a scam by populating search queries related to “Is Banni Jewelry legit or scam” with some random sites that have articles with titles like “Banni Jewelry Reviews (April) Is It A Scam Or Legit?”, and where the article doesn’t actually answer that question, but is instead always the same copypaste marketing material for Banni. They’ve also gone through the trouble of publishing one Medium post by alleged Banni ambassador, which frankly just reeks fake.
But automated emails offering influencer collaboration opportunities are not just a tactic of small Swedish (Chinese?) businesses. Here’s a third example, this time targeting YouTube creator, instead of Instagram:
Here the automation is blatantly obvious, because of the unfilled [TOPIC] tags. David Hamburg, along with two other Globo Surf employees, can be found on LinkedIn. The whole company website seems to be just a catalogue of Amazon affiliate links. Looks like David himself as well as their team of “experts and writers” create these SEO’d Amazon lists to the site. Not exactly an exciting opportunity for a creator to get “exposure to wider audience”, but hey, each to their own.
What about you? Have you come across similar automated campaigns targeting social media influencers and offering brand ambassador deals? Let me know in the comments below!