If you’ve been on Instagram for any length of time, you’ve probably received one of those spam direct messages (or DMs) from a “brand” asking you to become a brand ambassador. But, in the majority of cases, these messages are an elaborate scam waiting to happen. Whether the “brand” is just looking to get your attention or they’re willing to go further to get your details or scam you for your money, these sophisticated spam accounts are all over social media.
Sadly, this also has a negative effect on real brands that are genuinely looking for partners or brand ambassadors on Instagram – or any social media platform, for that matter. When you’re searching for brand ambassadors on Instagram, you have to stand out from the crowd.
With thousands of legit brands out there who are approaching brands and thousands more that aren’t even real businesses, it’s becoming more and more difficult to engage with any influencers meaningfully.
Before starting any new influencer campaigns, brands should be aware of how to recognize brand ambassador scams, including all the red flags to be aware of.
In this blog, we’ll cover what these scams look like. We’ll also cover why you might want to collaborate with a brand ambassador yourself, and how to structure your approach when you do so you don’t come off looking like another spammy Instagram page! Keep scrolling to find out more.
What is An Instagram Brand Ambassador Scam?
It might be quite flattering to receive a direct message from a brand inviting you to become a brand ambassador or offering sponsorship, especially if you’re an aspiring social media influencer. However, might be surprised to learn that many of these direct messages are not genuine invitations. In fact, they may not even be from legitimate brands. Scammers and cyber criminals copy these techniques from genuine brands and use them to their advantage.
Some scammers are seeking to obtain users’ contact details, or even their bank details so that they can contact them via other means, sell their data, or even steal their money. Other scammers will offer free or heavily discounted products and present this as an opportunity to partner with their brand.
Often the user will need to provide upfront payment to cover postage for “free” stuff, or they may even need to buy the product at a reduced rate. The product itself is often a cheap version of the real thing from Amazon or Wish, so the scammer will still make money from the transaction. Or, the products are non-existent and the Instagram user ends up waiting for an item that never arrives.
These “brands” often use bots to send direct messages to hundreds or thousands of users at once. They may even set up countless different fake accounts using different information in order to trick people into falling for their scam.
As these brand ambassador scams have become more and more common, Instagram users are becoming more conscious when communicating with potential brand partners. Whether you’re an influencer looking to grow your social media account and collaborate with brands, or you’re a brand looking for the best way to approach collaborations, it’s crucial that you understand how to communicate via direct messages – and how not to!
The Red Flags of Brand Ambassador Scams
So, how can you spot a fake brand trying to scam you? Well, luckily, there are several red flags to look out for. Let’s unpack them all.
1. Fake Brands
A huge red flag is a brand ambassador request coming from a fake brand. But how can you tell the fake brands from the real ones? After all, if a brand is reaching out to smaller influencers with lower follower counts, chances are they would be a smaller brand.
Typically, fake brands on Instagram have a very low follower count, and they only have a few posts on their profile. They may not have a legitimate website, or if they do, it may not have real contact details. To check whether a brand is real or not, browse their social media account in detail and check how long the account has been set up. If there are multiple posts that were only uploaded in the last week this might be a red flag. Or, if the brand’s website only has a couple of products or looks brand new, this could also be fake.
2. Sense of Urgency
Scammers often want you to sign up for their program and send your details as soon as possible. The reason for this is that they are mass messaging multiple users on Instagram, which often results in their account/s being reported or banned from Instagram quickly. This means that they need to sign up as many users to “sponsorships” as possible in a short period.
It’s not unreasonable for a brand to have a campaign timeline. However, if “brand managers” are DMing you pressuring you to sign up for a brand partnership ASAP or to make a purchase with a limited-time-offer discount code, this might be a red flag.
3. The “Brand” Is Using Multiple Accounts
If the original direct message request doesn’t even come from the brand account, this is a strong sign that you might be falling prey to a scam. Scammers on Instagram will often use multiple accounts to reach out to people.
These accounts will have little to no Instagram followers, which is a bad sign, as it often means they have just set them up – probably after their previous account was just banned or suspended! This is a positive for them, because, if those new smaller accounts get banned, they don’t need to set up a new brand page.
4. You’re Being Asked to Pay
If a brand really wants you to work with them, chances are they won’t be asking you to pay anything. There are exceptions, for example when a brand is doing a large-scale influencer marketing campaign or is sending you a large product free of charge. However, if a brand can’t even pay a small postage fee to ship you a product to try, you might want to ask yourself whether they value you in the first place.
Chances are a professional ambassadorship won’t require you to pay anything, at least, not until you have signed a contract. Regardless of whether they’re a scammer or not, consider whether you really want to work with a brand that makes you pay to start your partnership in the first place.
5. Their Brand Bio Says “DM to Collab”
Any Instagram account that is heavily promoting brand collaborations or affiliate programs for just anyone may be a scammer. They might have a “DM to collab” call-to-action in their Instagram bio. Or, they might leave spammy comments under your posts with a generic message saying something like; “We love your page! DM to collab!”.
A real brand would probably send a targeted message customized to suit you and your Instagram profile. They would also send details on who was contacting you, what they wanted out of the collaboration and why they chose you specifically.
Why Brands Should Get Involved in Collabs
Now that you understand how not to approach influencers, let’s talk a little bit about why a brand would want to do an influencer marketing campaign in the first place. Instagram is one of the best marketing platforms out there but unfortunately, it has turned into a mecca for scammers to congregate. Yet Instagram is typically a great place to launch an influencer marketing campaign – it’s easy for brands to launch a campaign and curate their content using hashtags. It’s easy for users to discover content. Plus, it has a wide variety of potential influencers available that brands can partner with.
Influencer marketing is a powerful strategy on social media, allowing brands to boost their reach, connect with new audiences, increase engagement, and generate leads and sales. Depending on your specific industry, influencer marketing can also be incredibly cost-effective, when done well.
That said, it’s easy to overspend on influencer marketing campaigns. There are many brands that adopt the wrong approach when it comes to influencer marketing, particularly those that are misled by confusing influencer stats or those who are bamboozled over the effectiveness of content that feels glamorous but doesn’t actually hit the campaign objectives for the brand/s involved.
How to Run an Influencer Marketing Campaign The Right Way
So how can your brand run an influencer marketing campaign and hire high-quality brand ambassadors without looking spammy? Here’s how to get started.
1. Consider Your Objectives
First of all, consider what your objectives are. What is your reasoning for launching an influencer marketing campaign? Do you want to expand your reach? Are you looking to boost your engagement? Or perhaps you want to activate a hard-hitting sales campaign to launch a new product line.
Either way, consider your objectives before you even start to choose suitable influencers. Decide whether you have just one objective or multiple objectives, and start to think about which tactics you can use to achieve these objectives as quickly as possible.
For instance, if you’re launching a brand ambassadorship in order to generate sales, you’ll need to have the relevant metrics decided on and reporting tools in place to be able to measure the campaign effectively. To do this, you might need to use a specific discount code that is unique to each influencer so you can measure sales over time that use this code.
2. Search For Ambassadors
Once you’ve decided on your objectives, chosen your tactics, and decided how your measure your campaign, it’s time to start searching for brand ambassadors. Your ideal brand ambassador should have similar values as your brand. They might have a similar aesthetic when it comes to content, be alike in their tone of voice, or they might simply be a trusted authority in your industry.
For example, Benefit Cosmetics utilizes a broad range of influencer content, from influencers who are bold and daring, to those promoting natural beauty, and those simply seeking to create humorous content that resonates with the brand’s audience.
You might want to partner with one brand ambassador or multiple depending on your campaign objectives, budget, and campaign duration. You’ll also want to consider the demographics of your campaign. Just because you’re working with an influencer in New York doesn’t mean that that is where their audience is solely based. For example, some female influencers have a large male fan base, and vice versa.
We recommend doing your due diligence and researching influencers in detail before hiring them. Ask for their audience stats. An influencer might have 100,000 followers, but if half of those followers aren’t even in your target area, it might be even better (not to mention more affordable) to choose an influencer with 50,000 relevant followers.
3. Create Your Brief
Next up, carefully consider your campaign messaging. When briefing your influencers, remember that each influencer has their own distinctive voice. This is both good and bad, as you want your influencers to speak in their own voice while still conveying your brand values and communicating all the details about your product or service.
Any brand partnership should sound authentic coming from the influencer, so you should provide lots of background and direction without providing a set script on what to do or say.
For example, in the post below, comedian Chelsea Matkins has created video content for the dating app, Tinder. The content she has created suits Tinder’s cheeky tone of voice but it also mirrors Chelsea’s comedic style.
To get started, create a thorough campaign brief covering:
Your campaign objectives, as well as key dates and details
When you have completed your campaign brief don’t send it yet! First, you’ll need to find your influencers.
4. Influencer Outreach
This is the part that you need to approach carefully. Remember, you don’t want to look like those other scam accounts that are flooding influencers’ inboxes! So proceed with caution.
Even though you might have your influencer brief ready to roll, there’s no need to share the full brief at this stage, particularly if the influencer in question isn’t even available for your campaign dates. You would just be sharing confidential brand tactics unnecessarily.
Initially, you just want to find out whether the influencer is interested, whether they’re available, whether their stats match up to your target demographic, and whether they’re happy to create content for the price offered.
You can contact influencers in a number of ways. First up you can contact them through the direct message feature on Instagram. This can be problematic for a couple of reasons. First off, as we’ve already established, it might look spammy to message influencers in this way. Secondly, there’s a chance that your chosen social media influencers may not even see your message. Sometimes messages from users that aren’t already following each other end up stuck in the “requests” folder of an inbox.
However, you can also contact influencers directly through their email address, their website contact form, or even their management. These tend to be seen as more professional forms of communication.
In terms of the message itself, start with the following. Instead of sending a generic message to all the influencers that you’re interested in, you want to indicate that you’re a legit brand and you’re choosing the influencer/s you’re messaging for a specific reason. Tell them why you’re interested in partnering with them and indicate (specifically) what you love about their content.
Then, introduce yourself and introduce them to your brand. You could mention the specific product that you’re going to be promoting and then any benefits that the influencer might be interested in. For instance, you should definitely mention that you’re looking to engage them in return for compensation and/or free product and discounts but you don’t need to mention a specific campaign budget at this point.
Finish by providing clear instructions on how they can contact you.
So, to recap, here’s what to include:
If you don’t receive a response to your initial inquiry, follow it up a week later, or contact them via an alternative method.
We recommend reaching out to multiple influencers at once, as not all of them may be available at the right time, have the right audience, or suit your campaign budget.
5. Consider Creating a Brand Ambassador Program
If you’re looking for more of a long-term campaign, you might want to consider creating a brand ambassador program. A brand ambassador program is typically a long-term initiative that should focus on creating influencer content efficiently. Instead of running a campaign on an ad hoc basis, your brand ambassador program should be an always-on campaign that is set up for longevity.
You might even have a permanent webpage to host all the details of your ambassador program. You could have a contact form on the web page with all the details of what brand ambassadors receive from your brand and how they can participate. However, keep in mind that unless you are a bigger brand, you may not have lots of influencers contacting you. Chances are, you’ll have to put in a lot of work to begin with in order to attract the attention of popular influencers.
That said, it doesn’t hurt to create a program that outlines a specific process when it comes to influencer campaigns. This might include:
That said, you may also want to leave some of these details to be more open-ended. Campaigns might vary quite drastically depending on your campaign objectives and the products or services you’re promoting.
6. Follow Up and Define Your Campaign Metrics
Finally, you’ll want to follow up with your chosen influencers. Check their audience demographics and ask for examples of past work. Depending on your campaign objectives, you may also want to create processes around the sharing of content as well as any campaign hashtags and specific messaging to be used.
Set up a clear campaign approval process so that your influencers don’t go rogue and start posting content that hasn’t been approved.
Be very clear with the influencers on what your campaign objectives are and how each campaign will be measured. This will mean that your influencers will be working towards the same goals that you are and they’ll do all that they can to hit the campaign objectives. You could also give them an additional incentive by offering them a proportion of any sales generated through the campaign.
Boost Your Influencer Marketing Campaigns With Sked Social
Influencer marketing campaigns and influencer outreach can add a lot to the plate of a busy social media manager. If you want to level up your social media game, it’s critical that you have collaborative marketing tools to support your team and boost efficiency.
Sked Social is an all-in-one social media management tool with powerful scheduling capabilities and advanced reporting functionality which can provide you with unique insights, allowing you to optimize your social media strategy by making social media management much easier.
Having intuitive social media management tools like Sked Social can help you collaborate and streamline your entire team’s workflow. Having well-structured processes and a professional working manner will also make you far more attractive as a brand partner from the point of view of influencers that you want to collaborate with.
Sked Social also includes a social media scheduler, which allows you to automatically schedule posts for every major social media platform, including Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and more, saving you hours each week!
Schedule posts and add hashtags, locations, product tags, or influencer tags all in one go. You’ll never have to post on a weekend again! Don’t believe us? Try it yourself by signing up with a free plan. Try Sked’s 7-day trial today.