playing with her dog, and eating specific brands of yoghurt. Photo: Mimi Elashiry Instagram
Essena O'Neill made headlines last year when she quit Instagram in a blaze of pixels. It wasn't just because of the way she did it but because of the startling revelation of the frightening economics of Instagram.
O’Neill shared how she made “A$2,000 a post EASY” (in Australian dollars) by publishing sponsored content to her profile, much of which was not labeled as paid-for content. In her very public take-down of the site O’Neill cautioned her followers that if “Instagram girls ... tag a company, 99 percent of the time it’s paid”.
That it’s possible to make money from Instagram might well be news to many, whether they use the app or not. However, marketers are very interested in this vast, growing and highly engaged community. Twenty-eight percent of all adult Internet users in the U.S. use Instagram, and it is particularly popular among women and non-whites.
Access To Gen Y Market
Half of all Instagram users visit the site daily, and it offers advertisers a way of reaching the coveted Generation Y market. In the U.S., 55 percent of all Internet users ages 18 to 29 use Instagram. That gives young Insta-celebrities, or “influencers,” the opportunity to monetize their followings.
Mimi Elashiry, 20, from Australia, has more than 806,000 followers on Instagram. They like, comment on, and – advertisers hope – imitate the life she presents in her posts: relaxing on the beach, eating out with friends, playing with her dog, eating specific brands of coconut yogurt and wearing particular labels of swimwear.
“I think my audience have connected to my lifestyle,” says Elashiry. “I’m not constantly throwing advertisements in their face. I’m like, here’s me with a coffee, here’s my backyard, my dog.”
Most of her posts receive about 20,000 likes. Some, though followers do not know which, earn her more than A$1,500 from brands hoping her social media influence translates to real-world sales.
Protecting Her Brand
Elashiry first started being offered cash and products in exchange for posts when she had only 3,000 followers, and for a while, it covered her rent and expenses. It was “great fun,” she says.
She now turns down offers that don’t suit her brand – like a A$7,000 Cartier bracelet. However, pre-orders for a sequin mini-dress she designed with an independent designer for her 19th birthday sold out two hours after she posted a picture of herself wearing the sample.
How much an Instagrammer can charge depends on who’s asking. Between $150 and $300 seems standard for Australians with audiences of fewer than a million. Essena O’Neill’s claim that she was making $2,000 a post might have been a one-off, according to Elashiry and her manager, John Scott.
“I think there’s a big myth around the money that people are making out of Instagram,” he says. “Everyone likes to talk up the fact that they’re earning this much per post, but there aren’t many companies that can afford to pay that.”
Paid Or Unpaid? Hard To Tell
Ceilings are higher for some U.S. and British models, like Kendall Jenner, who has 47.1 million followers, or Cara Delevigne, who has 25.8 million. They can command six figures per post.
The appeal of Instagram, says Scott, is partly that consumers relate to other consumers. “I think we’re all very aware of big brands, and we’ve become very discerning. ‘Hey, that girl’s super-cool, I love everything about her life, she’s real. If she tells me that this is a cool brand, I trust her, so I’m going to buy into that.’”
Not every tag or mention of a brand in Elashiry’s photos is an ad – she says she hasn’t done a sponsored post “in months.” However, paid and unpaid posts look no different from each other.
She pulls up a recent Instagram picture of an old film camera. “That looks like I could be advertising something," she says. "But I bought that on eBay as a Christmas present to myself.”
A picture of her painting her nails “was work,” she says. It is indistinguishable from her other photos except for the description. “I suppose I blend it all in," she says.
Instagram Then Modeling, MTV
Most of the time that a post looks like an ad, it isn’t, says Elashiry. “And even if it is, it’s something that I’ve agreed to do because I think it’s awesome.” Elashiry's Instagram beginnings have led to opportunities like working for MTV, a modeling campaign and a swimwear line. Eventually she’d like to use her following to “give back” – she says, with no less passion for the lack of specifics, about setting up some kind of charity.
“As long as it’s fitting with my brand, then I’m completely happy to do those things,” she says. “Given the opportunity to go overseas and model, why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you just go and do whatever you want?”
Business Concepts and Careers Name: Instagram Yields Insta-riches… Quiz
1 Which section of the article highlights Elashiry's early benefits from posting on Instagram?
(A) "Access To Gen Y Market"
(B) "Protecting Her Brand"
(C) "Instagram Then Modeling, MTV"
(D) "Paid Or Unpaid? Hard To Tell"
2 Based on the article, more Instagram followers means posters can charge more money from advertisers. Which of the following selections from the article BEST supports this conclusion?
(A) O’Neill shared how she made “A$2,000 a post EASY” (in Australian dollars) by publishing sponsored content to her profile, much of which was not labeled as paid-for content.
(B) Some, though followers do not know which, earn her more than A$1,500 from brands hoping her social media influence translates to real-world sales.
(C) Essena O’Neill’s claim that she was making $2,000 a post might have been a one-off, according to Elashiry and her manager, John Scott.
(D) Ceilings are higher for some U.S. and British models, like Kendall Jenner, who has 47.1 million followers, or Cara Delevigne, who has 25.8 million. They can command six figures per post.
3 How is a central idea of the article developed in the section "Access To Gen Y Market"?
(A) by detailing the process of attracting companies to sponsor posts on very popular Instagram feeds