Brands are direct-messaging 13-year-olds on Instagram to pay them $5 or $10 at a time to promote products without a contract

Emma McIntyre/Getty
  • According to a report in the Atlantic, retail brands are allowing teenagers and pre-teens to get in on the influencer game.
  • They’re apparently paying between $US5 and $US20 for teens to post sponsored content from small startup brands, and engaging the “influencers” informally over Instagram direct messages, without a formal contract.
  • The industry of Instagram influencers has been predicted to soar as high as $US10 billion by 2020.

Retail brands are courting young teenagers and pre-teens to post sponsored content on Instagram, according to a report by the Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz on Wednesday.

The practice has opened the door for children to get in on the billion-dollar influencer industry, one post at a time.

According to the Atlantic, small startup brands such as Jane Cosmetics, Doux Lashes, and Boogzel Apparel enlist the young Instagram users to advertise their clothing and accessories online, usually for between $US5 and $US20 a post. The deals are usually arranged via direct message and rarely involve a formal contract.

For the brands, teenagers are better business partners than Instagram celebrities, who boast massive followings and charge anywhere between $US500 and $US30,000 for a sponsored post. In contrast, teens don’t need more than a few thousand followers to secure a modest sponsorship agreement.

“Teenagers are more affordable to work with because of their follower count and age,” Christy Oh, the 18-year-old marketing coordinator for DouxLashes, told the Atlantic. “They’re not doing Insta as a full-time thing, they’re just trying to make extra money, so it’s not super expensive to partner with them.”

If the trend continues, the influencer industry could be set to explode. The industry was worth $US1 billion according to a 2017 estimate, but could soar as high as $US10 billion by 2020.

That’s in part because of the returns are getting for their influencer deals. Working with influencers can “almost guarantee” sales for a company, which can’t be said for advertising on TV or in print, according to Brittany Hennessey, senior director of influencer strategy for Hearst Digital Media and author of “Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media.”

“A $US100,000 [budget] doesn’t buy you that guarantee on TV, on print, it doesn’t buy you that anywhere. And so there are some girls who have proven that they can move product and that’s what you’re spending the money on,” Hennessy told Business Insider’s Myelle Lansat. “And if you’re a brand, there’s no amount of advertising you can do in traditional media that can guarantee [sales] like that.”

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