The booming business of handing out $10k on Instagram

Influencers are giving away cash on social media, but the real winner may be marketing firms.


April 29, 2020

These days, there’s nothing more profitable than giving away tons of money for free.

YouTube Live’s most popular creator is MrBeast, a 21-year-old whose greatest hits include offering up dozens of cars nearly for free or leaving $30k in tips for servers. Almost all of his videos net 10m+views.

But the cash giveaway economy has grown well beyond MrBeast — and on Instagram, the pandemic is catapulting it to new heights. Influencers, Netflix stars, and… Bhad Bhabie… are all trying it.

The real winner is social media marketing

Take, as The New York Times did, Paige Hathaway: A fitness influencer with 4m+ followers. Last month, in the heat of quarantine, Hathaway offered to give out $5k to a random follower.

The $5k came from Social Stance, one of a network of firms that promises to boost the follower counts of entrepreneurs or aspiring influencers. To enter the giveaway, all Hathaway;s fans had to do was follow accounts designated by Social Stance.

Here’s what the giveaway didn’t say: Social Stance’s clients paid big bucks — $900 apiece — to get on the list of accounts to follow.

Some people really, really want those extra Insta followers

It’s a win-win-win, mostly: A lucky Hathaway fan gets $5k. Firms like Social Stance turn a big profit, and its clients — think of that entrepreneur on the verge of launching her company — get ~50k new followers.

But the sub-industry’s growth is making Instagram nervous, as many cash giveaways might violate local sweepstakes laws.

If you’ve ever wondered how plastic surgeons could amass such huge Instagram followings — now you know one of their secrets.

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