Before you dive into the story, I want to share some more of my thoughts. I take brand partnerships seriously, and put a lot of time and effort into them. So when it was revealed that this partnership was a scam, I was pretty unsettled. I was also embarrassed to share this story, but I feel it’s important for 1.) other content creators to not fall into the same trap and 2.) give a glimpse into what brand partnership deals look like. Positive Publicity is a place of learning, growing and examining our mistakes, and we’re doing just that.
I should actually title this post “a time I actually wasn’t dumb and was still scammed,” but hey, the series title is what it is.
Now I’ve seen my fair share of shady and sus Instagram “programs” (aka buying followers) or brand partnerships come across my Inbox. So when a brand called TheSkinGlo selling an electric skin cleansing device emailed me with the opportunity to collaborate with their new product – but I would have to purchase the product myself – I was initially skeptical. But they were offering a 50% discount to purchase the product ($40 out of my own pocket, which I could afford), in exchange for five photos they could use to build their online presence (which I was allowed to watermark) and would be paid over $500 – well yes, I was sold.
To be completely transparent, I could certainly could have used some extra moolah in my pocket (who doesn’t?).
Here is my usual routine when a brand deal opportunity presents itself:
- Explore the brand’s website and social media presence.
- Examine the contract if they’ve sent one over, or negotiate if they haven’t sent one.
- Establish how easy it is to communicate with the brand.
- Does it make sense for me to work for them?
So with the above routine in mind, here were my initial results:
- Over 12,000 Instagram followers and a lovely, colorful website? Looks legit so far.
- I’m not seeing any negative reviews online or on social.
- Terms and Conditions look doable and fair to me, and they’re very quick to respond
- I’ve done hair, skincare and other beauty promotions before, so it makes sense to my “brand.”
- I’ve been doing this influencer gig (and PR gig) for some time now, and this is looking legit.
Let’s do it. I let the person I was emailing that I had purchased the product, and would let them know when I received it.
I then began to notice the red flags (photos attached):
- A few weeks after I had agreed to their partnership, I noticed their Instagram comments increased… and were all fake (OMG SO FUNNY isnot exactly worthy of a comment of a post of a photo of a skincare product).
- And the biggest one of all – they simply ghosted me. Not a response to multiple emails or Instagram DMs.
Another day, another scam. And I wasn’t alone.
Influencer Lauren Clitheroe shared her experience on YouTube, and The Verge released an article today, sharing stories which were similar to mine. I’m not so upset about the money I lost, but the fact that my judgement was so off. Whoever TheSkinGlo is took advantage of this being a difficult time for many people financially, and I fell for it. But it did give me some solace that I wasn’t alone and that fellow content creators also fell for this scam.
At least my skin looks good, right?
If you’ve made it this far down, I’d like to say thank you to you for subscribing to my Patreon. This was a leap I took during the pandemic as both a creative challenge and as a way to earn a small bit of income writing. I’m ironing out future postings, so please, if there is anything you’d like to hear more of, please let me know. I’m not saying that with a “leave a comment down below guys!” inflection – seriously please let me know what you’d like to see more of.