I am an avid social media user. I spend absolutely too much time on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. I have a pretty average number of followers on Instagram, but somehow I seem to be a prime target for Instagram companies. 

I have received several comments on my photos telling me to “DM them for a surprise” and so have many of my friends. So, what are these Instagram company ambassadors? Can you actually make money from posting about green juice powder and keto coffee? Maybe so, but it is definitely not as easy as it seems. 

These companies define themselves as Multi-Level Marketing businesses (MLM), similar to Mary Kay or Avon. They leave uplifting comments on your photos, usually something along the lines of “Hey gorgeous! DM us for a chance to collab!” This seems and sounds really promising, like maybe I could become rich and famous all from posting pictures on Instagram! I went to one of the companies’ Instagrams that left a comment on my page. They had a substantial amount of followers, around 18k, and beautiful girls sporting their merchandise. 

I direct-messaged them back to get the scoop on what it meant to be a brand ambassador for their company. They replied, telling me how excited they were to have me join their team, when I had agreed to absolutely nothing. They then told me I could get 50% off my purchases and make a 25% profit off everything I sell using my own special discount code. 

This offer is not amazing. 25% off a $30 shirt is nothing to live on, especially when half of my followers are inactive, and the other half are my friends and family that do not have time to use my discount code to buy themselves a $20 hat from a company they have never heard of that is almost positively mass-producing their cheap products in China. I knew this form of marketing myself would never work, but a lot of girls don’t. 

The definition of a pyramid scheme, according to the Oxford dictionary, is “a form of investment (illegal in the U.S. and elsewhere) in which each paying participant recruits two further participants, with returns being given to early participants using money contributed by later ones.” 

A true MLM business is more focused on selling products than recruiting people, while a pyramid scheme offers bonuses and incentives for recruiting new members.

If these Instagram companies are truly just MLMs and not pyramid schemes, then why do they leave so many comments on young girls Instagrams trying to get them to be “part of the team?” Why do they have completely separate Instagram accounts just for recruiting? Why are they constantly posting on their stories about how “YOU can make money from your phone too?” 

According to my logic, a job is where you get paid, not where you have to pay money. Many of these companies make you pay a fairly large fee, usually around $100, just to get started. This is a sign of a pyramid scheme, not an MLM. While some girls really do make big bucks from posting pictures of them drinking some odd drink, these companies can take advantage of the young and naive. It takes years for them to build themselves as a brand ambassador. 

Before you give in to these luring comments, take a second to do some research, and always read the fine print.