When it comes to celebrities doing sponsored posts on Instagram, it really feels like we’ve seen it all. We’ve dealt with multiple stars using the same rented kitchen and pregnancy announcements turned into business opportunities, and both of those have just been in the past month. These days, it’s no longer strange to see rich people on social media doing cringeworthy things to get even more rich. But there’s one kind of post that’s always seemed especially random to me, and today we’re getting to the bottom of it. I’m talking about the infamous Instagram giveaways that the Kardashians and other celebs do, and the complicated business model behind them.
You know the posts when you see them. The celebrity, usually a Kardashian, is sitting on a staircase or a couch, with a ridiculous number of luxury handbags and the accompanying boxes and shopping bags surrounding them. The caption shouts that you can win all the bags in the picture, plus a cash prize, and it’s totally simple to enter. But by “simple,” they mean that you have to follow every single account that they (or another famous person) are following. Despite the claims that it takes “only 90 seconds to enter,” you’re faced with the decision of whether to follow several dozen random accounts on the off chance you might win a new handbag collection.
Here’s Kylie’s giveaway post from this week:
View this post on Instagram
These posts are annoying as hell, and if you’re as cynical as me, you never actually enter the giveaways, because you know you’re not going to win. Also, I barely even care about half the people I already do follow, so there’s no way I’m following 80 strangers and having my timeline blown up with random posts. But besides the general annoyance factor I feel when I see these posts, I have always been genuinely curious how they work. So this week, when Kylie’s giveaway with Scott Disick appeared on my feed, I decided to get to finally do my research.
One thing that makes details about these giveaways especially difficult to track down is that the posts are almost always deleted after the contest is over. While all of the Kardashians, along with some other influencers, have participated in and posted about them in the past, there’s no evidence from scanning their Instagram page. But when you Google the giveaways, you find lots of results, like when Kim did a Chanel giveaway this April, or when Kylie did a huge Saint Laurent giveaway in May. When influencers sell sponsored posts one their feed, one of the perks is often that the advertisement stays there forever, rather than a story post that expires after 24 hours. But with these giveaways, the focus is obviously on getting maximum attention over a short period of time.
Vicki Gunvalson, from The Real Housewives of Orange County, recently did a similar giveaway (but through a different company than the Kardashians use), and while she deleted her Instagram posts about it, I did find one tweet left over. But when you click on the account she linked, it takes you to a page that doesn’t even exist anymore. Whoever is behind these contests obviously doesn’t want to be traced.
— Vicki Gunvalson (@vgunvalson) October 7, 2019
But through Scott Disick’s post about his current giveaway, I ended up on the website of a company called Curated Businesses. They’re the ones who run the contests, and their website makes some big claims about their abilities. Here’s their “About Us” page, which is pretty light on actual details, but promises that they have “a trusted reputation” and offer their clients (hint: no apostrophe needed) “an exclusive opportunity to gain worldwide exposure.”
While this info seems intentionally vague, the information on the site for member businesses and bloggers sheds more light on what’s going on here. They state that their service is a form of “online advertising,” and they boast big growth from their past campaigns. In that Kylie Jenner Saint Laurent giveaway from May, they say that participants gained 230k new followers and experienced a “dramatic increase in website traffic.”
As I was starting to look into this, I wasn’t the only one who was curious. My friend Sam (@bravohistorian on Instagram) posted a DM from a follower who has some behind the scenes info on how Curated Businesses runs their operation.
Wait, so every one of the accounts that Scott Disick is following paid $25,000-50,000 to be included in the giveaway? That’s actually insane. If you assume each of the 75 accounts paid $25k, that’s almost two million dollars. If Curated Businesses is making that kind of money, then they have more than enough to buy the Louis bags, pay the Kardashians to post, and still end up with money in the bank. Also, big yikes that Randall Emmett is that desperate for followers, because he should really be saving up his money to pay 50 Cent back.
When I first started looking into the the mechanics of these giveaways, it kind of gave me a headache. I actually had to draw out a diagram on a piece of paper to make sure I understood it. But now that I have a handle on it, I can see that it’s actually kind of a brilliant scheme, however annoying it might be to see on your timeline. So here’s how these giveaways actually work.
Dozens of random companies and influencers pay Curated Businesses to participate. In turn, Curated Businesses pays famous people like Scott and Kylie to be the face of the giveaway. Scott follows all the accounts that paid to participate, and he and Kylie post telling their fans to follow these accounts. In the end, Curated Businesses, along with Scott and Kylie, make a lot of money, the other accounts get a lot of exposure and followers, and one lucky winner gets seven Louis Vuitton bags and a wad of cash. It’s a win-win-win, I guess.
I’ve seen and heard many people wonder if these giveaways are scams, and they’re really not. On the Curated Businesses website, they have a whole page dedicated to the winners of past contests, showing pictures and the Instagram handles of whichever lucky person won. This might feel like kind of a scammy way to get followers, but it’s not an actual scam.
So, there you have it. Like I suspected in the first place, this whole thing is just a more complicated version of normal sponsored content. I’d be curious to know if the accounts shelling out to be included in the giveaways actually experience long-term growth, because I’d imagine that most people unfollow most of the accounts the second they see a random post from an account they don’t recall following, then remember it was from some giveaway they didn’t win. I know I would. Either way, the Kardashians are laughing all the way to the bank. Ya hate to see it.
Images: kyliejenner, bravohistorian / Instagram; vgunvalson / Twitter; Curated Businesses (2)