Retailers are direct-messaging teens and preteens to post sponsored, paid content on Instagram, according to a report in the Atlantic.
Start-up brands are the ones mainly targeting young "influencers," and pay between $5 and $10 per post to wear or advertise their goods online. The deals are usually made through direct messaging on social media and rarely include a formal contract.
This comes as more teens report that it is getting harder to find minimum-wage and retail jobs. Young people often struggle to compete with older workers and have to juggle work and school, so they are looking for different ways to find work, even if they aren’t legally old enough to work yet.
Mary, a 14-year-old girl from California, told the Atlantic that making money from Instagram posts is "pretty much the easiest way, without being famous on the internet, to make money."
Payment to teen influencers is often done through PayPal, which kids said is easy to hide from parents.
"A lot of people now do make money online and we don't want to have to tell our parents 'Hi, we're making money online talking to strangers,'" Alexa, a 15-year-old in New York, told the Atlantic.
For brands, it is smart business, because young influencers are often sharing the content with their peers and serve as a direct pipeline to the demographic they want to reach, according to Pitchbook. The influencer industry is growing and could be worth up to $10 billion by 2020.
It’s also cheaper to hire teens to model clothes or demonstrate products.
Instagram celebrities often charge between $50 to $30,000 for a sponsored post, Business Insider reported.
A report from Hopper called the Instagram Rich List documents how much celebrities get paid for sponsored posts.
Kylie Jenner, who has over 110 million followers, tops the list with a $1 million payout per sponsored post, according to the report.
Other top influencers include Cristiano Ronaldo, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian-West and Beyonce Knowles.
Atlantic reported that companies who court underage influencers often send them clothing to wear in a post. Others just send images of the items they want to be featured.
Companies are expected to spend $1.6 billion on Instagram advertising in 2018 and that could grow to $5 billion over the next few years, according to MediaKix.
Brittany Hennessey, senior director of influencer strategy for Hearst Digital Media told Business Insider that working with influencers online "almost guarantees" profit, more so than traditional print and television advertisements.
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