Recent Insights

Instagram: Sometimes Negotiations Go South, and that’s Okay

Instagram: Sometimes Negotiations Go South, and that’s Okay

Followers: 6,038 Last week I posted about making my first Instagram collaboration for pay, but they don’t always go so smoothly. Soon after that company contacted me I was contacted by another person looking for a post-for-pay type deal. The Initial Approach It was going […]

Amazon Reviews Milestone: Reviewer Ranking Under 50k

Amazon Reviews Milestone: Reviewer Ranking Under 50k

Reviewer Ranking: #36,658 I started doing Amazon Reviews in November of 2016. My ranking at the time was past the 7 million mark (Amazon has a lot of customers). I started tracking my reviewer ranking in March, when I reached a rank of #190,607 and […]

Instagram: I Guess I’m an Influencer Now

Instagram: I Guess I’m an Influencer Now


First of all: The fact that over five thousand people care about pictures of me and my computer completely baffles me

Second of all: Today I was approached by a company who wants to pay me to make posts about their company

Third of all: I’ve since had two more companies contact me (unbeknownst to them, unless they all hire the same people) asking me about marketing and prices. I guess 5k-6k is the magic number for people starting to pay attention to you.

My first thoughts were something like, “Did they message the wrong person?,” “Did someone’s cat take over their phone?” “Is this a butt-dial?” After I calmed down enough to figure out how to respond, I realized that there was a huge void of information on what someone’s supposed to do in this situation (despite the fact that this is a rampant practice).

How much should I ask for?

How much should they ask for?

Do we need a legal agreement?

How am I supposed to act?

Is this even real?

So I did what I always do in these situations: research.

The Research

I found an interactive map at that gives you the average prices for an influencer depending on gender, number of followers, engagement rates, location, and a few other categories. It seemed like for a following of my size I should definitely ask for less than $100 dollars.

I also read a lot of articles about people starting Instagram campaigns. Most of them are aimed at people who are trying to hire influencers, not people who are selling their photography/influence/opinion to others. I’ll tell you right now that most of those articles just go back and reference’s information because apparently they’re the only people on the internet who have tried to actually quantify this stuff. Or at least they’re the only people who have gotten any credit for it. Some of those articles reference people getting paid $25-$75 per thousand followers.

I like the idea of having a ratio of money per thousand followers agreement because saying this up front prevents what I’ve often seen in dog-sitting: the awkward “I thought it was less last time” effect when you decide you and your time are worth more than $10 an hour.

Their message was in my inbox, burning a hole in my brain, waiting for me to respond with an appropriate number that neither insulted them nor devalued me. You never want to be the first person to put down a number, but they’d already admitted to being new to this and I didn’t want to get into an awkward “No, you first” conversation.

The Execution

I settled on $10/thousand rounding down. It would put my first post at $50 and would allow me to say “Hey, I have 2,000 more followers than last time, that makes me worth more to you” in the future.

They originally wanted five posts over a two-week period and I recommended extending that so they wouldn’t just be advertising to the same 5k people for two weeks when they could advertise to an additional 1k-4k if they waited another month. They said they’d have to talk to their team, I said “Sure!” and laughed nervously to myself, hoping no one would realize that I was just toddler wearing grown up clothes pretending to know what I’m doing with a bunch of statistics.*

*To be fair to myself, I actually did do a lot of research and it’s a legitimate marketing tactic – it just feels silly (and awesome) to be getting paid to take pictures of myself in my pajamas on my computer

They countered with an offer of $7/thousand followers for two posts over a two-week period with the idea that if they wanted to continue doing influencer marketing after that we would up the price. I agreed because, hey, that is more than the $0/thousand followers I usually make when I post things (and they were giving me access to a tutorial for free). I also agreed to it because I personally don’t know how effective it’ll be for them and I’d love to develop a working relationship with them in the future.

I’m happy my first time was with a company that seemed equally inexperienced and I’m excited to see how it works out (hopefully for the best for both of us).

Now, I have some other emails to respond to.



Amazon Reviews: Let’s Talk Algorithms

Amazon Reviews: Let’s Talk Algorithms

Amazon Ranking #51,485 After doing this for a little over six months, I’ve pieced together some bits about the Amazon ranking algorithm. There’s no way they update the ranking every single day There have been periods where I’ve gone up to 32 days without my […]

Instagram: Symptoms that Your Instagram Account is Trapping You

Instagram: Symptoms that Your Instagram Account is Trapping You

5,501 Followers The simple desire to be liked is a social tool that bridged over to social media as quickly as the “like” button was added to posts and has exploded into something that can completely take over someone’s life. I’ve heard girls in line […]

Amazon Reviews: The Ethical Implications of Working in a Grey Area

Amazon Reviews: The Ethical Implications of Working in a Grey Area

Amazon ranking: #51,485

I’ve talked previously about Amazon’s policies about reviewers and how it’s changed in the past year. As an ardent rule follower, the idea of being on the wrong side of the government really irks me (it’s weighed about equally with my curiosity about how social systems work). I’ve heard about the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “warning” celebrities about their ads on Instagram, and I’ve heard about the Amazon Review arguments on their chat forums, but I’ve never actually seen the actual documentation; so I went to the source.

The Source

Here’s a summary of what the FTC says about consumer review policy as it applies to reviewing on Amazon:

Business can’t prevent people from posting negative reviews contractually (i.e. a business can’t say “We will only let you review this if it’s a positive review”) and they can’t take down negative reviews just because they’re negative reviews (Amazon is in control of this). (1)

When it comes to Amazon, I see at least one place where this could get questionable.

  • If a company contacts you and says “Please give us a good review, if you don’t we won’t ask you again” then technically it seems like that would be against the rules. Of course there’s no requirement that they have to ask you again anyway, but specifically stating it could be seen as a threat or put undue pressure on you.


The FTC also has a guide about marketing on the internet, specifically relating to product reviews and endorsements:

It says that if you’re giving someone something to look at/endorse/review, then it has to be the typical experience that anyone would get if they purchased/used the product. This prevents a bait and switch situation where someone thinks they’re honestly reviewing something and the “real” thing is of a lower quality.

  • Amazon does a lot of fulfillment in its own warehouses, but not all. This could be a possibility (if the sellers knows your order number) but there’s no way a reviewer could tell unless they ordered multiple of the same products.

Native Advertising is something you see in a lot of places, and product reviews can be considered native advertising depending on how they’re used:

The policy behind native advertising seems to have to do mostly with sponsorship (i.e., so and so paid me to write favorably about this) and disclosure of sponsorship (3). The Enforcement Guidelines (4) of this uses an example where:

employees of a public relations firm hired by the developer posted reviews about its games in the iTunes app store, without disclosing their relationship to the company.

As this relates to Amazon:

  • I feel like this is the greyest area of them all that I’ve run across. In the particular example they use I’m going to assume that since the App is using a PR firm, they’ve hired the PR firm to help them get business, and the PR firm is therefore fabricating good reviews to get other people to buy it so it looks good for their PR firm. It’s a strategic tactic.
  • There are definitely reviewers on Amazon who have abused this, but I don’t think all reviewers have. A reviewer who I follow on Amazon who’s in the top #1500 hasn’t posted anything less than a 5 star review in months (actually, I’ve never seen her post a review less than 5 stars). While it’s possible that all 740 of the products are 5 star products, it’s also possible that she’s being nicer because she’s getting them at a discount.
  • On the other hand, there are reviewers (like me) who want to honestly review the products and give a good view of the positives and the negatives. I see it more like being asked to do product testing and giving feedback – i.e. not misleading people by just saying nice things. If I give a bad review, then does that mean the company “sponsored” me to give a bad review?
  • Ultimately, ethically, I think this is largely up to intent and how both parties see the transaction. I see the motivation behind asking for reviews as deeper than “Say something nice” in terms of technology and algorithms. Even a bad review can push your product ahead of a product that has zero reviews. I have bad reviews on my profile and everyone can see them. A seller shouldn’t expect that I’ll give them a good review if they have a subpar product.

Amazon’s policy on reviews is significantly more strict than the federal government’s policies:

Amazon says it doesn’t permit reviews made for refund/reimbursement/discounts etc. etc. etc. and it doesn’t permit reviews where the reviewer has a relationship (such as an employer or friend) (5). This policy was changed back in October of 2016 – previously Amazon encouraged free product reviews in various ways.

  • They’ve implemented this with algorithms (they can track Amazon gift cards, refunds, and internal messaging) so there are a lot of ways that they can make sure this doesn’t happen. It also seems like they have tracked public interactions on social media to determine “relationships” that would indicate bias.
  • I suspect that they’re trying to cover themselves legally in these policies. On the Amazon forums I’ve seen complaints that when people report accounts for review manipulation there’s little to no response from Amazon which (to me, at least) implies that Amazon doesn’t have a lot of emotional investment in the process.
  • Amazon gets a lot of heat for their reviewing process and has for the past 3 or 4 years. They are seen as responsible for both the seller’s and the buyer’s actions. Amazon can’t control or track what sellers say privately to buyers outside of the Amazon ecosystem, so the best action for them to take is “broad and sweeping” so they remain blameless.
  • It also seems that they overshoot the mark a lot of the time (see my blog about this review that got taken down) which frustrates a lot of honest people who are writing reviews.


From a non-lawyer’s perspective, it seems like Amazon is trying to prevent illegally formatted native marketing, and the only way they can do this is to say “No one can be paid for anything ever.” A lot of the businesses on Amazon are based abroad and Amazon is almost guaranteed to take the fall for allowing those violations to happen in the first place. At the same time, it seems like the FTC cares more about honesty and fairness than about money changing hands.

I would consider what I’m doing to be product testing, and I’m not afraid to give bad reviews (I’m not a marketing agency) – so my conscious is in the clear. Yes, this experiment is technically against Amazon’s policies, but it also isn’t misleading anyone and I’m not doing anything illegal. If the worst thing that happens is upsetting Amazon, I think I can deal with that for the sake of experimenting.


  1. Consumer Review Fairness Act
  2. Guide to Marketing on the Internet
  3. Native Advertising Policies
  4. Enforcement Policy on Native Guidelines
  5. Amazon Community Guideline Policy
Instagram: Will People Love You If You Give Them Free Stuff?

Instagram: Will People Love You If You Give Them Free Stuff?

I had a brand reach out to me about a month ago that does tutorials for development. They asked if I’d recommend them to my followers, I said I couldn’t unless I actually knew what they did (trying to be ethical and authentic here) and […]

Amazon Reviews: Encouraging Contact from the Other Side

Amazon Reviews: Encouraging Contact from the Other Side

Amazon Ranking: #54,434 The beautiful part of my Amazon Review project is that as a reviewer, I have no way of contacting companies and saying “Hey, notice me” (unless I literally buy a product and say that in the review). This means that getting noticed […]

So you want to learn how to code?

So you want to learn how to code?

So you think you want to learn to program but don’t know what to do next? Here are some easy ways to start. (more…)

Instagram: How a Hiatus Affects Your Stats

Instagram: How a Hiatus Affects Your Stats

It’s been about 9 months since I started my Instagram experiment, and if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s this: purposefully maintaining an Instagram account is really hard. From having the time to constantly produce unique content to keeping up with interactions, it’s an […]