Wow! Your Instagram looks awesome and you’ve got more than 10k followers! You must be a pro. That wasn’t quite how the message read in my DMs but it also wasn’t far off. I’ve paraphrased. It’s poetic license.

Uhm, no. That’s not quite how it works on Instagram. Or, if it is, that’s not how it’s working for me. It’s not how I’d want it to work either. Let me explain.

There’s clearly value in exploiting a social media following. You’ve only got to have a look at big accounts of famous folks to know that, especially reality TV people. They’re constantly promoting products to people, telling you it’s the best thing in the world for your teeth, your hair, your weight, your energy or whatever else. I know this works to help get sales too. Quite how many sales, I’ve got no idea but there’s a few folk I know who have bought stuff because it’s been celebrity (or maybe ‘celebrity’) endorsed. The same thing happens in the bike industry. That’s why professional riders are paid by companies to run their stuff. That’s a sponsorship. I find myself drawn into certain products sometimes because they look awesome because a pro has made them appear this way. I know the reality is that they could hop on my gran’s shopping bike and make that look sick. If the brands also told me it was the latest design in geometry and that the shopping basket actually helps with schralping some sick berms then I’d probably eventually begin to believe them too. The reality is that I only know what’s awesome and what’s not because it’s pushed down my neck all the time. Who knows, maybe in the future the Santa Cruz Shopper really will be the best bike for downhilling after all.

There’s also clearly value in photography, although less and less it seems. Getting some awesome shots, especially of products, helps to promote them. Getting some beautiful golden hour snaps of a hipped jump, back wheel skimming trees… well, that’s the stuff dreams are made of and there’s value in that. Images sell a story or a lifestyle and do so in an instant without the need for words. That’s the true value.

It seems that nowadays more and more people want to use their social media to generate some income and sell products and the seemingly easiest way to do this is to reach out to brands, get their support with some ‘free’ stuff, and then promote the heck out of it to their following.

Where that falls apart for me is at my mortgage. My bills. The fact that I have public liability insurance to cover me should anything go wrong on a shoot. Petrol costs money to get to further away trails. Bills can’t be paid with free stickers and t-shirts. I’m also not prepared to take on stuff that’s been paid for – that’s when reviews become biased. “Write this review for me, focusing on these features.” No thanks. If I’m reviewing something I want to say if it’s a load of old rubbish, or if it’s awesome. I want to form my own opinions of this without interference.

If I’m not taking cash and I’m only taking on products free of charge with the agreement that I’ll write what I like, there’s not a lot of leverage for social media monetisation, regardless of whether it was 3 followers or 30 thousand followers. Either way, my mortgage still needs me to work a full time job and my integrity prevents me from writing drivel about something that’s naff.

So, why do I mention brands on my Instagram? Usually, they’ve sent me something to review. I play about with it, take some photos and write a review. I post that on my social media because I think some of you might be interested in what I think. I also know that a lot of people couldn’t give a monkeys about what I think so I don’t exclusively post pictures of products – just a few here and there. If it’s a brand that’s paying me, they get photos to use as they like but I’ll not be reviewing their product too (see earlier reason).

My Instagram looks awesome? Thanks! I enjoy shooting and editing pictures; it’s for personal enjoyment and I enjoy sharing that. I’ve got more than 10k followers? Yeah, certainly seems that way. I’ve had the account since 2015 though and post something almost every day because I enjoy that. I must be a pro? No, not at all. Just a bloke who likes to take pictures and post them to my account. And Instagram doesn’t generate cash. That’s just not quite how it works for me.

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