Likes, Followers and Views. The black market of buying and selling Instagram handles

It’s 2022 and a new type of currency is floating around.

A social media following these days is not only worth reputation but can also represent net worth. Accounts, followers, likes and views have been monetized to create a booming market that capitalizes on numbers.

With the latest reports showing 1.393 billion active users on Instagram every month, social media platforms show no signs of slowing down, which means neither does the advertising potential.

So how much is your Instagram account really worth? And can you sell your Twitter account?

With Kylie Jenner who has 318 million followers on Instagram and Kim Kardashian who has 292 million, these sisters remain two of the most followed celebrities in the world | Source: Instagram

The lucrative likes market

Influencers can earn money in multiple ways. Sponsored content can take the form of posts with pre-written captions, quick links in stories, sale of merchandise, or commission income through affiliate links.

Specific rates are difficult to quantify; because there are so many big brands and micro brands paying influencers with very different platforms and engagement rates to market their product. A common formula used by some is to charge brands A$100 per 10,000 subscribers.

A report published by Hopper identified the highest paid influencers in the world in 2021. Number one was Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. Amassing 412 million followers, Ronaldo is believed to charge $1.6 million (approx. AU$2.2 million) by sponsored publication. Dwayne Johnson was close behind, with 303 million subscribers and charging US$1.52 million (about A$2.08 million) per sponsored post.

Such a lucrative market comes with extensive regulatory codes and ethical practices. Despite the international connectivity of social media, the regulations depend on the country where the message was posted. The Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AIMCO) was launched on July 1, 2020 and has a code of ethics that applies to all influencers, advertisers and marketers. In accordance with this code, all sponsored messages must be clearly identifiable as advertising and marketing communications.

Sell ​​your profile

Although you might think the black market is used strictly for illicit drugs, social media accounts are now also bought and sold under the table. Instagram and Twitter both prohibit the sale of accounts or handles in their terms and conditions.

You may not sell, license or buy any account or data obtained from us or our service. This includes attempts to buy, sell, or transfer any aspect of your account (including your username).

Instagram terms and conditions

Attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are also violations and may result in permanent account suspension.

Twitter terms and conditions

None of this has stopped the buying or selling of handles and accounts.

So why buy a social media account?

Purchasing an already established account gives you access to that particular audience or niche. Whether it’s 5,000 subscribers on a strict fashion account or 10,000 on a gaming account, any type of audience is susceptible to online marketing.

In an interview with Vox, 20-year-old student Illham Habibie described his experience selling Instagram pages on Facebook buy, sell or swap groups. The accounts he sells typically have over 5,000 followers and post content about celebrities. Habibie guessed that he earned around A$700 for selling 10 Instagram accounts.

The lengths people will go for their particular grip don’t stop at a paltry $700 A.

In 2018, Darian Lipscomb was a 15-year-old wanted by international cruise line Carnival Cruise Line. In 2012, in order to document a family vacation, Darian coined the username @CarnivalCruise on Snapchat so he could share moments from his own Carnival Cruise trip.

Realizing the potential of a Snapchat audience, Carnival Cruises’ social media team approached Darian for his handle. Signs have popped up all over Lipscomb’s hometown of Virginia, even recruiting Shaquille O’Neal in a bid to track down the 15-year-old. Like a scene from a movie, a lorry full of Carnival employees came to Lipscomb’s family home and offered her an all-expenses-paid cruise worth AU$5,000.

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Carnival Cruise Line employs Shaquille O’Neal to search for Virginia teenager Darian Limpscomb | Source: New York Post.

The influencer market is constantly growing, with more and more users signing up and engaging with content every month. For a full list of the most-followed celebrities, check out The 10 Most Influential Influencers of 2021.

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