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Don’t expect free stuff just because you have 2,000 Instagram followers

Don’t expect free stuff just because you have 2,000 Instagram followers
[Photo: Jakob Owens/Unsplash]

Last week, the co-owner of the White Banana Beach Club made waves by drawing a line in the sand at his surfer outpost on Siargao in the Philippines. In a Facebook post, Gianluca Casaccia called out influencers who were flooding his inbox with requests for free rooms, free food, and free drinks in exchange for posting location-tagged, lust-worthy, FOMO-inducing photos on Instagram.

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“We kindly would like to announce that White Banana is not interested to ‘collaborate’ with self-proclaimed ‘influencers,'” Casaccia wrote. “And we would like to suggest to try another way to eat, drink, or sleep for free. Or try to actually work.”

The post went viral as people around the globe applauded the effort, or scoffed at someone peddling influence with fewer than 2,000 followers, which the self-proclaimed influencer mentioned in the request that pushed Casaccia over the edge. Later, Casaccia clarified that he wasn’t opposed to influencers in general, but is actually “against freeloaders.” “There are real influencers,” he wrote in a follow-up post. “We will contact them and pay or offer something. But look, they’ve never contacted us, as they don’t need us. We need them.” In an interview with The New York Times, Casaccia defined a real influencer as someone with around “half a million followers.”

This just the latest chapter in a growing battle. The first well-publicized sally came in January 2018, when the owner of Dublin’s White Moose Café got in a fight with Elle Darby, a U.K.-based influencer with a substantial group of followers on both YouTube and Instagram. The café ended up banning influencers from staying at its establishment, making the case for its decision in a Facebook post. Meanwhile, the Ace Hotel chain in the Pacific Northwest has been so overwhelmed with influencer requests that it created a standardized online form to process them.

They’re not all freeloaders

Last year, The Atlantic reported that resorts in the Maldives and other desirable destinations are swamped with influencer inquiries, with people offering to exchange 10 days at a five-star resort in the Maldives for “two posts on Instagram to like 2,000 followers.” That said, when I was in the Maldives last year (what? I’m fancy), I met several influencers who had been invited by the hotel. They were extremely professional, had many followers to influence, had high engagement with their followers, and the photogenic results of their quid pro quo arrangement are still being meted out months later. That’s the sort of influencer hotels want, but not always the kind they get.

Still, as one influencer commented on the White Banana Beach Club’s post, it doesn’t hurt to ask. A hotel in a far-flung destination might want an influencer staying with them, even if they have only 2,000 followers, just to get a slice of the all-important attention economy.

The White Banana Beach Club didn’t make lemonade out of its influencer lemons, but it did make a new cocktail, called, naturally, “The Influencer.” I’m guessing it is sweet upfront, but with an undercurrent of bitterness, and is 100% Instagram-friendly.

By the way, hotel rooms at the White Banana Beach Club cost around $40 a bed, so if you really want to snap a photo there, maybe just pay up.

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