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It was 3 am, and I was curled under my bedsheets. While I was hoping to get some rest before my 8 am the next day, Instagram sent me a rather unexpected message. When I opened it, I almost dropped my phone. My roommate was sleeping, and I was silently screaming. Holy sh*t, I just won $10,000 through Instagram’s reels bonus program.
About Instagram’s Reels
Although I first thought I was being scammed out of my life, my random monetary reward was a part of the Reels Surprise bonus program, a strategic initiative by Instagram to compete with TikTok. As the Creator Economy grows in prominence, platforms are fighting to retain creators. So far, TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat have all established cash rewards for creators’ short-form content. Meta promised to invest over $1billion in its creators by the end of 2022.
Since the summer of 2021, Instagram has already opened its Reels bonus program to select US creators. In November, they took it one step further with the Reels Surprise bonus program. According to the social media giant, Reels Surprise is a reward for “creating some of the most entertaining Reels on Instagram.”
Along with the one-time reward, creators who win the Reels Surprise are enrolled into the general Reels bonus program. I had 30 days to make an extra $1000. To receive my reward, my Reels would need to reach a total of 1.09M bonus plays, which is approximately the number of views. However, the maximum bonus and required bonus plays vary with each creator.
Want to learn more about Instagram Reels? Check out this blog to learn how to make one.
To be eligible for any of the Reels bonus programs, you need four qualifications:
- Over the age of 18
- Based in the US
- Have a public Instagram account
- Have a reel with at least 1000 views
Once you’ve been invited into the program, you are required to set up a professional account. To receive your earnings, Instagram asks for information for payment and tax purposes, such as your social security number, address, and your preferred payout method.
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Drawbacks to the Reels Bonus Program
1. No transparency
One of the most common complaints with the Reels bonus program is the lack of transparency. According to TechCrunch, creators felt confused at their maximum bonus amount. One creator with around 59,000 followers received $850. Twitch streamer Miguel Lozada had around 800 followers but could earn up to $8,500. Personally, I only had 1,600 followers.
There’s no real rhyme or reason to the payout-to-view ratio, either. It seems like Instagram is still experimenting with its Reels bonus program, but we can expect personalization to come later.
Furthermore, you can be booted out of the Reels bonus program at any time. After my 30 days were up, I was not invited back. In the future, I would like to see the requirement to stay enrolled in the program.
2. Deflated views
Another reported drawback is the decrease in views. Much like with the TikTok Creator Fund, some creators have witnessed a sort of view deflation.
Some have even expressed the desire to leave the Reels bonus program to get their views back up. Luckily, I need not see any decrease in views and made about $50 per day.
Want to learn more about the TikTok Creator Program? Check out this blog for a quick guide and eligibility requirements.
3. Not everyone has been invited
Instagram is opening up bonuses to more creators, with around 150 reels winning the Reels Surprise per week. However, it’s going to be some time before the reels bonus program is open to everyone.
Benefits of the Reels Bonus Program
1. It’s pretty easy to make money, even as a small creator
I was initially worried that I wouldn’t be able to make my maximum bonus. However, I really liked how Instagram gave more money for initial views (instead of a flat rate). For smaller creators, this allows us to make a sizable amount in the beginning, unlike TikTok’s unilateral cents per 1000 views. I made around $200 the first day, starting out with an earning cadence of $10 per 1000 views.
2. It encourages us to keep creating
Almost everyone and their pet want to be an influencer nowadays. No really, CNBC reports that 54% of surveyed Gen Z and Millennials would love to become an influencer if given the chance. I used to tell everyone in high school that I wanted to be a content creator, but I quickly gave up because I didn’t think I had a chance with how competitive YouTube and Instagram were back in 2019.
Now, with the emergence of short-form video platforms, virality and explosive growth are well within the reach of the average person. Adding monetary rewards for popular content helps solidify social media content creation as a viable career path.
3. It makes Instagram Reels competitive with TikTok
Instagram has been doing a lot to compete with the newer social media app, and I have to say it’s working. While I don’t think Instagram could ever replace TikTok, driving up reel reach and visibility in addition to the bonus program was a smart move in attracting users. I actually find that going viral and reaching new audiences are much easier on Instagram than on TikTok.
What makes a TikTok Trendy? Check out this blog for a full analysis on TikTok trends.
Life After the Bonus
I started my Instagram account in May 2021 after years of self-doubt. I often post about my day-to-day life as well as my experiences as an Asian American, and to be honest, I didn’t think anyone would watch it. I’m definitely not the funniest, nor do I seem like I have my life together. Moreover, I don’t think anybody starting out automatically thinks they’re an interesting person with content worth watching. (Well, if you did, let me borrow some of your confidence.) However, after racking up views on Instagram Reels, seeing people comment similar stories, and receiving a great bonus… I feel validated. I’m no longer in the Reels bonus program, but I walk away knowing that my content has value and my story matters.