As Instagram pulls back on creator monetization programs like the Reels Play Bonus and Instagram Affiliate, it continues to push its Creator Marketplace, a tool to connect brands and creators for sponsored content.
But a majority of the 17 creators who recently spoke with Insider said they were unimpressed with the product so far, describing issues ranging from low pay rates to little traction from brands.
The marketplace, which launched in July 2022 after being teased a year prior, is still in its "testing phase," according to a Meta spokesperson, and is still invite-only to US creators.
Creators haven't always been sour on the project. For the most part, the creators who spoke with Insider said they had been optimistic about the tool's potential to bring them brand deals.
"I was so excited when the creator marketplace was rolled out," content creator Melanie Demi told Insider.
Creators said that despite a slow start with available deals, they began to warm to the tool as Instagram onboarded more brands and rolled out new features, like an Instagram-native media kit tool. By November, the feature was showing creators exciting deals, some said.
"Originally, there were a bunch of really quality campaigns on there that were showing up for me," Demi said, mentioning "well-known" brands like Selena Gomez's Rare Beauty.
When Ali Grant, the founder and CEO of influencer talent firm Be Social, first saw the deals in the marketplace, the pay rates and partnership options were "relatively competitive," she said. The marketplace had thousand-dollar deals with brands like CeraVe, Summer Fridays, and Sunglass Hut, according to a TikTok video Grant posted in November. Other creators saw similar offerings at the time.
Instagram creator Paula Ortiz-Bellino said the marketplace helped her land deals with brands she had "dreamed of partnering with," like Rare Beauty and Summer Fridays.
But as the test has lingered on, some creators said Instagram's marketplace has lost its luster.
"Over the last couple of months, I feel like the creator marketplace has died down a little bit," Demi said. "There are very few campaigns available, and if they are, they are with brands who are offering $100 to $200 for a couple deliverables."
"The quality of the brands in the marketplace has gone down," Grant told Insider, adding that the marketplace nowadays is "absolute crickets."
Only three creators Insider spoke with out of the 17 — including Ortiz-Bellino, who said she had gotten three deals since December — had signed any deals with brands through the marketplace.
While the marketplace brought some creators competitive pay rates, others said they had been disappointed by what they'd seen on the marketplace so far.
According to documentation creators shared with Insider, the opportunities promoted on the marketplace appeared similar for creators regardless of their follower size and niche. For instance, a creator with 8,000 followers was shown some of the same opportunities as another with 400,000.
An analysis of several creators' marketplace offerings suggests that the going rates for brand deals — referred to in the app as "available projects" — run between $100 and $1,000. But on closer look, some of those projects listed by brands are actually offering store credit, gift cards, or $100 worth of products.
Claire Wenrick, a creator with 42,000 Instagram followers, said one brand contacted her to offer her $150 for a reel and a story — which she found too low by industry standards.
"I just laughed at it and moved on," she said.
Two creators, including Wenrick, pointed out one deal with a brand that asked for five reels, two posts, and 50 stories for a lump sum of $100.
As creators increasingly push for fair compensation for their work — with services like Clara and Hashtag Pay Me to help them benchmark payments — even some smaller influencers find the rates unreasonable.
Megan Weller, who has about 8,000 followers, said most of the offers on the marketplace "aren't really worth the hassle" for her.
Another common issue creators flagged was that some brands' listings required retaining the rights to the content so that they could repurpose it as paid ads — which they said would normally cause rates to increase by at least 10% per month on top of a base fee.
Brands themselves are the ones setting the rates, not Instagram. And low pay rates on a platform-run marketplace aren't just an Instagram issue.
"Even on the TikTok creator marketplace, it's the same," said Joseph Arujo, who has access to the feature on both platforms. TikTok launched its creator marketplace in 2019. "I feel like all the creator marketplaces are very generic, they don't have quality brand deals."
Recent data from Hashtag Pay Me showed that, on average, creators were paid almost three times more when making deals directly with brands than through Instagram and TikTok marketplaces.
On TikTok's marketplace, creators can add their starting rates for brand deals or negotiate terms. Instagram creators can negotiate deals as well, but some offers on the marketplace are fixed.
Meanwhile, some creators said they were taking information from Instagram's marketplace into their own hands off the app.
Brittany Dke, for instance, said she uses the marketplace as a tool to see what brands are hiring influencers for campaigns and curates outreach — beyond the app — accordingly. Other creators echoed Dke.
"You can get a lot more money by pitching brands and negotiating yourself," creator Julia Davila said.
While having more competitive rates could attract creators to the feature, the marketplace currently has a bigger issue on its hands: not enough brands.
Antoinette Manuel, who was able to land two partnerships through the marketplace, said her experience in those instances was positive. But she added that a majority of the projects that were available when she first accessed the marketplace in the summer of 2022 have been the same since that time — suggesting that many brands aren't actively using the feature.
Najm Loyd, a creator who told Insider in September that he had inked a deal through the marketplace, said he hadn't used the marketplace for another deal since.
Some creators pointed out that many of the brands currently listed were smaller businesses.
"I never see big brands on here," creator Sarah Gavilla said.
"If there was just more traffic with bigger brands, I think it would be really a good place for creators to collaborate on Instagram," Ortiz-Bellino said.
One solution to attract bigger name brands to the platform is tapping third-party partners like influencer-marketing agencies. TikTok's creator marketplace, for example, brought on "alpha partners" in 2021 such as Influential, Whalar, and Captiv8.
Vickie Segar, the founder of influencer-marketing firm Village Marketing, said the brands she works with could still be reluctant to use Instagram's marketplace if it offers nothing new or particularly valuable to them.
"It feels like it's something that perhaps should have been created 10 years ago when the rest of us realized the value of creators, and it would have had the potential to be part of our funnel," she said.
Meta will continue to register eligible brands that express interest in joining the marketplace as it expands its marketplace ecosystem, a spokesperson told Insider. Meta is always exploring potential partnerships, they added.
When the marketplace will move from being a "test" to a permanent feature, however, is less clear.