On Monday, an independent researcher who exposes hacks and scams in the world of crypto published a purported list of influencers and how much they charge to "shill" crypto projects on Twitter. The list quickly went viral, starting a conversation about how essentially any cryptocurrency project can simply pay influencers to retweet or promote their projects to hundreds of thousands or millions of people on social media.
The spreadsheet includes dozens of influencers including current and former professional athletes and Lindsay Lohan, many with tens of thousands of followers and in some cases verified accounts. Motherboard reviewed the Twitter feeds of dozens of the accounts on the list, and many of them claim in their profiles that they promote crypto projects. Some of them say, specifically, that they "shill" crypto. Some of them are self-claimed "crypto promoters" or "crypto influencers." Many have contact info for paid partnerships or promotions. Others don't, and even advise that their tweets are "not financial advice."
All of the accounts Motherboard reviewed regularly promote obscure coins, NFTs, and other cryptocurrency projects.
The prices on the list vary. According to the spreadsheet, retweets are less expensive than "shill tweets." There is also a column for "package deal" which includes two shill tweets and a retweet. Prices generally range from a few hundred dollars for a retweet to as much as $25,000 for a shill tweet from Lohan. The spreadsheet is also selling a shill tweet from "all accounts" for $80,000.
ZachXBT, one of a growing group of a handful of skilled independent investigators are uncovering high profile scams who published the spreadsheet, told Motherboard that the list came from a "marketing firm" but did not say which one.
Motherboard contacted 60 of the accounts on the list and several explained their process for doing paid work. Motherboard was unable to verify the accuracy of the entire list, but one of the influencers who appears on the list we spoke to said that their rates were correct. Others said that the rates were inaccurate but said that they do take money to tweet about crypto projects.
Some of these responses make clear that the world of paid crypto shilling is a wild one, with deeply varying standards around things like vetting projects and disclosing whether a tweet is a paid promotion or not. It can also be difficult to tell what is a paid promotion and what is simply indistinguishable from one.
For example, a recent tweet from an influencer called Selena Roy, who is on the list, is for a project called Doge Jet. Their tweet is identical in content and format to a tweet by the Doge Jet account, but they claimed they were not paid for this tweet despite being paid for certain other tweets.
The tweet claims Doge Jet is a “MILLIONAIRE MAKER!” That is “led by the two most transparent guys in crypto.” Doge Jet’s website promises that buying the coin will “Double Your Investment EVERY 36 Days!” and claims that it has a “Super High Fixed Annual Percentage Yield of 159,402.57 percent” (in the normal stock market, expected annual returns are around 8 or 10 percent when normalized over a few decades. This project also claims “IF YOU INVEST $1,000 USD IN $DOGEJET FOR ONLY ONE YEAR … YOU CAN EARN UP TO $1,594,025.77 OF $DOGEJET AT 159,402.57& APY.”
Do you have more information about influencers promoting crypto projects? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, Wickr/Telegram/Wire @lorenzofb, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Roy is an influencer with "DYOR" (Do Your Own Research) in her Twitter bio and said the prices on the list “has nothing to do with reality.” They then said that her tweets are “mostly are the [cryptocurrencies] I am holding, so I promote them.” They said that she sometimes takes money for promotion and “honestly many celebrities do. People like to hear, we research.”
“Honestly I want to clear the fact that anyone who follows you most will realize you do paid promo lol,” they added. “People act like they wouldn’t take money to tweet when 95 percent of people would.” There are several specific tweets on her feed that say #AD.
One of the people on the list, who goes by Stock Market Hats, told Motherboard that the figure in the list next to their name is accurate. They also said that he puts “a big disclosure and put #ad in all promoted tweets.” They also said, however, that they don’t really do much vetting on what projects they promote.
“I really don’t know much about crypto and I vet by what looks legit from a far away view because I have no involvement in these projects behind the scenes,” they added.
Moritz Pindorek, who posts as "mopindo.eth" on Twitter, told Motherboard in a chat that the price in the document is not currently accurate and added that he does "fully disclose my ads with all international #ad guidelines." In addition, he said that he looks for projects that are already running and ideally have publicly-known developers and expressed a desire for more transparency in cryptocurrency marketing online.
"Based on my knowledge the list does look pretty real in general, however quite outdated," Pindorek said. "Sadly many people in the space are doing promo, and very sadly some undisclosed."
Another influencer on the list, who posts using the handle “crypto_scofield,” replied to Motherboard’s request for comment: “no, my price for a tweet is $700 and retweet 450.”
Steve Ascher, a former professional baseball player for the Tampa Bay Rays who know has a "Zombie Apes" NFT avatar on Twitter and "Not Financial Advice" in his bio, told Motherboard that the price on the list is not accurate ("Wish I made that!") and noted that his current follower count is nearly double what's on the list.
He typically gives away his own NFTs and ETH, he said, but also does some paid promotions. "I do paid giveaways for projects," he said in a DM. "So Sometimes i collab with projects giveaway NFTs or eth."
An account called Firehost77 sent Motherboard a detailed price list for their own account that aligned closely with the one posted by ZachXBT but had additional options for giveaways and pinned tweets.
Another person on the list, GlazeCrypto, said that the prices are not accurate but said that they promote "any projects."
“I do paid promotion including #ADs . Its the clients choice not me :),” they said. When asked how they avoid promoting scams, they said “I dont promote scam projects. I refused to promote those. I can easily know it bcz [because] my followers can determine that it is a scam project and I have to delete the Ad and refund it.”
Majestic, a music producer and "crypto consultant" who is nonetheless "not a financial advisor" according to their Twitter bio, told Motherboard: "Everything there is false," and did not elaborate. Nikita Sachdev, who posts as “nikichain,” said, “this is not accurate,” and also did not elaborate.