Nell's Instagram account, @jem_touchdown, is strewn with beach and pool pictures from exotic locales. A string bikini in the Icon Hotel pool in Hong Kong, a one-piece thong in the Hotel de Crillon in Paris, just the bikini bottoms (with two coconuts covering other vital parts) on the beach in Tulum, Mexico.
“This is my side gig,” she said of her Instagram account, which has more than 88,000 followers. She sometimes notes what she's wearing. One day it might be a San Lorenzo Bikini. The next she's in a Quintsoul thong. Then a top by Calvin Klein.
The Venice Beach, California app developer started chronicling her travels, which are mostly for her day job, on the site in 2011.
“Then people started contacting me,” Nell recalled, including Nike in 2013. “I realized I could get things for free.” The freebies include swimwear, dermatology appointments, discounts at hotels and anywhere from $500 to $2,500 for posting a photo on Instagram. While Nell won't specify how much each brands pays, she said the amount she saves on clothing and cosmetics by way of Instagram is "priceless."
Kristen Curtis of Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, uses her account @ipackedlite to score discounts. Companies give her between 30 percent and 50 percent off if she posts photos wearing the products.
Donna Calin, a manager at a recycling plant in Chicago, uses Instagram for ideas. She rotates between about 20 different swimsuits each season.
"I’m not stuck on any one brand. I use Instagram quite a bit for inspiration and to look at different clothing lines," said Calin, who uses the handle @blow_them_away on Instagram.