When Londoner Rachel Bracken started posting travel photos of her naked derrière onto Instagram in July 2016, it was only meant to be a bit of cheeky fun. But within a year, her Cheeky Exploits Instagram account had collected over 200,000 followers. The account is now bearing down on 300,000.
Instagram can and is used for many things: fashion bloggers and foodies love the platform, and many of the rest of us enjoy posting filter-enhanced photos of our daily lives. But Instagram also has potential to be an indie media platform, which Cheeky Exploits is a fun example of.
In an email interview, I asked Bracken why she started the account?
“I started the account in 2016 during the summer,” she replied, “when a friend told me about another account called myassthetics – where one man traveled around and took pics of his butt in front of different locations. I thought it would be fun to start something similar.”
The very first photo on Cheeky Exploits was a fairly innocuous one, hashtagged “#adamandeve.”
At first it was just her friends who followed the account. It gradually grew to about a thousand followers after eight months. But then the media picked it up and things got a little crazy.
Bracken told me the initial media attention came from a local newspaper after she had tagged some UK landmarks.
“My husband took me to Salcombe for my birthday weekend and I tagged some well known UK locations in some of my pics,” she said, “which is how the paper found my page. I think they said something along the lines of ‘this girl is traveling around the UK getting naked at UK landmarks,’ which was kind of true. I didn’t really start it for the locations, but I started getting obsessed with doing it at more and more locations.”
At this point she also began adding pics from “random people” who sent her photos of their naked bottoms.
The follower count quickly ramped up after the initial wave of media interest.
“It hit 100k within a couple weeks and 200k in a month or so [after that]”, said Bracken.
Cheeky Exploits has gotten risque at times, so it surprises me that the account hasn’t fallen foul of Instagram’s guidelines.
Instagram explicitly states that “we don’t allow nudity on Instagram.” However, the guidelines also suggest that some nudity is ok. Photos of “women actively breastfeeding” are ok, for example, but “some” photos of female nipples are not (which implies that other nipple photos are ok). As for butts, Instagram states that it forbids “close-ups of fully-nude buttocks.”
There are plenty of fully-nude buttocks in Cheeky Exploits, but for whatever reason they haven’t bothered Instagram’s censors. Perhaps they aren’t close-up enough.
According to Bracken, she hasn’t had any problems with her photos. Although she will admit that people are generally sensitive about it.
“Basically I have found that the world hates fun and peoples’ sensitivity levels have reached an all time high,” she said. However, she thinks the Cheeky Exploits account “shows there are still people out there who enjoy a bit of silliness and don’t take everything so seriously.”
“There is plenty of dark shit happening in the world,” she added, “and this is just a small injection of nonsense to remind people life should be fun!”
Making money on Instagram
While Instagram doesn’t have an advertising platform its users can tap into, many popular Instagrammers have made decent money from affiliate revenue or brand sponsorship. For example, if you’re a fashion blogger and have a large Instagram following, you can get paid to wear items of clothing from a certain brand.
Even if you don’t have a follower count in the hundreds of thousands, you can still get freebies from brands for showing their products in your photos. Unlike with professional blogging, there doesn’t appear to be pushback for Instagrammers to disclose when they’re getting paid or getting free products. So it’s usually difficult to tell if a popular Instagrammer is in on the action.
As for Cheeky Exploits, it clearly has a large audience – but so far there hasn’t been an obvious attempt to make money from that. So I asked Bracken whether she’s considered trying to turn it into something that earns some revenue?
“I haven’t been paid for anything,” she replied, “but I have had free things sent to me for posts. A bracelet, T-shirt and bikini are a few examples.”
Even these minor ‘pay for play’ instances caused some consternation from her followers.
“I got comments from people saying it was shit I was advertising,” she said, “so I do struggle with trying to find a way to make money from it, without compromising the integrity of the account.”
Bracken also said she has a full time job, so she just hasn’t had a lot of time to develop a business strategy for Cheeky Exploits.
“But also the page is so pure and I just love what it has become,” she continued. “Part of me really doesn’t want to mess with that, but one day I hope to figure something out.”
Being a successful Instagrammer
Lastly, I was curious to know whether Bracken does any ‘humblebragging’ amongst her friends and work colleagues about her super-successful Instagram account? Or is it kind of a secret identity for her?
“I wouldn’t say I humblebrag about being a successful instagrammer,” she said, “but I am incredibly proud of the account and love sharing it with people.”
She’s also found the account has its perks in social situations.
“The best thing in the world is meeting random people and then getting them to do a cheeky pic on the spot. I was once at a party and got about 15 people to strip down for a photo. I didn’t know any of them!”
Cheeky Exploits shows that you don’t have to be a serious artiste to make a name for yourself in indie digital media. You can just start up a fun account on a social platform like Instagram, and let it all hang out.