Instagram is my favourite social media platform. Personally, I’ve put a lot of effort into the Instagram to improve the quality of my work and grow my Instagram following. However, in the past months there have been more strange spammy comments, strange followers showing up. The platform seems to have changed.
Then #Instagate recently blown up, as those genuinely putting in a lot of effort into building a community, a real following started calling out those who automate their engagement and start botting, as it’s called. I first heard about tools to automate engagement through a Bloomberg article and it’s become a bigger and bigger issue since.
Why is automating engagement, botting a problem?
Instagram has become big business, with large account holders getting very large sponsorship deals. However, if you look closely something is fishy.
Brands choosing to work with accounts which fake their engagement, game the system are spending advertising money on ghosts, bots and will reach significantly less real, potential buyers than they hope to.
It’s a numbers game, explains Michael. Follower numbers are not a good indicator anymore. The follow-unfollow game is all too common on Instagram.
Calder puts forward a fantastic case study about botting on PetaPixel, which he himself conducted, creating a real account and an automated account.
“It’s very hard work and very time consuming, so don’t get me wrong, you have to do a lot to grow a large account. But if you do all of these things regularly, and harness the power of a bot interacting with thousands of people around the world, you have an incredibly unfair advantage over non-botting users.
Fake it until you make it is the Instagram botter’s battle cry.
…This is what less talented athletes do in sports by taking steroids and what less hard working students in school do by cheating. You can try to justify the practice all you want, but at the end of the day, deep down, you know what you’re doing is wrong.”
The practice of botting is not illegal, though in some cases does violate the terms and conditions of Instagram. It is, however, deceitful and misleading.
Ask yourself: “Do the accounts automating their engagement really have any influence?”
UPDATE: Only a day or so after publishing this post, the main culprit in cheap, accessible automation of engagement, Instagress, has stopped its service. HURRAY!
Let’s hope others will follow and Instagram returns to true followers and real engagement! In the meantime…
How to spot the “influencers” gaming the system?
After reading the Petapixel article I followed the instructions and saw from the patterns, of some I was following, who were obviously automating their engagement.
I quickly identified 15 accounts, of which I unfollowed 12. Their content wasn’t inspiring enough to follow under the circumstances. I stuck with 3 because I liked their content.
Personally, I won’t be naming names, check out and find them yourselves!
Raising the issue through a Facebook status, where I have a lot of blogger friends who are also active on Instagram, I got a lot of interesting and defensive responses.
“That article is decent for the most of it but the way she ‘spots’ who is using bots is completely wrong. Loads of people spend a set time on Instagram each day and this means that you have people who like a bunch of images or leave a bunch of comments all at once. Doesn’t mean that it’s botting” Michael who runs Traverse
…and Michael is totally right!
Lots of bloggers felt that due to their time constraints they may look like someone automating their engagement, because they tend to scroll through their timeline and like a lot of images in one go, comment randomly and not always with a lot of substance.
Looking at it though, I think that with a little attention any brand, PR firm or Instagram user can spot if the account they are looking to work with is botting.
Follow Calder’s instructions and look at what the influencers is doing…spot the genuine person vs the bot.
Bloggers and influencers will often go online at set times of the day and blitz it: like, comment, follow. They could look spammy and look as if they were botting. Often behind likes for bad pictures are personal relationships, meaningful status updates of the Instagrammer.
Be critical and look over a couple of days and you will recognise the patterns and be able to distinguish the real engagement from a robot’s.
I’ve screenshot a couple of accounts as example.
Is the Instagrammer really active 24 hours a day?
Yes… they could be, but unless they have several moderators across different time zones, don’t sleep and spend a lot of time on Instagram, they are botting. #redflag
This is one busy lady! She’s active on IG 24 hours a day according to my app
She either has a fetish for young asian lads
or the bot that is doing the liking for her does.
Is the Instagrammer following big batches of people in one go?
Yes … they could just have stumbled on an account with lots of like-minded people. I’ve done that myself, but once in a blue moon. One family travel blogger follows 10-12 accounts a couple of times a day…#redflag
Same mummy liking accounts with not much substance
Is the Instagrammer liking bizarre and bad quality pictures?
Yes… they could be liking the status instead of the picture, because they know the account holder personally, they could be liking the actual text update instead of the picture. I like some terrible pictures of friends I know well or where the status moves me.
One the other hand, a classic one I spotted was a British food blogger liking a blurry selfie of Middle Eastern guy with Arabic status update. It could be legitimate, but with other activities I saw from them …. They were obviously automating #redflag
Here is an example: most images look legit, but if you put it
in the context of the influencer and click through on the last photo… there’s a red flag.
I wouldn’t immediately label this account, but keep an eye on it.
Is the Instagrammer liking strange comments?
Yes… they could just be liking all comments, but how likely is it that they like bizarre emoji comments or a comment that is critical of them? #redflag
Yeap, the instagrammer could be just appreciating someone trolling them,
or mindlessly liking all comments left… or it could be bot doing the liking.
So what can you do?
- Call them out privately
- Name them and shame them publicly
- Leave them #redflag or #stopbotting comments 😉
- Delete and report bot comments on your accounts
- But best of all…take their influence away: UNFOLLOW!
- and if you are a brand, disassociate from them.
Join the conversation: What do you think of Instagrammers botting, automating or, worse still, buying followers and likes?
Pin and share!