As a busy small business, the temptation to automate your Instagram engagement is pretty high. Instagram, moreso than any other platform (in my opinion), is the most time consuming to grow and grow authentically. So I get it. The desire to outsource this process is completely understandable. By buying followers and automating engagement, you do see rapid results (obviously). However the long term repercussions for doing this far outweigh the immediate benefits.
What are even talking about here?
We’re talking about automation services that allow you to target competitors, hashtags, geographic locations and users. It will then follow accounts, and like and comment on Instagram posts on your behalf. Most people can spot these types of comments these days, as, by nature, they have to be pretty generic. Three random emoji’s, or a “great post!”: that sort of thing. Some bots take it a step further and then “unfollow” those same accounts for you a few days later. This keeps your “ratio” nice and impressive (some people put stock in having more accounts following them than accounts they follow. I don’t get it, but whatever.)
Why do people do it?
To understand why it’s a bad idea, it’s important to understand why some businesses and budding influencers want the high follower count. Because really, apart from the time-saving factor, that’s the only reason you’d deploy bots to fabricate engagement on your behalf, right? Some of the best features on Instagram are reserved for users with 10k followers. Despite all of Instagram’s lip service to combating the ‘bots’, this alone is incentive enough for some people to bend the rules. Do you know how much I’d love to say “swipe up” instead of “link in bio”? Plus, there are plenty of brands that will only work with influencers with at least that many followers. For businesses themselves, I think it must come from a sense of legitimacy; as in any decent business would have at least so many followers. So there, we have motive.
But why is it bad?
There’s a couple of reasons why using bots on Instagram is a bad idea. First and foremost (and most simply) using bots violates Instagram’s terms of service, and you may one day lose your account altogether. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. That alone is enough of a deterrent for me, but I’ll keep going for the sake of argument.
The thing to consider about bots is what it does to your brand reputation. Right off the bat you’re attempting to deceive your followers. While plenty of Instagram users don’t know the signs of a bot, there are plenty that do and don’t react kindly to the lie. Plenty actively delete and/or report comments they see as spammy and bot generated (myself included). Some reply with sass, from which there is no coming back and persistent bot-like comments can lead to being blocked. The worst, are the “love this!”, or “we love your style! DM us!” comments on bereavement posts… yes, I’ve seen it happen and yes, it’s as cringe as it sounds.
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Just as important, is your ability to convert sales or site visits from Instagram. Instagram is a very passive platform and you have to be very interesting to your followers in order to convince them to leave the app. The shop feature recently introduced to the platform has improved this, but that only works for product-based businesses. The conversion problem is actually helped by the swipe up feature, but only if you have a loyal, genuinely engaged and genuinely interested audience. By buying followers and targeting potential followers inauthentically, it’s unlikely you’re reaching the right people; the people who are going to convert for you. Although organic growth is much slower, you’re much more likely to have an engaged audience that’s genuinely interested in you. This is because every interaction you have is real. Quality over quantity, always.
Monkey see, monkey do. Ultimately, by using bots and buying followers, you’ll end up with followers that act just like you. You’ll only get fake engagement, inauthentic comments and a low conversion rate. If you’re not interested in your followers, you can hardly expect them to be interested in you.
What do you think about using bots on Instagram? Have you done it and did it work? Let me know!