Do you use Instagram? At Social Bods, we use Instagram a lot; individually, as a company, and for some of our clients. We post a wide range of images, in lots of different genres, and see hundreds of different Instagram pics from dozens and dozens of Instagrammers a week.

When you run lots of different accounts in very different ways, you start to notice things you may not have noticed if you’re only running one account. And this is starting to make us very cynical. You see, some behaviour on Instagram means that the InstaCommunity is not quite as nice and supportive as it can seem. I blame the bots.

What is a bot?

A bot is a programme which undertakes routine behaviour and carries out tasks. On Instagram, these tasks can be seeking out specific hashtags and liking the images, or leaving a comment, or following/unfollowing the Instagrammer.

Don’t believe that Bots exist? Google Likestagram, or Crowdfire, and you’ll find they have features which enable you to automate Instagram behaviour.

What’s the problem?

On the face of it, there isn’t a problem. I get it. You’re busy. You spend time looking for hashtags and liking images anyway, so why not get a bot to do it? Liking and commenting on other images is a great way of getting your own account noticed, and building up your followers. There will be many good examples of people who have built up ‘success’ on Instagram through some help from bots.

The problems come because the bots do as they are told. Religiously. You can set parameters in Likestagram for example which help improve the quality of the automation, but sometimes something will slip through. If you set your parameters tight, then these sort of situations should be minimised.  You should also be able to set limits so you don’t end up in Instajail, though this is not unheard of with bot use.

What sort of situations are you talking about?

Well, you could inadvertently like or comment on a photo that is inappropriate. If you can use bots to ‘game’ Instagram, then so can accounts that promote porn, hunting, gambling or similar, who will use popular hashtags to get themselves noticed. The only way you can guarantee to like only the images that are appropriate to your account and ultimately to your online persona is to look at and judge each pic for yourself.

I have also seen many situations where auto comments are left on highly inappropriate pics. While comments like “Awesome photo!” and “Great shot!” can cover a multitude of photos and not look too out of place, we can assure you that they are also being used on posts where they don’t quite fit the situation. At best, they stick out like a sore thumb. At worst, you risk offending the poster. Do you want to be known as the brand that said “Awesome!” on a post about someone’s recently deceased pet, or announcing that their business is sadly closing?

Can you provide examples please?

Why, yes we can! At Social Bods, we run Instagram accounts for clients where the imagery is not what you would call ‘Instagram friendly’. The audience is on Instagram, but the clients don’t have a lot that is worth Instagramming. To bridge this gap, we produce graphics designed to catch the attention of the audience – things like informational posters, or inspirational quotes, or graphics for special offers, or graphics from quite dull stock imagery. We may find it flattering if the comments which said “Amazing!” or “Love your account” were on pictures other than an image of the client’s holiday opening hours, or of a custom graphic of a testimonial they have received.

Even if I get these sort of comments on my personal blog’s Instagram account, I’m not so naive as to think that they’re anything more than bot comments. After all, the theme on my blog’s Instagram account is more ‘keeping it real’ than ‘inspirational’. I’m no photographer. Maybe it’s because I’ve been round the block too many times on social media to be anything more than a cynic. I have noticed recently, however, that even people who sell their skills professionally as marketers are unable to make this distinction on their own accounts, and they are even engaging with the spam comments. Me? I tend to report and block.

But I’ve got a lot of followers through using bots

We don’t doubt that bots, if used correctly, can be highly effective. Not everyone uses Instagram in the same way. Some people use it to look at other people’s photos and enjoy doing just that. They don’t need following back, or for you to like their one image they’ve bothered to post. These people may find you through your bot liking their image, or they may find you through a hashtag you’ve used to get your account greater exposure. And they’re a genuine follower, so no harm done.

You just need to make an informed decision about using a bot or two. You need to be aware that as easily as you can ‘game’ Instagram, so can others. They will use hashtags to attract your automated likes, and they will be using bots to like your images back. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have even looked at your picture, or know who you are, or give two monkeys about you and your images. I’m quite old-fashioned but I’d rather work at getting real engagement and a fan base who are interested in what I do, regardless of the hashtags I do and don’t use, or whether I’ve liked their images back or not. It’s nice if they follow me so they can see future posts, but surely it’s better that this is because they want to, rather than because there are silly games being played which reward those who can’t even be bothered to try and do it properly.

The verdict?

Instagram bots exist. They can be highly effective and a successful means to an end. They can make your account look highly popular. They can also make you look like an insensitive moron who is incapable of thinking of an appropriate comment or genuinely likes pictures of porn.

Ultimately, it’s your call. 

Further reading on the merits (or not) of using bots can be found at

https://blog.hootsuite.com/i-tried-instagram-automation-so-you-dont-have-to/ 

https://www.10yetis.co.uk/news/10-yetis-insight-a-guide-to-using-likestagram-to-try-and-game-instagram

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