The Negative Side of Instagram Automation

Instagram automation is a hot button issue among bloggers. If you’re unsure what Instagram automation is let’s put it this way – it is hiring a robot to follow accounts, like photos based on a hashtag and even leave comments for you when you’re not around.

I mean who doesn’t want more followers? It helps you sell your blog to brands and your content reaches more people. And liking photos is just that little pat on the back for other bloggers and influencers who are hustling too! And there’s a software that can do this stuff for me?

Sounds great right? People love Instagram but it can be a major time suck on productivity. And for bloggers whose time is stretched between the rest of your life and your site this kind of automation is very tempting.

But you shouldn’t do it.

No, really, you shouldn’t.

There are serious downsides to these Instagram automation softwares.

First, if you have hired one to get you more followers, you risk Instagram closing your account. It is against Instagram’s Terms of Use. And even though there are thousands of spam accounts on the platform, Instagram does an occasional clean sweep and wouldn’t you be embarrassed if your following of 15k suddenly became 5k? Not to mention you’d lose all credibility as an influencer on the platform.

These programs typically follow new accounts on your behalf and the hope is that those accounts will follow you back. (This is the same principle I use for growing my personal Instagram following but I actually find it fun to discover new accounts to follow!) The problem is these robots will follow as few as 1 account to as many as 5 accounts… per minute! (quick math… thats 1440 to 7200 accounts per day) One of the metrics that brands should be looking at is your Following-to-Follower ratio. Instagram actually limits the number of accounts you can follow to 7,500 so these robots can also build a follow-unfollow cycle for you.

If you’ve ever entered one of those Loop Giveaways on Instagram and then found your feed to be full of stuff you don’t really care about, imagine what your feed would be if there was a robot following a thousand new accounts a day for you?

No Thanks.

Lets move on to another common reason for automation, robots can be programed to leave comments on photos. Comments are the key factor when calculating “engagement” so by commenting on other people’s photos it is highly likely that you’ll get some followers back and they’ll probably comment too! And, yes most of my comments on insta follow the same “omg I love it (cat-heart-eye-emoji)” I don’t want that comment on every single photo tagged with, say, #chicago.

Given recent events, could you imagine if you had something like that set up to comment on all photos tagged with #Paris?

And what do you do if your comment is creepy given the use of the hashtag? Evan LePage of Hootsuite has tales of his trial of Instagram Automation and the disasters that occurred with the auto commenting.

No Good.

Finally let’s talk about using robots to like photos. This is the most basic of functions provided by these services. Usually the liking criteria is certain hashtags (#OOTD or #FoodPorn for example). If you are searching Instagram based on those hashtags and liking photos personally there is very little risk that you’ll like content that is, umm, Not Safe For Work. But a robot doesn’t have pornographic filters so you could end up liking some pretty graphic stuff and not even knowing it. There isn’t a way on Instagram to see the posts that you’ve liked but with just a quick swipe to the right on my notifications tab I can see all the photos that people I follow are liking. Kit and I have been monitoring this for a few weeks now and we have seen several of our colleagues and our members like graphic images.

No Bueno.

So yes, these softwares can grow your number of followers, increase your engagement and take some of the work off your plate. But, they can be very very damaging to your brand. At the end of the day, brands are going to want your smaller number of real followers than an inflated number of spam accounts.

This might be the blogger equivalent of the MLB steroid era. Maybe Instagram should require asterisks next to our accounts if we are using robots to beef up our numbers?

At the end of the day, growing your presence with out resorting to Instagram automation boils down to three things:

  1. Post well lit, well composed and appealing images.
  2. Post consistently and fairly often (we recommend 2-3 times a day).
  3. Be Social! Get in there and follow, like and comment on real accounts and watch your following grow naturally.

image via Oubly