Bots on Instagram: The Never-Ending Game of Whack-a-Mole

You start following a micro influencer (let’s say a fashionista with 10,000 followers). Three months later, they post a cute selfie in NYC with an awesome new hat. You notice their posts gets thousands of likes and hundreds of comments in a matter of minutes. Your curiosity takes over and you click on their profile. To your surprise, you see that their following has grown to 20,000! You think to yourself: what is the secret sauce to their success and how can you replicate it? Is it the quality of photos, artsy locations, captivating filters, or the creatively-crafted hashtags?

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Every Instagrammer has witnessed the picture-perfect Instagram posts that racks up thousands of likes and comments in a matter of minutes (or seconds). It’s no secret that building a popular account takes countless hours of carefully curating content and researching hashtags to attract likes and comments.  

You may even have tried to imitate popular Instagrammers by visiting an Insta Spot or using popular hashtags, only to find your efforts racking up less impressions or likes than expected.  Why are these so-called “white hat” Instagram strategies not working? What secret sauce are these popular Instagrammers using to keep their fan base strong and growing?

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Bots. The truth is, most Instagrammers have at one point used bots to grow their account. Even reputable Instagrammers have admitted to using automated bot services to grow their fan base. In addition, Socialcyte, a popular Influencer agency that only works with accounts with over 100K followers, encourages their clients to use bot-like services to increase their following and engagement.

In the past, the idea of bots has been a controversial grey line in the social media realm. Technically speaking, automation is against Instagram’s rules. In fact, the popular platform has disabled many automation services like Instagress and Peerboost. The thing is – every time an automation platform gets disabled, ten new ones appear like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. Why does this happen? Open source projects have sprung up, making it easy to reverse engineer Instagram’s app and APIs and easily create bots. Right now, there are at least 80 different bot-like services available to Instagram users. There are thousands of social media marketing agencies and digital marketing agencies who offer similar services but are reselling bots for Instagram automation.

Instagram could get strict and shut down these hundreds of services but seems to be turning a blind eye to most. Moreover, their crackdown in late 2018 on fake accounts did not reduce bot services. The social media giant has also taken very minimal legal and technical steps to stop bots on their platform. Moreover, the introduction of Action Blocked does little to prevent bot activity. Why does Instagram allow for these services to flourish when they blatantly go against the rules of the platform? Truthfully, bots work and Instagrammers love them. Whether it’s an extra like on a photo or a “ur content rules!!!” comment, bots boost Instagrammers’ numbers and egos.

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Think about it, why would you keep on posting photos on your Instagram if you only receive a handful of likes? Low engagement on posts would eventually kill your interest in the platform. On the other hand, if you post a photo and receive 100 “likes” and a handful of comments (even if they are from bots), you will become more engaged with the platform and eager to return. That dopamine hit when you see new followers or likes is key to the continued success of the platform. Instagram knows this and wants you to continue using their platform, which is why they haven’t prevented “white hat” automation services, like Gold Nitro.

At the end of the day, Instagram, just like Facebook, is a business and needs to grow revenue. Their revenue comes from selling ads, and the more eyeballs that see their ads, the more money they bring in. Instagram can at any moment stop bots all together, but they actively choose to ignore most. Why? Instagram understands the importance of bots and does not want to slow user growth or accidentally limit their real power users. Even if bots account for a big portion of Instagram activity (likes, follows, unfollows, comments), the platform will continue to prioritize growth and continue to allow it as long as it keeps the humans coming back and tapping on ads.  

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What’s the difference between “white hat” and “questionable” bot services? “White hat” bot services encourage REAL engagement by REAL people. This means instead of an Instagrammer spending countless hours engaging and doing the dreadful “follow-unfollow” method, bot services automate these activities for you and in return grow your fanbase and boost engagement on your account. On the other hand, “questionable” bot services use fake accounts to help you gain massive, instant followings and engagement. Instagram is cracking down on these “questionable” bot services even harder. In 2018, Instagram did a massive purge of ghost accounts. If you saw a steep loss of follower/following during this period, it might be a sign of ghost accounts. Instagram accounts that have a human touch, alongside a little automated help, are usually going to be the most successful on the platform.  

Let’s focus on “white hat” bot services

If used correctly, bots can become an Instagrammer’s best friend. Since Instagram changed their algorithm, Instagrammers have tried every method to regain their high engagement levels, including joining pods (a closed DM group of users that engages with each other’s content), purchasing followers, the follow-unfollow method, getting featured on popular accounts, visiting IG spots, and using bots. True Instagrammers know that nothing works better than bots to continue growing a healthy account.

Bots work so well that this Data Scientist created a 100% automated account that scored his free meals in NYC. Bots let you sit back and relax while your account grows, though you still need to keep posting great content. No more hours a day tapping like or follow.

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Reasons You Need Automation to Grow Your Account

With over 1 billion monthly Instagram users, it’s hard to get noticed (unless, of course, you are already super famous). In addition, Instagram’s algorithms, which decide what appears on users’ feeds, make it even harder to have posts seen by your own followers, without them having to scroll too far down. This algorithm makes it almost impossible for small businesses and new influencers to gain post impressions from non-followers. Automation makes sense for various reasons including:

  • You don’t want to spend countless hours doing the tried and true follow-unfollow method and interacting with other users. If you are a business owner, you know that your time can be better spent doing other important tasks, like posting amazing photos. Pro tip: You need to like and follow hundreds of accounts a day to even see an impact in your follower count and increase post impressions.
  • If you’re a business new to Instagram, you will likely see very low engagement. Automation helps the right users see your posts faster. Pro tip: following new accounts is key, mostly if they have less than 1,000 followers, since the user will receive a notification right on the app. Find real people though!
  • If you have an established business, you may want to grow your account even more to expand your audience.
  • Influencers, brand ambassadors, actors, fashion designers, and other related professionals may want to increase their fan base through Instagram. Pro tip: follower count is critical for influencers, dipping below certain thresholds like 10,000, 50,000, or 100,000, can be detrimental to gaining and keeping brand deals. Many marketplaces that connect influencers and brands require influencers to have a certain number of followers before working with brands.

Even though brands largely ignore if an influencer’s following is real or fake, there are tools that help detect fake following. With more readily available technology, it is important to ensure you are gaining real, engaged followers through your automation bot tool.   

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Things to Consider When Starting with Bots

There are some shady *pop-up* automation sellers out there that will scam users without delivering results. With automation services, trust and credibility is key.

Things to watch out for when shopping for a bot automation service:

  • If an automation company asks for your credentials right away, this can be a red flag.
  • If they want money or credit card information up front, with no trial, they could be a scam.
  • Research the company and read their reviews. If there are little to no reviews (or only negative reviews), this can also be a red flag. Keep in mind that companies can easily buy positive reviews for themselves and negative reviews for their competitors. Even the best services will have negative reviews.   
  • Make sure you do not purchase fake followers in bulk. These so-called followers will never engage with your content, and you’ll eventually lose them over time. Remember, Instagram aggressively deletes fake accounts so these fake followers will disappear within weeks.  
  • Using the wrong automation tool can easily get your account flagged. Use an automation tool that stays below Instagram’s daily engagement limits and “backs off” when an Action Block warning appears – just like a real human would.
  • Some digital marketing agencies that provide tailored growth for their clients delegate growth to bot services, you may be able to save a buck by signing up directly with the bot service.

Despite “bot” becoming a bad word due to the recent political climate, automation on Instagram is alive and growing. The truth is — Instagram is not going to stop bot usage anytime soon and the constant demand for bots from businesses and influencers allows them to thrive. Of course, the best automation services find real people to interact with and avoid fake accounts. If you are looking for a reputable, trustworthy company to deliver you real followers, consider using Gold Nitro. Gold Nitro strives to provide organic follower growth by doing auto likes and auto follows with other real people.You can start benefiting from Gold Nitro today by signing up for a 100% free 14-day trial!

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