Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms out there. With a following that far exceeds 400 million users, the platform can be an attractive way to expand your marketing base. Some of the tools recommended by those who seek to take advantage are Instagram bots. These may seem like a quick and easy fix, but can be dangerous to your overall statistical trends, leaving much less than desirable impacts.

What are Instagram bots?

Instagram bots are tools that some people use to inflate likes for their Instagram accounts. They are intended to increase engagement to make sure that someone’s posts are ranked much higher on the list than they should be. The Instagram bot services themselves even state that the bots are intended to overinflate numbers. You’ll also notice that I refuse to link to the Instagram bots or provide screenshots of their app in my post. This is because I believe that it is completely unethical to use them, so you won’t find recommendations for these services in my posts.

The process that it uses to automate likes is a little bit more complicated. The intention is to get actual users to follow you, which will then up your standing on Instagram. How it does this is the part that gets problematic. It will go out and follow a huge amount of users. The idea is that by following these users, they will follow you back. It doesn’t just follow random people, though. It scans posts and hashtags to find content similar to yours, and then follows those people.

What are the major concerns with these bots?

Instagram bots are problematic for a few reasons. The main issue is that it is a software program that is going out and mass following a bunch of people. In essence, it is violating the essential purpose of social media. Interactions on social media are intended to be organic and intentional. By using this software, you are purchasing your social media following, and therefore, are violating how these services are intended to be used.

The affirmative argument for the use of this software may be “well, they’re following me back by choice, not because the software made them”. Sure, that is true, but it is also underhanded. If you, yourself couldn’t do this in one sitting, you shouldn’t be allowed to do so with the use of an automated software program.

Is this actually kosher?

Well, in a word, no. Instagram’s policy regarding bots was discussed in a New York Times article. The behavior is considered spam by Instagram, plain and simple. Beginning in June of this year, Instagram began cracking down on these applications. They have been getting shut down left and right, and are not a legitimate way to gain attention on Instagram. Instagram also employs a guideline that helps to avoid these applications from gaining traction. They state that repetitive commenting is not allowed, nor is collecting artificial likes on the platform. So, this is another really good reason to avoid using the services.

Actual experiments that show that using Instagram bots is a really bad idea

Hubspot gave the bots a try on their own accounts. They wrote an account of the experiment on their blog. They started out thinking that their automated account would end up with more followers. Stands to reason that that would be the case. However, they thought that the automation wouldn’t be as effective as true human contact. To test these hypotheses, they set up the account in a very specific way.

They used the scientific method

In true experimental fashion, they set up two identical profiles. One was set up with the bot, and the other without. The profiles had the same description, and posted the same content for a month. The hashtags were also identical. The automated profile used the software to like and comment on all posts that it interacted with. The ‘human’ profile had all commenting and liking done by an actual person.

The results

Hubspot was shocked at the results of the experiment. The human profile actually garnered 3x the attention of the bot. The profile had more likes and had more comments, and the posts received far more attention than the bot profile. The demographics dramatically differed on the Instagram profiles as well. The human profile reflected more of a representative sample of Instagram, rather than a skewed population sample. Instagram users are mostly female, and the bot profile had mostly male followers.

The other issues that arose from the automation on the profile was the nature of the followers. The privacy status of the followers was public in 99% of followers on the automated profile, vs. 97% on the human profile. The top country of origin on the automated followers was also India, vs. the US in the human profile. Even the quality of the followers was better in the case of the human profile. The human profile garnered about twice the amount of influencers and engaged users, in comparison to the measly 15% that the automated profile was able to suck in.

What did we learn?

Instagram bots are definitely not the answer. They perform less on Instagram, they don’t engage followers, and they don’t put you into a trending status. They may seem like a way to buy your social media following, but in the end, you are only doing yourself a disservice by trying to use these. So, rather than using an Instagram bot as something that will eventually be detrimental to your engagement, try implementing some strategies to handle your Instagram account.

Create a calendar

Try creating a calendar to set aside time to engage your followers on Instagram. Make sure that you post genuine comments and try to engage the poster. It may seem like more effort, but if you’re looking for followers that actually make a difference, you will be rewarded.

Be thoughtful about the times that you post on Instagram

Hubspot found that when you’re posting to Instagram, the best times to do it were on Monday mornings and Evenings. Making sure that your posts are well composed and well considered are better ways to spend your time. Make your engagement a priority if you want to develop a following on Instagram.

Don’t expect it to be quick, easy, and overnight

If we learned something from Hubspot’s experiments, we learned that the effort makes the difference. They put time and effort into their posts and were trying to make a real difference in their human profile. It may have been the simple desire to beat the bot, but they found that it was far better for their profiles to engage with actual human beings.