Last week, Instagress made the shock announcement that they were shutting down “by request of Instagram”.
Instagress was the largest Instagram bot or ‘automation tool’ on the market. Instagress would perform actions such as liking, commenting, and following, automatically (after a simple set-up), starting at $10 a month. For marketers who saw these actions as necessary but mundane, Instagress was a dream come true.
However, tools such as Instagress violate Instagram’s Terms of Service (which strictly prohibits bot activity). Instagram is no stranger to taking action against these services and those who use it, with a well-documented ‘purge’ in 2015. And whilst many marketers are pulling their hair and scrambling to figure what to do next, the slow end to Instagram automation is necessary.
For quite awhile, I've been against automation tools. And with a new crop of automation tools sure to rise, it's important to know why they should be avoided.
Reason 1: Meaningless Interactions
Once upon a time a like meant something to a potential customer, and a follow could turn them into an evangelist. Just five years later, a follow from an unknown user is about an effective and annoying as the daily spam I receive from a store I haven’t visited in three years. Consumer aren’t stupid. They know that Silvia’s Bakery didn’t follow them because for their premium ‘Instagram aesthetic’.
Whilst the end of Instagress does not mean the end of bot interaction, the recent crackdown could lead to a significant reduction, to a point where genuine interactions become meaningful again. And whilst a comment from your page may not turn them into a loyal customer, it may persuade them to check out your page.
Reason 2: Lazy Marketers
Automation tools have created a breed of lazy marketers. Flooding the market in droves, 'social media marketers' are charging (small, local) businesses anywhere from $500-1500 per month to 'manage their Instagram' - which often involves them setting up an Instagress account, posting a couple times, and calling it a day. The thousands of (meaningless) actions completed each month gives their client an opaque view of true account health.
Whilst the fall of Instagress will give way to other automation tools (even temporarily), putting your client's page at risk isn't worth an extra follower or two. Smart marketers will earn their keep, and realize they can make a much bigger impact without bots.
Reason 3: Hollow Followers
Whilst the impact of a like, comment, or follow on a random user's page may not have the same impact as 2012, bots wouldn't be popular if they did not grow your page at all. Slowly, but surely, the use of these automation tools will grow your page. But, who is following you?
80%+ of followers gained from automation tools fall into two categories: a) Accounts who followed you via an automation tool (i.e. bot followers) and b) Users who follow thousands of people (#teamfollowback - therefore, won't see your posts). Both categories provide nil value to your brand. In fact, they may cost you money. Future Instagram Ad spend may be wasted targeting these 'ghost' followers.
Back To The Basics
The fall of Instagress is shaking up thousands of marketing strategies. If you're evaluating what's next, get back to genuine community interaction and forget the bots. Put in a little elbow grease. It's a much easier than the alternative - explaining to a client why their Instagram account is banned.