Bots, Bots, Bots
I had a meeting with a client a while back, and she presented her Instagram to me with an ashamed look.
"The social media manager I had before hired bots to get my follower count up..." she said, with hope that I could fix it. It's hard to recover from, and I was tempted to completely start from scratch with her, and here's why...
Bots gain followers, but decrease organic engagement
At the end of the day, Instagram should be used for organic engagement with your audience. That is, you should know your audience well enough to be posting things that appeal to them. The engagement that should stem from that should be entirely organic, meaning they should engage because they want to and they enjoy your content. Of course, in some circumstances this isn't viable, or to increase your reach you may pay to boost content, which is also 100% okay (particularly with the increase of the 'pay to play' approach of Facebook recently...). However, as soon as you start to pay for followers, you lose your organic following slowly but surely. Sure, you may look super popular and credible with your mass following now that you have bots on your side, but your content will look anything but credible, with comments like "Nice!" and "Love your feed!" clogging up your conversations.
Bots engage with others, but make you look less credible
Social media has been created to be just that: social. I encourage my clients, and anyone for that matter, to spend time engaging with similar accounts, companies, and profiles with their business' account. Doing this increases your credibility as you engage in conversation with others in similar communities. This also increases your brand's reach, increases the amount of people that see you, and shows your audience that you're not just trying to sell something, you're up for conversation as well!
However! Whilst hiring bots boasts this service without you having to do anything, you'll notice that those comments that we just discussed ("Nice!") will start appearing on people's content from your account, without you having anything to do with it. Whilst bots offer to engage with 'similar' accounts, at the end of the day these bots engage with anyone and everyone, offering no personal engagement, but rather comments that prompt people to "Check out our account!" and "We love your account, and you'll love ours too!". This isn't taking part in conversation, and is a red flag to anyone that sees it. 'Real' people are more likely to unfollow you entirely if they see comments like these on their posts - I know I do!
Instagram flags accounts using bots
Speaking of red flags, Instagram is a lot smarter than what we all give it credit for. It recognises when people do 'suspicious' things that are against all those terms and conditions that we never read when we signed up. When they notice that people are: posting content that is inappropriate, using particular hashtags, utalising bots etc, they flag their accounts. Flagging accounts means pushing them down newsfeeds, and ensuring that (thanks to the new algorithms) it's harder for their followers to find their content. They do this as an alternative to deleting content and accounts entirely (although they do do this too), giving us a chance to reconcile, but making it very hard to do so. Once you're flagged, Instagram keeps their eye on you.
If you want to remain a credible account, ensure your gaining organic followers and engagement, and not get flagged by Instagram, please consider an alternative to bots! It may be the fastest option to gain those followers you so desperately want, but may I suggest contacting us or another social media/marketing professional to help you increase your following instead? Doing this will ensure your followers are legit, engaged, and excited about you, your business, and your content! And at the end of the day, that's what is most important.