- 1. Definition
- 2. The case of fake influencers and bot automation
- 3. Ways to spot fake influencers and bot followers
- 4. Pros and cons of using IG bots
- 5. Should a brand or influencer use IG bots?
- 6. How to use bot marketing/automation on IG
Table of contents
Bot marketing on Instagram refers to automated programs that aid an influencer or brand in performing actions on the platform such as commenting, following, and liking. Bots make the influencer's profile "look better" as the user can set specific parameters to target certain hashtags, locations, and accounts, to name a few, and the bots will automatically perform the actions that were just mentioned. However, it also makes influencer marketing on IG much harder to be evaluated by marketers since the audience data will be heavily diluted by that practice.
The concept of bot marketing is rather simple: use automation to like and follow another person’s account in the hopes that they will follow you back thus increasing your account following (follow-for-follow).
In the past, many influencers on Instagram have used bots to gain a lot of followers, and in so doing, charged hefty fees to brands and advertisers wanting to market to their large number of followers. However, this tactic is not seen as good marketing practice by IG and many online marketers and brands as influencers with a large following brought on by bot automation usually have less engagement than accounts that have earned their followers through relevant and interesting content and comments.
The case of fake influencers and bot automation
Bot marketing does not have to be all that bad if used wisely and sparingly. The truth is that some real-life influencers do need help in automating certain social media tasks and they can use bot automation software to do so. In this case, bots are used as influencer management tools to help and influencer “keep up” with their following, especially during those times they can not do so themselves.
The reality is that not all influencers can afford an influencer marketing agency to help them with the day-to-day maintenance of their account and so automated software is sometimes essential. That being said, the use of bot automation in this particular scenario is used by real-life influencers who do engage with their followers most of the time. The problem lies when an individual uses bots to fully automate their Instagram marketing endeavors and their entire IG account as well.
These “fake” accounts are run by automation and the owner never knows who is following them, why they are following them, and what the followers want to receive from the account. In essence, although the following may be real, the account owner is fake. The idea is to run a completely “hands-off” IG influencer account and charge a lot of money to brands and advertisers to promote their content without ever really engaging with an audience. While this may be good for fake influencers, it is not good for brands and marketers who put their faith into them.
That is one case, the second case of a fully bot-automated account is when the followers are bots themselves. This is even worse, as a brand who uses such an account for marketing will only be engaging with programs which are not interested in what they are promoting nor can buy any of their products or services.
Ways to spot fake influencers and bot followers
In order for brands to steer clear of fake followers and influencers, a few guidelines have been provided below.
- Multiple Photos: Are there multiple photos of the influencer or follower on their account? Chances are if the same photo is used, again and again, the account or follower is fake.
- Detailed Bio: Is the account bio full of general and generic text or does a “voice” resound through it giving detailed descriptions of the person who owns the account? The more real it sounds, the surer you can be that the account is genuine.
- Mix of Followers: Who does the influencer follow and who follows them? If there are a bunch of “beautiful” people that all look similar, do not trust the account. A real influencer with a real following will have a mix of people from all walks of life who share certain common interests that led them to follow the influencer.
- Single Platform: Check and see if the influencer only has one social media account. If they are only on Instagram consider it a warning sign as real influencers will almost always have multiple accounts across many social media channels - at least, Facebook & Twitter.
- Relevant Comments: Do the comments the account owner posts sound relevant to the subject being discussed or are just “spammy” in nature? Do they receive a lot of engagements because they are thought-provoking or entertaining or do they sound like automated messages spamming for likes or follows? If the later, don’t bother.
Download the data-driven 9-step ebook to detect fake influencer here.
Pros and cons of using IG bots
In order to amass a large following on Instagram, an influencer or brand has to be extremely active on the platform. They must continuously comment, like, follow, and create content pretty much on a daily basis. This is quite time-consuming and considering that they may have other social media accounts to attend to or businesses to run, not very practical.
Using bots to automate some of these procedures and tasks can make life easier for IG influencers. Bots, when used as an influencer management and marketing tool, is like having personal assistants that work around the clock, never getting tired or sick, and never asking for more money to work such heavy hours.
That is one of the good points of IG bot marketing, but there are some bad -really bad - points to using robots to automate marketing on the platform. Both sides of the coin are listed below.
- Fast & Efficient: Bots can engage with followers every day, even every hour if needed. This productivity is impossible for humans to match unless a brand or influencer can afford to hire an entire team of them to do so on their behalf.
- Increase Followers: The more likes, comments, and content an influencer or brand shares, the more likely followers are going to share their information with their followers. Ultimately, this free publicity is going to increase the number of followers for that particular account.
- Higher Engagement: By engaging more frequently with followers through the use of bots, the more likely it will be that followers will engage back through the means of likes and comments. For influencers, this equates to being able to charge a higher price for promotional posts as they can show brands that their followers are real and active Instagram users.
- Auto Search: Bots have the ability to search for new leads relevant to a brand’s industry or niche. As long as specific parameters are set, they will scour the platform for users who match the criteria programmed into them and automatically engage and follow them to bring more awareness to a user’s account.
- Awkward/Strange Comments: As they are robots with a limited set of programs, they can not function in the same way as a human can, especially when it comes to commenting. One of the biggest drawbacks of bots is non-relevant comments that make no sense. This can severely hamper the reputation of an IG account and lead brands and followers to distrust the owner who is running it.
- Random Feed: Auto-following often leads to a large following consisting of non-relevant and non-interesting followers. While there may be a few gems among the “auto-followers”, sifting through hundreds of them in an IG feed is time-consuming and undoes what bots are meant to do, save time.
Should a brand or influencer use IG bots?
This all depends on how the bots are used. As was stated earlier, using bots sparingly for daily tasks such as liking and following can be of great benefit to influencers and brands who do not have time to do these things on a daily basis. However, depending on bots to engage and comment with other IG users and their content is not desirable, at least not on a regular basis, as bots can not mimic human personas and dialogues to a satisfactory degree.
When using bots for commenting, keeping it to a minimum is advisable. Brands and influencers should do their own commenting to produce better engagement rates but can, from time to time, employ bots to perform automated, simple messages like “great post” when they do not have time to engage with their audience.
There is an ethical dilemma as well in using bots when it comes to influencer accounts who employ them solely for marketing purposes. If influencers want to establish an account based on bot followers and followings, that is entirely their prerogative, however, when charging money for automated likes, comments, posts, and promotions, they should really ask themselves if they feel right to charge money for “fake” results - results that they know are not going to lead to relevant engagement or conversions.
Ultimately, if a brand or influencer wants to employ bots to perform routine tasks that do not constitute the majority of their follower acquisitions and follower engagements, then that is entirely alright. After all, big companies like Google use bots exclusively to scour the net and index or flag websites according to a preset algorithm.
That being said, bots are not meant to perform the tasks of a fully-functioning marketing team, especially in the areas of providing unique content and real comments with other IG users. Followers and brands want to know that there is a real person interacting with them on the other end - one that can give advice, answer questions, and provide relevant information.
How to use bot marketing/automation on IG
Once the decision to use a bot has been made, the next step would be to follow some basic guidelines to ensure that one’s IG bot marketing campaigns stay in compliance with the platform's terms & conditions, is fair towards advertisers, and does what it is intended to do.
A sample of such guidelines can be seen below.
- Set Goals: Brands and influencers have to define why they are using automated bots in the first place, without which they will not be able to evaluate the effectiveness of its implementation. Are you using them as an influencer marketing tool to help you stay on task or as a way to automate your entire influencer marketing campaign?
- Only 1 Automated Bot System/Serve: Too many automated services can get an account band as it sends IG red flags that the account and its followers are fake.
- Automate Targeting & Use Real Content: Use bots to target and interact with users who will most likely be interested in your brand, product, or service. Follow this up by providing unique and up-to-date content to those followers on a regular basis to promote engagement and loyalty.
- Define Target Audience: Bots can be programmed to seek out IG users by providing them with specific data points. In order to give them the most accurate data, you first have to define your ideal audience, customer, or follower by certain criteria such as interests, competitor fans, hashtags, and specific locations.
- Don’t Automate Too Much: Even if you use your bots in an ethical way, you could still get banned by using them too much. IG wants to see that you are actually interacting with your followers, so comment, like, and post yourself as much as possible. Try to use your bots when you absolutely can not do so yourself.
- Answer Comments: Bots cannot answer comments in the same way a person can. They can only offer generic responses. These automated responses can be appropriate at times but definitely not in all situations and definitely not when you are charging another user who is paying you for engaging with your followers on their behalf.