Forget Fake Engagement: Why We Don't Use Instagram Bots

- by Alyson Shane

Let's face it: driving organic engagement on Instagram is time-consuming. Which is why many marketers and agencies have turned to using Instagram Bots - or "botting" - to generate engagement.

While this may seem like a great way to cut costs and drive users to your page, using Instagram bots to create fake engagement is not only inauthentic, but it can drive away your customers and damage your brand's reputation.

What exactly is botting, and why is it bad? Keep reading to find out why we're 100% against this sketchy marketing practice:


What is Botting?

Botting is the process of allowing third-party automation software to access your Instagram account and use algorithms to determine accounts that you should be following and engaging with. Basically, botting is pay-to-play engagement, where you pay an automation service to grow your Instagram audience for you.

Marketers can program bots to target specific areas, users who use specific hashtags, and more, in order to create a level of fake engagement which is intended to drive traffic to your Instagram profile.

Sounds great, right?

Except it's not.

At Starling Social, we believe that all engagement should be as organic as possible, which is why we've never used Instagram Bots (or "gone botting") to generate engagement for our clients.

Sure, it would free up more of our billable time, but we wouldn't be delivering the best possible experience to our clients if we relied on bots to handle our engagement for us.

What's Wrong With Bots?

Below are just a few of the reasons that we believe Instagram bots are bad for business:

Current AI doesn't understand context

Have you ever posted a photo with a sad caption, only to receive a weird, upbeat comment like "keep posting great content "? Then you've encountered an Instagram bot.

Not only are these interactions awkward for the person posting the update, but they also clearly demonstrate that there isn't a real human being looking at your content, because why else would someone day "this is awesome!" on a photo of someone and their Grandma in the hospital, for example?

Experiences like these can get even creepier: on the Hootsuite blog, one employee recalls experimenting with an Instagram automation tool and discovered that the bot had left the comment "my pics > your pics" on a selfie of a boy who was clearly in middle school. Yikes!

Bots don't always follow the right people

Curating an Instagram news feed which is populated by content that matters to your brand - updates from customers and people in your industry, for example - is just as important as generating strong content on your own profile because it allows a level of engagement that is customized to your growth and engagement goals.

Bots, on the other hand, tend to follow hundreds or even thousands of users who may fit within specific criteria, such as living in your city or using a specific hashtag, but that doesn't mean they're actually part of your brand's target audience.

The only way to ensure that your Instagram account is engaging with real people who care about your brand is by ensuring real people are doing it for you.

You're going to annoy the h*ck out of your target audience

Bots are annoying. There, we said it.

There's nothing worse than posting something to your Instagram and receiving a slew of comments that look like this:

  • Super cool!
  • Lol I'm so jealous!
  • Great page!

You get the point.

As a user, you know that Instagram bots exist, and so when you see the same, non-specific comments appearing over and over again, you already know that whichever account is commenting isn't doing so authentically.

Even worse: as a business, your goal is to entice and excite your customers, not annoy them and make them turn off from your message. As with all things online: authenticity is key, and if your customers catch a whiff of inauthenticity from your Instagram profile, they're less likely to engage with you and give you that highly sought-after "Follow".

You may have your account suspended

Botting goes against Instagram's terms of service, which means that you could have your brand's account suspended!

This is bad for a company managing its own digital marketing, but for a marketing agency to engage in an activity which not only abuses customer trust, but puts their client's accounts at risk just isn't worth it.

One last thing about marketing automation

If this post has you feeling stressed out: don't worry, not all marketing automation tools are created equal. There's a big difference between marketing automation tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, MeetEdgar, and MailChimp (some of our faves), and Instagram bots:

Marketing automation tools help manage processes which allow time for real engagement; Instagram bots pretend to create engagement where there isn't any, and can cause real damage to your brand's online reputation.

So why take the risk? Spend the extra time building a real, engaged audience of Instagram followers and feel confident that the users following your brand legitimately care about what you have to say.

Still confused about Instagram bots, and how real, hands-on engagement can help your brand succeed on Instagram? Give us a shout, we're happy to tell you all you need to know.