How to tell if someone is using a bot on Instagram (and why you shouldn't use one!)

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Recently there's been so much bad press about Instagram: the algorithm, engagement rapidly declining, the shadow ban.

It's getting more and more difficult for us as small businesses to find the right audience and build a meaningful follower base of customers and clients who want to see what we have to say.

Today we're going to let you in on a little not-so-secret practice that is killing small businesses on Instagram and help you figure out who's doing it.

It's no secret that people use what I would refer to as a 'bot' to grow their following. It's the new way of 'buying' followers and supposedly finding 'meaningful' followers who are interested in your business. Essentially those who use bots set up their parameters so that it likes and comments on pictures using a certain hashtag, and follows people based on who they follow, their area, or things they've hashtagged.

I'm going to admit now, that we wanted to know if it works, so we actually set up a bot on one of our accounts (not clients of course!) and to be honest it did very little apart from give us a few more followers who never interacted with us anyway. So there you go - we've tested it so you don't have to!

What's particularly frustrating for us at Sassy Digital, is our own kind - YES, SOCIAL MEDIA "AGENCIES" - are using this software to 1. boost their following and 2. boost the following of their clients.

How do I know? Because they follow me all the time and you can tell when someone is using this software straight away.

There's no golden ticket to getting thousands of followers - it's called cheating! So, we're calling bullsh*t on this ridiculous practice and telling you how to spot if someone's using this software.

How to tell if someone is using a bot:

1. They'll comment something extremely generic on your picture

How many times have you had someone comment "Nice pic" or a single emoji "😁"? Yeah, sorry they don't like your "pic" they're using a bot.

2. They'll likely be in a location that isn't relevant to you e.g. another country

I've had lots of social media agencies follow me who are based in other countries. Aside from the usual signs listed here, that's a bit suspicious. They've clearly thought following people who use hashtags relating to social media are the correct audience. Well we aren't and it's super embarrassing for them as "social media experts"!

3. They'll have loads of followers but sh*t content

Excuse the language, but is it right that we as small businesses work so hard to create amazing content and other people who are using these kinds of programs have tens of thousands of followers when their content is crap? Don't get me wrong, some of these accounts have good (not amazing) content but most of them don't.

4. They'll like loads of your pictures in a row

Known as 'scraping' they'll like loads of your pictures in a row in the hope that you'll think "oh they like my content, I should follow them." - Ever followed someone for this reason? Yeah, sorry - they tricked you!

5. As soon as you follow them they'll probably unfollow you

In order to keep a good following to follower ratio, these programs will unfollow you on behalf of the account that they followed you with. So if you follow them you're basically not getting anything in return.

6. They'll have a spammy username

Lots of accounts that use bots will build up a large following and then sell the account onto someone who wants lots of followers - yes that is a thing!!! So they'll have a spammy username that's probably something to do with growth or exposure.

7. They'll follow you and if you don't follow them back they'll follow you again a few days later...and a few days after that

They'll keep following/unfollowing you until you follow them back. Persistence is not always key, it's just embarrassing.

8. They'll be following way more people than follow them

See screenshot below for a real life example of someone who followed us today...in fact, this account nicely sums up everything we've just mentioned: bad content, commented something generic, has a spammy username and has a ginormous following to follower ratio. .

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So, now you know how to spot someone who's cheating, here's a few reasons why you shouldn't use a bot if you're tempted.

1. you could get shadowbanned

Using a bot is against the terms of service on Instagram. If Instagram believes you're breaking these terms then they'll stop you from coming up in search which means you'll get less engagement. They could even temporarily ban your account.

2. It's not very sociable

Social media is meant to be social. Get to know your followers, talk to them on comments or messenger, use it as a customer service platform. We know it's time consuming but having 100 meaningful and engaged followers is better than having 1000 fake ones.

3. It's embarrassing

One of the things about this software is you think you're controlling it, but actually it could be liking anyones pictures or following anyone - and remember that this comes up in the discover feed so people can see what you're up to. Also refer back to point number 7 in the ways you can tell if they're using software above.

4. It won't do much to boost your business

As we've discussed above, these followers may or may not bring anything to your community. You may have lots of followers, but is this converting to sales? Probably not.

Let's continue on our quest for more followers and engagement the organic way! For more information on increasing your following, read our guide to boosting your Instagram following the organic way.

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