The New Catfish

The robot takeover may be happening differently than you expected.

When you think of the phrase, “Instagram bot,” you think of a spam account. One with a username like, “aj7307523235,” and a hyperlink that’s obviously going to steal your credit card information and infect your computer with any number of viruses. The reality is that bots on all social media platforms have the ability to do more things than that.

Many companies rely on automation services to increase the number of potential customers that visit their site. One of the more popular automation sites is Instagress. Instagress essentially lets you track hashtags that are relevant to your company and finds people who are interested in similar things. Then it will like, comment, and follow on your behalf. Using these services in small doses seems harmless. Unfortunately, using any form of automation service goes against Instagram’s terms of use . Earlier this year, Instagress was shut down for this very reason.

Not only is it a means of getting your account shut down, it does absolutely nothing for your brand. In some cases, it can actually hurt it. One blogger set up an experiment and used a service to buy followers. Even though they gained around 1000 followers in a very short time span, their engagement rate and sales flopped. Another blogger used a service that let a bot leave generic comment on other people’s pictures. Unfortunately, the bot didn’t realize leaving a bunch of smiley faces on a picture remembering a dead friend was in poor taste. Or you could take is from yet another social media savvy blogger, whose bot left the comment, “your pics > my pics,” on a teenage boy’s selfie among various other strange comments.

Still not turned off by the effects of Instagram bots? What if they promote a company on your behalf? A few weeks ago, I started getting a lot of likes from random accounts. They all had usernames like, “@beautiful.demolition,” or “@the_traveler_beyond.” The similarities didn’t stop there. They all featured pretty, college-aged, white girls. All had around 4 posts, and only a handful of followers. They all followed a company that we’ll call @be.informed. Some of them even said they were brand ambassadors for the company. Let’s use this account as an example:

 
"Using any type of automation is grounds for getting your account suspended."

There are several problems with using this tactic:

1.) It goes against Instagram’s terms and conditions. Using any type of automation is grounds for getting your account suspended, but using a bot that pretends to be someone else? That is much worse.

2.) It’s unsustainable. If you want to check the statistics on how your company is doing in the social media world, it’ll skew everything. Sure, you gained a bunch of followers in a short time span, but those followers won’t do a thing for you. They won’t actually like your content or share it with other real people, and they certainly won’t turn into potential customers.

3.) You are using real pictures of real people and using them to advertise for you without their consent. That’s unethical, immoral, and just flat-out wrong.

 You’ll notice she has the company tagged in her bio. Obviously, a pretty sorority girl is going to have more than 22 followers, so I thought something was fishy. I did a little digging and managed to find the real “Danni.”

You’ll notice she has the company tagged in her bio. Obviously, a pretty sorority girl is going to have more than 22 followers, so I thought something was fishy. I did a little digging and managed to find the real “Danni.”

 
 
"Unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros."
 
 We’ll call the real girl Lyssa. You’ll notice Lyssa has a more believable number of followers. I messaged her and asked if she knew anything about the fake account or company. She did not. What this company is doing is using a service that not only gives them followers, but makes accounts that promote the company.

We’ll call the real girl Lyssa. You’ll notice Lyssa has a more believable number of followers. I messaged her and asked if she knew anything about the fake account or company. She did not. What this company is doing is using a service that not only gives them followers, but makes accounts that promote the company.

Trying to build a brand is hard and time-consuming. It takes a LOT of time and energy. The benefits of automation can seem very appealing to someone who wants to build their online presence. Unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros. If you want to reach out to real people, you can’t expect fake accounts to do that for you.

 
About the Author
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Alexis Amato

Alexis Amato is a writer from Cleveland, OH. Check out more of her work on WordPress.