Are Bots Bad?
Well, it depends who asks…
Followers - the most coveted of all metrics on social media. There are 100 strategies to grow your instagram following, but not all methods that work well are good for “The Gram.”
Cracking Down on Instagram Bots
In late 2018, Instagram vowed to crack down on the unprecedented use of bots to automate less-than-honest growth strategies on their platform, and rightfully so.
Generally, there are two factors that give any Instagram account instant credibility - The Verified Blue Checkmark or a large number of followers.
There are gatekeepers to the Verification process, so thankfully the Blue Checkmark can separate some of the real from the fake. Not just anybody can get verified. And a few years ago, not just anybody could get 50,000 followers either - but thanks (or no thanks) to technology times have changed.
So, in the interest of maintaining the validity of the followers metric as a true indicator of credibility and authority, the ever-popular social networking platform began to police and punish accounts that rely on dishonest methods of building their following.
How Followers Relate to Authority… Kinda
In the early days, to grow a large following on Instagram you simply had to post high quality content consistently over an extended period of time.
While this Instagram growth strategy still works today, the reliability of the followers metric has severely decreased because not all people with a large following are actually delivering valuable content. In fact, it is not uncommon for some of these bot-powered accounts to have less than 10 posts while amassing tens of thousands of followers as a result of their growth hack tactics.
The funny thing about this phenomenon is that most of the followers on these automated accounts are actually bots also!
In other words, a following of 10,000 users in 2019 is worth a lot less clout than it was just a few years earlier.
But don’t tell that to the companies paying influencers mega-bucks of the reach of their posts on social media.
The Economics of Follower Inflation
This counterfeit follower scheme has created an effect that we have seen in global economies for centuries. I call it, “Follower Inflation.”
Follower Inflations is bad for instagram and bad for its users.
Everyone is Your Competition
In a world where an increasing number of users are getting online every day, it is becoming more and more challenging for real brands to cut through the noise. There are more outlets competing for the attention of your target market everywhere you look. You aren’t just competing with other brands that have a similar value prop anymore - You have to compete with every piece of entertainment, information, and motivation that pops up on their timeline.
Your Have an Unengaged Following
Since there are so many machine controlled accounts on instagram, chances are that many of your followers are not even humans! It’s a sad reality. This is the reason why you get mindless emojis and irrelevant comments on your posts from time to time. The spam epidemic has never been more problematic.
If Organic Reach Drops, Ad Costs Go Up
For those of us who market on social media, we know that ad costs have been slowly but surely rising. Of course there are strategies for optimizing your ad campaigns and leveraging different types of audience, but when all things are equal today things cost more than they did two years ago. Simply because some of your ad impressions are falling on deaf ears, so to speak. In other words, you are wasting a good piece of your marketing budget showing impressions to a robot. Sucks, right?
Is Instagram Dying?
The impressive benchmarks of yesterday’s organically grown tribes are now dwarfed by AI controlled personifications of people and pop-up brands. It’s tragic for small businesses and influencers, but we have no one to blame but ourselves.
As digital marketers, we love the quantitative analytics that we can draw from our accounts and campaigns, but its that same love for data that drove us to create these bots.
So, is Instagram dying? - No. I don’t think so.
Honestly, I believe that there is a lot to learn from going through this phase of “Follower Inflation.”
Numbers Lie. Fake Brands Die. Real Value Remains Undefeated.
Overall, Instagram is taking steps in the right direction to keep things under control. The future landscape of social media is relatively unpredictable, but that’s why it is exciting.
The giants of today rarely last from one generation to the next. It will be interesting to see how long people can take advantage of the inflating influencer market place on instagram.
Until then, choose your growth strategy wisely.
If you are looking for vanity metrics to validate your brand, go find a bot to boost your numbers. I won’t judge you. On the other hand, if you are in the business of making money just focus on creating value-packed, premium quality content that your core audience loves.
At the end of the day, if your social media account is not generating leads, or building true brand equity then its just a waste of time.