Instagram Invaders: The Problem with Bots

There are few things as disappointing as when you check your Instagram notifications to see a comment on your post saying “cool photo!” or “great feed!” We know enough now to assume that comments of this nature are made by bots or algorithms, and someone doesn’t actually think you have a great feed. (But you totally do, so don’t worry!) 

What is an Instagram Bot?

An Instagram Bot is a service or algorithm that companies or individuals use to gain followers, likes or just overall engagement with their accounts. 

Think about when you’re at the car wash: It’s been a long day and you don’t feel like getting out of your car, so you go through the automatic drive-thru and the big arms come down to scrub, rinse and dry your vehicle. 

Instagram Bots work the same way. If you don’t feel like commenting on or liking posts, you can purchase a bot to do it for you. However, much like an automatic car wash, bots are not perfect and can cause problems. 

How Can You Spot a Bot?

Over the past 3 years, bots have been on the rise which makes them easier for the average user to spot. Here are some helpful tips for figuring out if an account is using a bot:

  • Look specifically at what the account comments to other users. If the comment is quite  generic or if it seems overly excited/dramatic, the account is likely using a bot. 

          

  • If an account with a high number of followers follows you, go and check a day or two later to see if they are still following you. If the account has unfollowed you, this is a good sign they have purchased a follower bot and they were trying to get you to follow back.
  • Check the content in relation to number of followers. If the account posts content that isn’t high quality or just isn’t overly interesting, but they have thousands of followers, they probably have a bot!

Why are Bots a Problem? 

In 2018, Instagram realized that bots and fake accounts were becoming a huge problem and many were in violation of Instagram guidelines. In the first half of 2018, Instagram removed over 750 million accounts using bots to grow. 

However, bots are still extremely prevalent on the app and it detracts from users having an authentic experience. Nobody likes fake comments, nobody likes being followed then unfollowed a day later, and nobody likes the feeling of being spammed. The bottom line is that bots are annoying. User experience is so important for an app that promotes interactivity, if it becomes overrun by bots, nobody will want to use it anymore. 

The biggest problem of bots though is, as mentioned before, they violate Instagram guidelines. Instagram bots often access Instagram’s API without the platform’s permission. This violates Instagram’s Terms of Use and can result in the user being completely banned if caught. 

Automation can be an amazing tool, if used properly. Let’s face it, robots are super cool and can make all of our lives easier. However, if robots are causing user experience to suffer then they are in the wrong place. Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of what bots are all about and how to spot them, we can work together to keep Instagram authentic and not let it get over run with these pesky bots! 

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