The Instagram community has been buzzing with news about the closure of Instagress. Instagress was essentially an affordable website that created bots to help Instagrammers rack up followers and engagement. These bots crawled around Instagram and automatically engaged posts based on hashtags, locations, and usernames.
What is interesting is that moments after the news of this closure was announced in social media, Google Trends indicated a surge in the search for alternative platforms.This could be because most businesses that relied on Instagress were actively looking for an alternative. After all, Instagress promises to grow their profiles at a fraction of the effort it takes to do it organically.
So, what is wrong? Well, the issue is that these services are not only against Instagram’s Terms of Service, they threaten Instagram’s credibility as a platform that has been built on high-quality content.While some may be sad to bid Instagress farewell, those hardworking bots did leave behind some lessons.
1. Nothing Beats Consistent & Quality Content
Bots are only able to artificially boost a profile’s strength. They are unable to engage or maintain a profile’s credibility. It is no surprise that businesses that use bots gradually lose a portion of their followers. The usual reason is due to the lack of quality and engaging content. There is no sidestepping the issue. Instagram is a visual content platform and businesses need to create quality content regularly.
However, what if a business creates quality content regularly and chooses to boost it by using bots? Well, keep in mind that karma is strolling the feeds of Instagram. Chances are if a business is launching bots to boost engagement, the engagement it receives for its posts are also from bots. In other words, the resulting engagement is temporary and artificial. It is best to let the content speak for itself. In the long haul, quality content will always trump bots.
2. Engage With Your/Competitors’ Followers
Given that on average 80 million photos are shared every single day, businesses are forced to fight for consumers’ attention. These poor bots actively searched accounts with similar interests and engage them through likes or comments. These efforts occasionally receive a ‘follow back’ and help increase the follower base of businesses. The only difference is, a bot’s pre-programmed responses are often vague and they cannot discern context. The result is a hollow engagement that yields no real value to either party. Organic engagement will not only be more sincere, if done right, will cultivate an emotionally invested follower base.
3. Use Instagram Ads
Bots might crawl the platform searching for the parameters businesses input but their targeting is limited and the accounts engaged are often a mixture of active and inactive accounts. The better alternative to increasing exposure is to use Instagram Ads. This provides businesses with a more detailed targeting platform to reach out to customers they actually need. It is definitely a better alternative than having a bot leave a trail of indiscriminate likes and comments on accounts that do not share the same interests.
4. Use Instagram Stories
With more brands jumping on the social media bandwagon, there is a rising demand for content that is not entirely stylized and staged. Instagram Stories feature allows for this. Given the temporary nature of the posts, this is a great way for businesses to promote their profile and capitalize on this unique opportunity to share a more imperfect and candid side of the business. This exposure will over time nurture consumers who are not only emotionally invested but also loyal brand advocates.
BarkBox, a company that provides a monthly subscription box service for dog treats experienced great success with Instagram Stories. They created multiple clips of short “doggie interviews” with a cute little pug. It is worth pointing out that the hilarious and adorable stories not only engaged their customers, it also nurtured the number of followers to 1.3m.
The closure of Instagress might have affected businesses and influencers who heavily relied on that platform to run engagement for them but it also offered the opportunity to highlight the fact that bots were never doing the impossible.
All they did was to try to engage profiles based on a given set of parameters. However, despite their best efforts, these bots were no replacement for organic engagement. There are no shortcuts to building a credible profile. Businesses need to go back to the basics; understanding your audience, regularly creating quality content and finally engaging with them. This is a long-term relationship bots cannot cultivate.