The Darker Side of Instagram Automation Tools is a growing issue as some tools can do more harm than good.
Automation tools can be very useful for busy businesses that want to ensure posts are made across several social media platforms at the right time. However, many of these tools can do more than just schedule your posts or help you to monitor their effectiveness. Some social media automation tools can also identify relevant posts or profiles and automatically like or follow them. While these tools can enable marketers to work more efficiently, there are some serious concerns about their use.
The Problems with Instagram Automation
Social media automation can save you a lot of time when you are handling repetitive tasks or using it to schedule your posts. An estimated 51% of brands are already using these tools in some form and another 40% are planning to start using them soon. However, as with any tool, it is possible to misuse these services.
Spamming and automation tools
One issue with automation is that it can be used to spam social media users with unwanted or repetitive content. Some businesses have used these tools to keep recycling posts on Instagram or to keep posting similar, low quality content much more often than their followers would like. If you’re running a marketing campaign then it is essential to keep in mind that quality is almost always more important than quantity. Putting up large numbers of repetitive posts is unlikely to enhance the reputation of your brand or to help you to maintain your followers.
Inappropriate Automated Responses
Social media automation tools can often do a lot more than just schedule posts. It is now possible to use these tools to automatically like posts, follow or unfollow accounts, and even to leave comments.
In some cases, this can lead to weak marketing effects. For example, if you set up a bot to leave a specific message on every post that mentions your brand, it will respond in the same way to both complaints and positive messages. It will be obvious that the replies are automated and the people you respond to will feel disrespected. The effect can be even worse if your bot is commenting on all pictures or posts from a particular location or with a specific hashtag. Your business can appear tone deaf or worse if it results in inappropriate responses to posts on serious issues.
Fake Followers and Engagement
Using bots to interact with other social media users can also have a big impact on the metrics that marketers use to judge performance. While you might use these automated tools to boost your own stats, this can make it harder to assess the real impact of your marketing campaigns. It can also hide the truth about other social media users. For example, the influencer you’re considering partnering with might have inflated their follower count and engagement rate using these tools or the posts you’re trying to emulate might only be popular with bots.
Automation and Terms of Service
Instagram does not approve of automation tools or bots. The terms of service state that you should not access Instagram through other services. They also ask that comments are “uniquely tailored” rather than automated.
Despite this, many businesses do still use automated tools on Instagram. Some may be unaware of what the terms of service say, but others choose to use them anyway. This can cause problems if the tool is suddenly shut down, as happened with Instagress. It could also cause trouble for your brand if Instagram takes action. The terms of service set out what Instagram can do if it detects violations, including limiting access for apps that are suspected of being bots or banning accounts that are producing spam or breaking the rules. If you get a message asking you to change your password to block suspected bots from your Instagram account, you must take it seriously to avoid being shut down.
Should You Use Automated Tools?
If you use automated tools that break the Instagram terms of service then you are putting your account at risk. You could also damage your brand’s reputation if you use these tools to create spam or fail to engage more personally with your followers. However, that doesn’t mean that you should rule out all automated tools.
Scheduling tools such as Sprout can make posting to Instagram easier without violating the terms of service. These tools can make it easier to manage your Instagram account, leaving you more time to focus on the areas that are harder to automate, such as responding to followers or leaving appropriate comments on influential posts.
It is also important to be aware that other people may still be using bots on Instagram. Accounts that have large numbers of followers despite a lack of content or that are more active (in terms of the number of likes or comments per day) than is humanly possible should be treated with suspicion. You will be wasting your time if you try to engage with these accounts instead of with true influencers on Instagram.