For the uninitiated, insta-fraud is the use of employing bots to take over your instagram account and build your followers. With the growing popularity of analytics app Social Blade, some of the Internets most prolific influencers are being exposed for employing some these less than ethical business practices.
So what does insta-fraud look like and what are the bots actually doing?
This can include mass following and unfollowing of others, bulk liking images at all hours, liking images that don't collate with the brand and basically hustling the system. It's not about community, or building authentic and meaningful engagement. It's all about those numbers honey. And as we know, those numbers translate in to dollar dollar bills.
Author and digital marketing expert Nik Speller has been at the centre of this unfolding drama after his youtube explaining social blade, how to read stats and the importance of having an authentic following. Think less of it as an outing of Instagram cheats, but just some expertly spilled tea. Over Easter weekend, Social Blade and Nik's video blew up on twitter, and the use of bots by some big names in blogging became a point of contention for the digital community.
Blogger Emtalks also touches on social blade but also analysing accounts via activity. Of course a lot of what she is looking at has an element of speculation but she's right, if they are following/unfollowing lots of private accounts, liking way more images than any human being possibly could, then maybe it's time for brands to decide if they want to work with them. And they still might, not all work comes from social media, nor should it. Simply though it's about how we as a community do business - which means integrity, honesty and some hard graft.
Manface talks about how it's not always intentional - we can thank facebook's buy over for that and the nuanced difference between advertising and employing bots. A facebook ad will hit instagram, and as a result will see an increase in engagement, the difference here though is it can be more targeted for your audience. He also addresses the difficulty in building a following, that it isn't just your content but finding the people who will enjoy what you produce and connecting with them. From crowdfire to twitter chats, it's digital networking put in to full effect.
Instafraud has all the hallmarks of myspace pc4pc. It's like, what's in it for me, rather than things that people actually enjoy. Double tap pour vous.
@everyday_man and @jaimelondonboy discussed social blade on twitter, talking about why it is important to develop a following. It isn't just about cheating the system or even a sense of entitlement, but a respect for hard work, developing relationships and making sure you are bettering yourself every day as an expert in your field. When people are buying followers to gain larger campaigns, it effects the community and how much trust both readers and brands put in to their outreach with digital influencers. Some people say you should focus on your own work, but in-authenticity is damaging to the system at large and it's something we need to work together on amending. It's not easy to call out your peers, especially on public platforms over something as controversial as this. Whether that's something you admire or not you have to admit that shit takes balls.
Building a large Instagram following organically is fucking hard work - and I see the hustle my fellow bloggers put in to their stories, editing of their images and really trying to create a connection with their fans. It is work, just not as we know it. and sometimes you need to just have in faith in the content your producing, or pivot and build from there. That perfectly curated image? There's edits, location scouting, investing in equipment, finding the right lighting and analysing what works with your audience. It's about championing your peers because you love the work they are doing. For some, this is going to be a really beautiful curated instagram feed, for others, it's about the stories and getting to see snippets of influencers lives. It's a job that you can't simply switch off from, and instabots really take away from the work that goes in to it.
So what do we do to challenge this? I personally don't think we need to grab our pitchforks and start outing people (I'm a firm believer in giving people the benefit of the doubt) but it can't go unaddressed. By Instagram, influencers or brands. Yes it means more hard work, and perhaps slightly less impressive stats for your sales meeting, but doesn't it make more sense to invest in something that people want to see, and getting it in front of the right crowd? Come on guys, this is what pr and marketing is supposed to be about. It's not supposed to be easy. It should be about the right eyeballs seeing the campaigns not just numbers.
But who's responsibility is it if agencies are rewarding those who buy followers? And will Instagram stop this practice if it it going to challenge their bottom line? It's got to be a group effort. Instagram, if it wants to keep integrity as a platform needs to penalise fake practices, and brands need to look at who they are working with.
Ultimatey, it's always going to be a brands or individuals call, but I do truly believe we can do better and that a lot of those who have bought followers ARE genuinely talented. The pressure to keep up with the stats is real, especially when this is your day job, but if digital influencers want to continue being a voice people trust, then it's about working better, smarter and more ethically.
Image one: Pexels
Image Two: Pixabay