I became an influencer…

…it certainly seems easy, there are hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of social media accounts claiming to be influencers, their high following and masses of likes makes them an attractive advertising platform but with so much fraud going undetected on Instagram, I set out to discover just how easy it is to build a following and get a truck load of likes using bots to do all of the hard work for you. A little disclaimer, I won’t be naming any of the bots I have used, I don’t agree with the use of Instagram bots and don’t want to offer these any publicity.

I decided to set up a special account to use as my guinea pig to avoid ruining the reputation of my own Instagram account and set two weeks as the point that I would take a look at final stats.
Over the two week period, I posted 4 photos on the account, all of them relatively random ones but I knew that using the bots would draw in the likes to the photos. It’s a common technique a lot of ‘bloggers’ and ‘influencers’ use to fleece PR’s and brands and build a fake audience to ultimately get bigger collaborations.

The photos overall have had over 1,600 likes in total…to be completely honest I don’t think the accounts that have liked the pictures have even looked at what they are liking. I know that the bot I used was liking random photos based on the hashtags on the post, and as this was done on my behalf, I could have liked anything and I would never have known!

I also used bots for auto-commenting and following of accounts, again this was based on hashtag targeting. In all fairness, the technology is clever…it’s just wrong at the same time. I set a load of comments for the auto-comment function to post on pictures, the usual spam comments you’ll know from your own posts. I also added the comment ‘We should collab!’ which had a surprising amount of feedback including DM’s from brands AND bloggers asking if we could work together…it’s amazing how 600 likes on a picture can suddenly make someone worth working with.

Let’s talk followers, the automated follow/unfollow seemed to really work, I set it so it unfollowed accounts after 24 hours. The account has just short of 600 followers on it, this is something that really surprised me. We’ve seen a lot of ‘influencer’ accounts grow quickly recently and I can now see that the speed in which you can grow an audience using bots is just ridiculous. I had it on the ‘slow’ mode as that was recommended, but the fast mode can see you gain over a thousand followers in a week.

When you put all of this together, it shows how much bots are de-valuing Instagram, how PRs and brands that are partnering with ‘big influencers’ are being completely fleeced and how these ‘fakefluencers’ keep getting away with it. Instagram need to act to change the platform so it works in favour of true, honest influencers…whether micro or macro and push away the content of fakefluencers that use tricks to get around putting in actual hard work. It’s always such a shame to see people that work hard on their brand, their accounts and their photography being ignored for collaborations ‘because you don’t have 20,000 followers’ - brands need to look at the worth of the followers. If you have 1,000 followers that are well engaged with content it is worth so much more than 20,000 followers that are following you because of a bot.

The micro-influencer is rising up and becoming much more recognised which is great to see, however, I just wish that people took a better look at numbers before wasting money partnering with people who really don’t deserve the exposure.

My investigation has been an eye-opener. Suddenly anyone can become ‘Insta-famous’ and the more people that do…the less the title means. I am shocked by how quickly and easily I built the following and the likes on the photos, it took me around 5 minutes to set up the bot and I simply left it running for two weeks whilst I got on with my life. The account was followed and had likes on the photos by some ‘influencers’ I thought were playing the game fairly, I learned that they obviously have tactics that grow their following, rather than true hard work.

I want brands, PRs and content creators to read this post. I want them all to understand that big numbers don’t mean big successes. Sometimes it’s the smaller, honest numbers that make for campaign success. Next time you go to work with an influencer, look into them, do some research, and don’t be afraid to ask for their success rates, stats don’t lie.