I Just Hit 5,000 Instagram Followers. My Take on Automation.
Today I cracked the 5,000 follower mark, so I thought I would give you an update as to the things that I have learned within my short residence within the Instagram year.
Although I created my Instagram account back in 2015, I didn't start using it until February of this year. In this short period I have immersed myself into the platform to try to determine the human behaviour, as well as the algorithmic behaviour. The two key driving factors of any social platform like Instagram. Carson has also created an Instagram account and we have actively been engaging in the platform and discussing our findings.
You can check out both of our Instagram accounts here.
We have many years of experience developing algorithms here at Wealthy Affiliate and are constantly thinking about human behaviour in a way that will lead to more interaction, more positive interaction, and more AUTHENTIC interaction. We are developing our understanding of the internal Instagram and how it "most likely" works based on this knoweldge.
As I have been building a following, I have been very critical of my own activities and even those activities of some "influencers". I have been working to define what a winning IG strategy, and one that will lead you to a weak following with very little interaction.
I asked myself a few simple, yet important questions.
- What would they be thinking when they are developing this algorithm?
- How would they be working to limit low quality posting behaviour?
- What would they be doing to promote quality users and quality posts?
- What does an engaging and quality post even look like to them?
- What elements of the Instagram platform can be automated without being punished?
I could write a 20,000 word article on these topics alone from what I have learned thus far. So instead of me focusing on all of them at once, I really want to hone in on the idea of automation. Is it good or is it bad for your Instagram following, your Instagram clout, and your reputation in the eyes of Instagram.
Some folks are probably going to disagree with what I have to say, that is completely fine. However, these are my findings thus far and I think I can make valid and very strong arguments AGAINST automation, and a lot of really powerful arguments for authentic interaction within the platform and the actual app itself.
Automation Sounds Good, But Isn't.
There are many tools and platforms for automation, but I have moved away from them. I know lots of famous Instgrammers are using them, but not as much as you probably would think. Automation has a time and a place in any business and there are some things that you should be aware of before using automation on Instagram.
(1) Instagram KNOWS When You Are Automating. The first thing you should realize is that when you automate, you are using the API, which means that Instagram is going to know what application/service is sending the data to their platform, and when it is sending it. This means they also know your account is using automation.
There certainly won't be any positive rewards for doing this, in particular if this is something that you could be manually doing through the IG interface. If they wanted you to post comments automatically, follow automatically, like automatically, or post feeds/stories automatically, they would offer these features right within their interface.
Automation removes humanization, and humans are what make the like/engagement engine of Instagram tick. Every time you come back into Instagram to post a post, that to Instagram is another marketing opportunity to you. If you are using automation tools all the time, they are going to miss out on this opportunity (which is likely happening billions of times over the course of a month.
(2) You Shouldn't Automate Comments/Engagement. When you automate comments, you are moving into an area where you are posting "junk" on other people's profiles. Yes, some people like this engagement, but others will delete it or worse, mark you as spam (which can hurt your reputation in Instagram).
The automation tools give you creative control over you comments and I suppose you could be "somewhat" relevant if you are really granular with how you set these up, but at the same time it is never going to speak directly to what the image is, it is going to be nothing more than a guess, based on relevant tags.
The people posting use all sorts of tags and when you set up auto comments, you are relying on the end user.
(3) If it Doesn't Feel Authentic, Then You Are Doing it Wrong. Sometimes automation feels awkward, and it feels as though you are performing actions that will feel totally robotic. If that is the case, there is a good chance your followers and those that you are engaging with on Instagram will think the same thing...and certainly Instagram algorithms are on the look out for low quality and irrelevant communication
Use your intuition. If what you are doing doesn't feel as though it will come across as being authentic, it is going to hurt your brand and reputation within IG in the short and long term.
(4) The Follow/Unfollow Approach is a Dead End Street. A common tactic to grow a following on Instagram is to follow as many relevant people as you can through automation, and then hope for follow backs. Then, you automatically unfollow all of these people after a set time period (that you can set-up within most Instagram automation software). This leaves you with a bunch of "followers" and not that many people you are following, giving you a good follower to following ratio.
The problem is that your following is completely fake and unauthentic. This is called gaming the system and Instagram can easily determine which accounts are doing this and give them very little exposure. This is why you see people with 100,000 followers that get 300-400 likes. It is because they are cheating the system, and they ultimately have little to no clout.
The problem with automation is that many people are drawn to it because it makes things easier or more efficient. There are many ways to do things easier in life, but the end result isn't always better.
I can appreciate the fact that you want to save time on social, so you can dedicate it to other aspects of growing your business and not everyone can afford a social media manager (most of whom haven't a clue what they are doing). The reality is though there is a trade off with automation that I think will lead to lower quality growth over time.
My recommendation, in particular when you are getting rolling with Instagram is to avoid automation. You are going to get a much better sense as to what works within the platform, what stories are getting the most views, what hashtag combinations are working best, what types of images lead to the most likes, and what sort of reaction your posts is having with the Instagram algorithm.
I would love to hear your feedback though. If you have any experiences contrary to mine, or if you have any stories/strategies to share in relation to Instagram, please leave them below.