Instagram Is Cracking Down on Marketing Bots

Adam Rowe

Instagram is the world's best social media platform for marketers: Ads on the site jumped 22 percent over the previous year in 2016, and it's designed around a few principles that are more important than ever to marketers. It's mobile-first, it's very visual, and it focuses on building communities around specific demographics. And it doesn't hurt that the service is currently growing five times faster than any other U.S social media network.

But all that attention isn't great for marketers. When any social network grows big enough, it starts to crack down on the questionably legal elements that helped spur its early growth. YouTube and Facebook did it with video clip copyright claims, and over the past seven weeks, Instagram has started a crackdown of its own: It's getting rid of auto-commenting marketing bots.

The Botpocalypse

One popular Instagram marketing trick relies on third-party bot companies which can comment on photos across the social network. Targeting specific hashtags, the bots leave affirming yet nondescript comments (“Cool!,” “love it,” the fire emoji) in order to get a follow back from a user in their demographic.

But these companies have started to go out of business abruptly, apparently at the request of Instagram itself. On April 20, 2017, Instagress closed shop. On May 13, Mass Planner was announced to have followed suit. Peer Boost, Instaplus, and Fan Harvest have all fallen to Instagram's chopping block in recent months.

The list comes via the New York Times, which recently published an article that called the problem a game of Whac-a-Mole, given the number of bot companies that can spring up to replace those closed down. Still, Instagram is targeting the most successful companies, and has already curbed the process considerably.

It's Probably a Good Development

It's likely all for the best, though: Follower counts don't mean much compared to engagement rates, and the increase in followers that a bot can pull in is likely due to other bots themselves. The bots are only attracting bots.

By cutting out commenting bots across the board, Instagram is just leveling the playing field for any Instagram marketing types who earn their followers the honest route.

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Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for the last decade. He's also a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry (and Digital Book World 2018 award finalist) and has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect. When not glued to TechMeme, he loves obsessing over 1970s sci-fi art.

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