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How to grow an authentic, engaged audience without Instagram automation bots

John Lahr
July 19, 2017

If you've been paying attention, you have probably caught recent headlines about Instagram automation bots, like Instagress, being banned.

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A large Instagram follower count means larger reach and more interactions with your brand. Higher interaction rate also increases reach, since Instagram's algorithm prioritizes posts it thinks you'll like instead of most recent.

But growing your social media audience and driving engagement is time-consuming, slow, hard work.

You have to engage with your followers by commenting, liking, and replying to comments.

Enter automation.

What is Automation?

With automation bots, that tedious, mundane work is done for you, 24/7.

All you have to do is give the bot parameters (like relevant hashtags), and it "interacts" on your behalf. The bot will follow, unfollow, like and comment as your brand's account. Some bot services can even auto-unfollow accounts as well.

That sounds great on the surface. You have more time to do other things, like plan and create content for the upcoming months.

However, the downsides far outweigh the benefits.

How Automating Instagram Engagement Hurts Brands

For one, automation is against Instagram's Terms of Service. You are opening up your brand's account to several dangers, including getting shut down.

Additionally, for users, automated interactions appear insincere and disconnected, at best. At worst, bots make your brand seem inappropriate or offensive. Since they are randomly generated comments and hashtags, you never know what will appear beside a post.

Give your fans some credit!

They can easily tell the difference between a genuine comment and an automated one, mainly because the latter looks exactly like spam.

Identifying bot accounts is fairly simple:

Look at an account with a large audience, and examine the comments. Most will be very basic, like “amazing photo.” You can delve deeper into the users who posted these comments and see they have few photos or no longer exist!

Ultimately, by creating fake engagement, bots devalue authentic engagement. As Calder Wilson puts it in I Spent Two Years Botting on Instagram - Here's What I Learned, "When likes and comments are so easily acquired with a bot, the worth behind these actions is diminished."

Another problem is you can't have any authentic engagement with the bot engaged. Because the bot tool is automatically "interacting" on your behalf, any action you take could push your activity over the limit.

"The only thing you can do manually is post pictures," explains James McManus in "My 3 Days of Instagram Automation: Does It Really Work, "So no manual commenting, liking, following or unfollowing."

Creating genuine relationships when you can't have an actual human conversation, including replying to someone, is kind of hard.

How to Speed Growth Without Automation

The easy way to gain followers and increase engagement is to create the best content.

If you're already posting great, engaging content, why do you need automation? No hacks required, and it's free.

Use Data to Create Better Content

You can use data from previous posts to uncover what makes a post engaging. Replicate what works.

Cortex makes this really easy by analyzing all your posts in minutes and producing recommendations for what to share next. You do have to post natively within the app, but you can use that time to have some authentic interactions with your fans.

Don't have time for even that?

Hire an Instagram Account Manager

It will cost approximately the same to hire a virtual assistant to like and comment every day as it would to use an automation bot.

Use Instagram Ads

An easy way to reach a wider and more varied audience is to spread your message through advertising. Plus, it gives you the added benefit of having full control over the entire post.

Influencer marketing has also been a popular way of extending your reach and leveraging authority of a trusted source. But if the influencers are also using automation (it's hard to know!), then your message will be reaching mostly other bots.

Remember, Instagram, like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you put in the work, deliberately and spread over time, it will pay off. Remember the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare - patience and persistence are the best methods.

Want to learn more about how Cortex can make the need for Instagram automation obsolete?
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