Dark Side of Automation: What You Need to Know About Instagram Bots

By Jennifer Connor, June 22, 2017

In theory, social media automation sounds good. Less time spent scrolling, and more time spent working. No more spending hours on social media building engagement, generating leads, or growing your followers; just set and forget. Imagine what you could do with all that extra time?

But what happens when that automation gets you into a bit of sticky situation? Perhaps a bot uses a smiley face emoji on someone’s grief-related pic, or it posts “Great work, keep it up!” on someone’s sad meme about getting laid off.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to use Instagram bots, here’s what you need to know.  

The Good: They Boost Social Media Presence   

Instagram bots are designed to boost your social media presence without you having to lift a finger. Instead of you scrolling through your Instagram feed and liking, commenting, and following, the Instagram bot does the work for you.  

Installing Instagram bots is pretty simple. The user connects their Instagram account to the bots, then selects the length of time the bot will run, along with what they want their bot to do (e.g. like, comment, or follow).

Next they choose generic comments for the bot to post, such as:

  • “Wow!”
  • “Best post I’ve seen all day”
  • “Nice work!”
  • “Love this!”

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They also select a few emojis and hashtags for the bot to choose from, too. The hashtags tend to be pretty generic. Typical hashtags include locations (e.g. #delaware, #beach), descriptions (e.g. #sunny, #brunette), or trends (e.g. #wokeuplikethis, #longhairdontcare).

Related Post: How to Boost Your Brand’s Growth With Hashtag Marketing

After the bot is set up, it scans through Instagram looking for posts with certain hashtags. When the bot finds posts relevant to the selected hashtag, it then completes the ‘engagement phase’ (e.g. liking, commenting, or following).

The Bad: They Have Lots of Fake Accounts   

So, you might be jealous of Selena Gomez’s 220 million followers, but you shouldn’t be. There are plenty of reasons to believe that many of her followers are fake followers.

Back in 2015, 24 million Instagram accounts were fake. Later that year, Instagram conducted a purge which caused celebrities like Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, and Justin Bieber to lose millions of followers overnight. But unfortunately, it didn't solve the problem.  

Related Post: How Instagram Influencers Are Adding to the Ad Fraud Problem 

Fake accounts and bots have gotten smarter. Instead of having the stereotypical blank accounts, they’ve designed their profiles to look somewhat active.


Source: Memegenerator.net

I’ve seen these bots on my own personal Instagram. Using FollowerCheck, I conducted a little experiment, testing the amount of fake followers I have on my account. Here’s what I found.

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Out of 300 followers, 281 are real/active accounts, and 19 are considered to be fake. That’s roughly about a 29:2 ratio, or for every 29 followers I receive, two of them will be fake. Imagine if you had millions of followers, the fake accounts add up quick.

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The Big Bad: They Don’t Understand Context  

Since Instagram bots can’t read social cues or understand context, they frequently post inappropriate comments. This can be a serious issue for your brand.

Related Post: 3 Surprising Ways Advertising Can Devastate Your Brand

Here’s an example of a someone complaining about an Instagram bot commenting “Brilliant” and “More of this please!” on a miscarriage post. Ouch.


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Sometimes Instagram bots can also create confusion by what they post. Here, a woman posted a picture of her sick son, and an Instagram bot replied with “Interesting. Where was this photo taken?”

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If other people jumped in later, they might be confused and wonder if the child was actually sick, or perhaps the woman was causing a stir with a fake post.

The Verdict: Don’t Do It

The main take away: Instagram bots aren’t worth the hassle. Stop trying to take the easy way out and just engage naturally on social media. People are tired of fake engagement, they just want authenticity!

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Jennifer Connor

Jennifer Connor

Jennifer is a graduate of Washington College where she earned a bachelor of arts in Psychology, with a concentration in Business Management. For her undergraduate thesis, she focused on the psychology of social media marketing. Outside of work, she can be found cheering for her favorite hockey team the Washington Capitals, or spending time with her two horses, two kittens, and puppy. More Articles by Jennifer Connor