Well, well, well. Waking up to my Twitter feed this morning was quite the shock. If you’re a blogger or influencer, I’m sure you don’t even need to ask, but if you aren’t sure what I’m alluding to, let me bring you up to speed. On Sunday 16th April, Em Sheldon took to Snapchat in anger over fakery and cheating on Instagram. She shared a highly reliable method of discovering which of the influencers you follow are actually using paid bots to grow their following inorganically and it blew up. People everywhere discovered bloggers, brands, and even friends in some cases, weren’t who they claimed to be. Most took to unfollowing those in question, but some decided to publicly name and shame the supposed culprits. Some influencers came forward with an apology, some argued against the allegations, others stayed silent. Eventually, false accusations started flying around, and an issue that was originally something of real concern became watered down by drama.
Now you’re up to speed, I wanted to use today’s post as an opportunity to talk about cheating on Instagram. In my recent post on personal style, I talked about how I’m growing my Instagram and how difficult it’s been. I’ve put hours and hours into curating high quality content without seeing any return. I’m shocked, disappointed and angered to discover the truth of the situation, and there’s a lot that I want to say about it. So from how to spot Instagram cheats to why authenticity in this industry is important to how you can get around the situation, let’s get stuck in.
This post may contain affiliate links. See my about page for what this means.
HOW TO SPOT AN INSTAGRAM CHEAT
1. Open up your Instagram app.
2. Tap the heart on the bottom bar to see activity.
3. Tap ‘Following’ at the top of the page.
4. Scroll through to see any unusual liking activity, particularly when a user has liked a lot of photos at once. You’re looking for anything from soft porn to images of foreign text to photographs of unknown men from Turkey, for example. Think – would this person realistically search for and like these images?
5. When you’re sure, unfollow! Don’t support somebody who’s cheating the industry, just like you wouldn’t support a disgraced politician or sportsperson.
1. Go to socialblade.com/instagram.
2. Type in the username of the suspect.
3. Check their stats. Look out for huge jumps in follower counts – it’s highly unlikely these are real unless a huge brand reposted their image. Also, look for mass follows (more than 50 people) followed by mass unfollows a few days later. Serial scammers will often follow and unfollow thousands of accounts per day.
4. Use your discretion. I find Socialblade less trustworthy, because it is reasonable that somebody could be having a normal clear out, or even emulate bot behaviour in order to grow their Instagram. When you’re not sure, it’s best to use the first method as well.
5. You know what I’m going to say – unfollow!
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
I’ve seen a lot of people denouncing the scandal as nothing more than ‘drama’, but it’s much, much more than that. As I said on my Instagram, when we’re talking about people’s livelihoods, it is irresponsible to reduce this to ‘drama’. Regardless of what people think, the influencer industry is a very real thing. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on sponsored Instagram campaigns every single year, so when that money is going into the bank accounts of people who have cheated their way to the top, that’s something to be concerned and angry about. In exactly the same way that we’d be outraged if we found out a doctor faked their credentials or a politician paid their way into the job, we should be angry about influencers cheating the system. We’re talking about extremely well paid opportunities going to those who clearly have no regard for hard work and moral decency, so why do we continue to let influencers off the hook?
At times like this, we need to remember why blogging took off in the first place. The relationship between writer and reader was one of trust. Readers turned to beauty and fashion blogs to discover voices of reliability in an oversaturated advertising marketplace. It seems that as blogs have gained opportunities for monetisation, authenticity has become less and less important to those few who care about dollar over substance. While I want to establish that I don’t disagree with sponsored posts and affiliate links – I use them myself! – I do think we need to take a cold, hard look at what the industry has become. When you can pay your way onto an email list, something has gone terribly wrong. It is now up to PRs and brands to take a moral stance and determine those who are authentic from those who are not. Honesty, trust and authenticity are needed now more than ever, so show your support for those who are working hard and striving to achieve without falling for the temptation of unscrupulous tools like bots. They need it!
HOW TO GET AROUND IT
Until Instagram clamps down on bots and rewards smaller users for good practice, there isn’t much you can do apart from unfollowing Instagram cheats and spread the word! However, there are a few ways that you can think about improving your own online presence.
We’ll start with the obvious. The only way to grow your Instagram following organically is by being active within the platform. Post high quality images with engaging captions once or twice a day. Ask your followers questions and respond to them. Outside of your existing follower count, use hashtags to discover users like you. Like their images and leave genuine comments, and follow them if you like their page! They may return the favour.
Being active is great, but it will only get you so far when you’re competing with bots. As you rest your head at night, the bots are working away, and most of us don’t have the time to spend all day on Instagram, liking and commenting! For this reason, you may need to rely on promoting your Instagram elsewhere. Link your Instagram to other social media platforms using IFTTT, and regularly share your link. Ask people to follow and they might just do so!
Although it’s tempting to post everything from that cute donut to your new shoes to your dog, people like to know what to expect when they tap that follow button. My Instagram has been growing faster than ever since I started posting style photos almost exclusively, so it seems that niches really do work. It can feel quite limiting at times, but if you’re serious about growing your Instagram, it’s a must! Plus, there’s Instagram Stories for everything else!
SPREAD THE LOVE
One of the best ways to grow your own following is by helping others to grow theirs! If somebody is working hard and posting original content, show them some support! Let them know that you love what they’re doing by sharing their photos, leaving them a comment or giving them a shout out! Drown out the bots by raising up the content creators you love, and hope that others might do the same for you. Another person’s success doesn’t cancel out your own!
TRY SOMETHING ELSE
If all else fails, try another platform. There’s no point in making yourself miserable over a platform which gives nothing back, so if you’re not seeing any growth, focus on a platform where you are. Thanks to essays, I haven’t uploaded a YouTube video in almost a month, but even when I’m not posting, my subscriber count is ticking away. It encourages me to work even harder, so focus on growing one platform, and the rest will follow!
Above all else, remember that it’s just a number. When it’s your livelihood, or something you’d like to be your livelihood, that number can mean an awful lot, but don’t base your worth around it. There’s much more to life than your Instagram following, and personally, I’d much rather be remembered for the words I write or the music I share. What about you?
SHOP THE POST
I would love to know your opinion on cheating Instagram and using bots. Is it something you’ve ever tried? Would you ever try it? PS. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram! I’d love you to join me!