I adore Instagram. It’s a lovely platform to use and you can discover people all over the world who create amazing things. However, there’s one aspect of the platform that spoils the fun a bit for me. The spam and the bots (short for “robots”).
The prevalence of spam seems to be increasing, and so those who choose to continue using Instagram should find ways around it, find ways to ignore it, or make Instagram fun in spite of the nasty spammers.
In this post, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about spam and how to identify it on Instagram.
Why Does Spam Exist on Instagram?
Every account owner wants to grow their follower count. There are several ways to do this – some that fall under the “good use practices” umbrella and some that don’t. Users figure out a way to “game” the system which works in their favour for a short while, until Instagram changes their algorithm.
In attempts to continue taking advantage of the system, users create new (and increasingly dubious) ways to increase their reach and follower count. As with any system, business-minded people have seen the gap in the market and created “click farms”. This is a system where an account owner can buy x number of followers for a specified Dollar amount. Like magic, the follower count increases and inflates statistics and egos. However, this is a bad solution, as it introduces spam comments into what may have been a healthy discussion thread. Or worse, it adds no comments and engagement at all.
What Spam Looks Like
With the flurry of activity on Instagram (and all the time you’re spending on engaging with followers), it may be difficult to spot a spam user account, also called bot accounts or fake accounts. Here are a few things to look out for. An account might be a spammer if (I’m going to call them “it”, because it’s an account I’m talking about and not a person):
It likes a lot (you can decide what “a lot” is, but I think “a lot” is approximately 15) of your posts in quick succession. You’ll know because you’ll get notifications about each post that has been liked.
It posts a comment that resembles the following: “Hey nice pic, where did you take it?” This is specifically suspicious if that comment is below an image you created – for example, a quote post or an image consisting entirely of words – and not a photograph.
Or this: “get fr33 followers by going here (and then there’s usually a URL)”. Spammers are also likely to use comments to advertise gaining a substantial number likes or followers by visiting a certain link. Example: “I gained 10 000 followers by going here (URL) and you can too!”
A bot account usually looks like this:
You can identify one if it meets most of the following criteria:
Very weird username/handle (usually with what looks like random numbers included)
No profile image
No name under the profile placeholder
No bio information
Very few or no posts
Very few followers
Follows lots of accounts
How you may be Spamming
Even though you have pure, kind-hearted intentions, certain behaviour may come across as spam-like. Here are a few ways you may be seen to be spamming.
Commenting something resembling the following on various accounts: “Hey, I like this, come and check out my profile and tell me what you think of my last post!”
Tagging more than 5 different accounts in your image (or in your caption), even if they’re unrelated to the content of the post.
Liking posts from and following many different accounts, only to unfollow them a few days later. This large fluctuation in statistics alerts Instagram’s algorithms and your account may be flagged by the system. This leads to other consequences. Shadowban, anyone?
Avoid doing the above and you should stay in the clear.
My simple strategy for minimising your involvement with spammers is this: Don’t buy followers (obvious, but worth a mention), don’t follow dodgy-looking accounts, don’t reply to spammy comments on your posts, and don’t visit any of the links a spam account posts in your comments.
Now that you know what to look for and what to avoid, here’s hoping that you navigate Instagram with a bit more savvy.
Melissa De Klerk
Writer, Web Designer, Digital Media Strategist, Typophile, Inspiration Junkie, Yogi
Melissa is the owner and creative brain behind Fox & Owl Media. She loves creating content strategies and has considerable experience with Website Design and Brand Management.
You can contact her here, and find her on social media by clicking the links below.