Last week, I began seeing rumblings that beloved Instagram “bot”, Instagress, was offline. Posts on Reddit anxiously mentioned clients’ Instagram traffic slowing drastically, the site wasn’t working, their Facebook page disappeared– and then Instagress announced the shutdown. I’m open to correction here, but it sounds as if Instagram didn’t take too kindly to Instagress violating Instagram rules.
I used Instagress to build my Instagram following and wrote about it at length recently. I went from around 600 followers to over 7,000 in about 9 months, engagement was high and I used it to build a following to sell watches. It worked!
I auto-liked pictures of peoples’ kids in the Phillipines and guys standing shirtless in front of a bar somewhere in Poland. I auto-followed every awful luxury-lifestyle-motivational-quotes account and began missing posts from people I really did want to follow. I was one of those commenters on your Instagram: great shot, keep it up, where was this taken, etc.
Yes, I was driving traffic and sales. Yes, my KPIs were strong. But didn’t I once use this for enjoyment and fun?
Luckily for me, my credits on Instagress were set to run out around the time of the shut down anyway. Even before I knew of the shut down, I was debating about renewing my time block. I’d begun deleting as many obvious bot posts on my own photos. Instagram began to feel like a chore. I was missing out on comments and posts from friends.
Once Instagress shut down, I watched my metrics begin to tank, followers drop off and began looking for a new solution to stave off the losses. But just as quickly as I started the search, I stopped. Let’s make Instagram great again, I thought.
Since then, I’ve gone from 7,050 followers down to 6,994 and dropping, feeling strangely connected to that Black Mirror episode with Ron Howard’s daughter and her social score.
But I’m also enjoying Instagram more than I have in a long time. The interactions are real, the followers are organic. I can comment on a photo, not worrying that I’m about to over-comment for the day and get banned, and actually interact with people. I can “binge like” my cousin’s baby’s photos she posted.
It makes me sorry for the brands and agencies that used bots as a product with huge benefits. They’re useful and effective, in general. But I won’t be entirely sad to see them go away and I imagine that Instagram will eventually chase out every single one they can, focusing more on selling Instagram ads and sponsored posts.
What Instagram could do, however, is work to build an ecosystem of influencers if they haven’t already started. Put their top influencers in touch with relevant brands. Make suggestions on how to increase engagement. At this point it’s no secret that brands and people are using Instagram, so why not help people capitalize on it and remove the motivation to use bots?
As I write this out, I realize just how funny and skewed technology can make what should just be a simple, artistic pleasure. For those of you using Instagram bots (or those who hate them!), what’s your take on Instagress and the future of Instagram advertising?