It doesn’t seem like long ago that most marketers’ idea of “automation” was to palm off all their boring, long-winded tasks to an intern or marketing executive.
Things have become a little more sophisticated since then. Today, 75% of marketers say they use at least one type of marketing automation, with the wealth of digital marketing tools capable of automating everything from email marketing to social media scheduling.
But marketing automation isn’t always the right solution.
It’s easy for us to be dazzled by fancy new technology and assume the latest tool is the solution to all our problems, but often that’s not the case.
Just because automation has the ability to perform tasks faster than us mere humans, that doesn’t mean it’s performing those tasks effectively.
With that in mind, in this article, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of handing your Instagram marketing activity over to Instagram bots.
A (Brief) Definition of Instagram Automation
Instagram automation is the use of software tools to automatically perform tasks on Instagram, such as:
- Publishing posts
- Sending direct messages
- Following and unfollowing accounts
- Liking and commenting on posts
- Generating data-driven reports
Some Instagram automation tools carry out a range of functions, while others focus on one or two key tasks. It’s also important to note that certain IG automation tools can handle menial and repetitive tasks such as liking other people’s posts for you or commenting on posts automatically to gain traction.
These low-effort automations can have a negative effect on your reputation on Instagram and, in the case of automatic commenting, can lead to bans or worse. Avoid these at all costs.
In any case, automation clearly has a wide range of use cases, many of which could potentially play an important role in your Instagram growth strategy. Provided that you choose the right ones and optimize them for your needs and goals.
But is it worth it? Will it actually improve your Instagram marketing? Or are you better off leaving the bots to argue with each other on Twitter?
3 Pros of Instagram Automation
According to research from GetResponse and SmartInsights, the number one benefit of marketing automation is simple: saving time.
Sure, that might not sound like the most exciting benefit, but it’s the biggest reason most people start using automation. After all, if you had the time to handle every single one of your marketing activities yourself, why would you bother paying for a tool to do them for you?
Saving time is important in the world of Instagram, simply because starting an Instagram blog from scratch isn’t most people’s sole priority. More likely, you’re using Instagram as a tool to promote a business or grow a following.
Either way, the end goal and top priority is monetization.
While it’s absolutely feasible to monetize your Instagram account, it takes a lot of work. So why wouldn’t you leave the “simple stuff” –– like scheduling posts or engaging with followers –– to the bots?
Find (Better) Followers
Let’s imagine you’re running an e-commerce website.
Maybe you’re selling a product, or launching a dropshipping business that allows you to open an online store without inventory. Whatever your goal from using Instagram, it stands to reason that you want to reach potential customers.
And automation can help you do that.
One of the biggest benefits of using Instagram automation tools is the ability to discover new followers by analyzing accounts and hashtags to identify people who fit your target audience.
That means you’re not just arbitrarily building a big following –– you’re actively reaching out to people who’ll be interested in your posts.
Discover Audience Insights
Instagram automation isn’t just about scheduling posts and liking comments; it can help you learn more about your ideal audience, such as:
- The types of post that generate the most engagement
- The times and days when your posts see the best results
- The hashtags to help your posts reach the most people
That’s a big plus –– not just for your Instagram marketing, but also for the results you generate off-platform.
For instance, say you want to promote your blog.
Wouldn’t it make sense to understand the topics your audience is most interested in, and the times when they’re most likely to engage with your content?
Instagram automation tools can give you that information, increasing your chances of reaching the right people, with the right content, at the right time.
Easy to set up
Another benefit of using an Instagram bot is that these tools are extremely easy to set up and use effectively from day one. An Instagram bot is a no-code tool, meaning that you just need to install it on your device and use the built-in, user-friendly features to optimize it for your needs.
With a wide array of features at your disposal (depending on the bot you choose to install), you will have no problem setting it up quickly.
What’s more, you can always go deeper into the functionality of your bot by checking out the many online guides and tutorials on how to become a more advanced user.
Keep in mind that there are many features that aren’t geared towards new users, but after a bit of trial and error you can start using those functions as well.
Be wary, though, it’s important to listen to the experts and follow the strategies outlined in reputable online guides, in order to avoid making a mistake that could cost you your IG account.
If you set your bot to like too many posts in a short timeframe or engage with too many followers at the same time, you will pop up on IG’s radar.
Stay active but below IG’s threshold
Speaking of Instagram’s radar, it’s important to remember that the platform has its own threshold when it comes to engagement. This is, of course, kept secret and no one knows exactly how many people and accounts you can engage with in an hour.
This is because the threshold for your particular account constantly fluctuates based on your average activity over time. You need to slowly up your engagement to keep setting the bar higher, but without going over your current threshold.
Doing this manually can be a time-consuming task, and there is always a chance that you will either undershoot or overshoot your mark.
With a smart bot, however, you can stay below the threshold at all times but keep increasing your engagement safely. This will eliminate the risk of getting banned for 24 hours or longer if IG realizes that your engagement with other accounts is too high.
After all, there is only so much you can achieve within an hour, and Instagram has a pretty good understanding of what’s possible and what’s not.
3 Cons of Instagram Automation
Instagram Doesn’t Like (Some) Automation
There’s no point beating around the bush –– Instagram flat out hates a lot of bot-based automation.
It’s been fighting to rid the platform of what it calls “inauthentic activity” for years now, even taking the step to shut down popular bots and tools (such as Instagress) that breach its best practices. It’s removed millions of accounts in the process, too.
In short, if you use bots to run spammy activity like bombarding people with generic Instagram messaging, you’re adversely affecting other users’ experience on the platform –– and Instagram obviously doesn’t like that.
If you do it enough, sooner or later the Instagram police are going to notice. When they do, there’s a good chance you’ll get suspended or booted off Instagram completely.
So if Instagram’s a big part of your growth strategy, relying on bots is a pretty high-risk strategy.
Instagram Bots Aren’t as Smart as Humans (Yet)
I’m sure it won’t be long until the bots eventually rise up and overthrow the shackles of humanity. When they do, I’ll be the first person to applaud them.
But that moment hasn’t arrived yet.
The thing is, bots are great at doing the same thing over and over again, to strict rules, but humans are still better at performing tasks that involve any sort of nuance. And engaging an audience on Instagram definitely requires some level of nuance (and insight).
A HubSpot study highlighted the glaring difference between human and bot-controlled Instagram accounts.
It created two digital nomad accounts posting the same content at the same time over a 30-day period, using the same hashtags to drive engagement.
For one account, a human handled all the outbound engagement, such as commenting and liking posts, while the other account was controlled by automation software.
The result was a crushing defeat for the bots.
Average engagement on the human-run profile was three times higher than the bot account. What’s more, the human account had over 2,000 more likes, and the number of comments was 41% higher.
Your Audience Knows What Instagram Bots Look Like
Give your audience a little credit here: if you’re using a bot to comment on hundreds or thousands of posts a day, they’re going to notice.
And it’s fair to say that bots have a bit of a PR problem –– people don’t exactly view them in a positive light. A survey from Pew Research Center discovered that two-thirds of all Americans have heard of social media bots, and that 80% of them believe bots are mostly used for negative purposes.
As audiences become increasingly savvy and attitudes toward bot-driven activity remain overwhelmingly negative, Instagram marketers should prioritize genuine, human interactions and steer clear of anything that looks like spam.
An Instagram bot may post inappropriate comments
It’s risky business dealing with a bot. In a very real sense, a poorly-optimized IG bot can ruin your brand’s reputation and make you a laughing stock on social media.
As we mentioned before, people know how to spot a bot, and they won’t react positively to interacting with one.
But an even bigger risk arises when your bot starts posting inappropriate comments on other people’s posts.
If you’re not careful, your bot may publish an inappropriate comment on a post announcing someone’s passing, or it may start promoting your account on posts dealing with natural disasters, socio-economic crises, and more.
If this happens, you run a serious risk of getting reported and banned, or worse, you might lose all your credibility on the platform.
Instagram Bots take time to master
Installing an Instagram bot is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of deal.
While the technology is very intuitive and easy to use, keep in mind that it takes continuous improvement and optimization to get the most out of your bot.
More importantly, though, constant monitoring will allow you to avoid some of the risks we outlined above. If you’re just starting out with IG bots, stick with the simple follow/unfollow function.
Over time, start using other, more advanced features but make sure to monitor performance constantly so that you can tweak the settings quickly.
A good bot will let you keep an eye on important filters and performance metrics so that you can make better decisions and optimize it for your needs.
With that in mind, a bot might be easy to set up, but it takes time and effort to make it deliver the expected results.
So Are Instagram Bots Worth It?
Unfortunately, as with so many things in marketing, the answer to this question isn’t exactly black and white.
We can say with confidence that some types of Instagram bot activity are definitely to be avoided. If you’re only using bots to artificially inflate your follower count by spamming people with direct messages, likes, and comments, there’s a good chance you’ll incur Instagram’s wrath sooner or later.
You’ll either be shadow banned, suspended, or kicked off the platform entirely.
But on the other hand, not all bots are bad.
Some of them actively help you understand your audience, which can actually improve the content you post and drive organic engagement –– which is ultimately good for you (and good for Instagram).
And while you probably shouldn’t hand full control of your account over to the bots, there’s no harm –– and lots of upside –– to simple, time-saving actions like scheduling posts and randomizing hashtags.
In short, if your automation activity isn’t actively annoying anyone and ruining their enjoyment of Instagram, it’s probably fine!