Instagram automation isn't going anywhere - the real story behind the death of Instagress

Instagram bots are here to stay. Instagress may return.

Popular Instagram automation service, Instagress shut down yesterday. But despite what many popular marketing blogs would like you to believe, this isn’t the death of Instagram automation.

The misuse of automated engagement can be truly annoying, but those pronouncing their death are peddling bullshit. Even large brands take advantage of Instagram automation. When used appropriately, they’re a great tool to have at your disposal. But this hasn’t stopped them being a favourite topic of scorn for marketing blogs hungry for clicks.

PetaPixel put out a piece praising the shutdown of Instagress. They hope that this marks the end of generic auto-comments like “Nice pic!” or a flurry of emojis that add nothing to conversation. I suspect they've never even had an Instagress account. If they did, they’d see the truth behind why the automation service is shutting down.

3rd-Party services using Instagram’s API are not allowed to contain “Insta” or “Gram” in their name.

It’s as simple as that. That’s why Instagress was shut down. If PetaPixel had an account with Instagress, they’d have logged in to see this message:

You may be skeptical with this extremely straight-forward explanation and even think that this is a PR play by Instagress to save their reputation. It isn’t.

This has happened in the past to many Instagram analytics and automation services as well as photo editing apps. In 2014, Instagram updated their terms of service where 3rd party services’ API access would be revoked if their company name contained the words “Insta” or “Gram” or their initials, “IG”. Statigram rebranded to Iconosquare to avoid being shut down and they issued a blog article announcing their new name. That exact same day, Webstagram rebranded to just Websta. Coincidence? Hell fucking no.

Let’s look at an Internet Archive of Instagram API ToS from a few years back and compare it to the current state of Instagram. Unfortunately, Way Back Machine didn’t have anything for us from 2014, but here’s what the ToS said back in 2011.

instagress-shutdown-instagram-tos-2011.PNG

This screenshot is taken from the Instagram Brand Resources Guideline just today:

You’re told that automation is bullshit. It’s not. Relying on spam to grow your accounts is bullshit. Using blackhat methods that hurt the network and engagement rates is bullshit. Lying to people about the reasons why services shut down is bullshit. Target automation to support your overarching social media strategy? Far from bullshit.

Trademark infringement? Also bullshit. And that’s why Instagress is gone.

We regularly test the limits of automation and develop processes that work. Think of it less as automation, and more as using artificial intelligence to help extend your reach and engagement. This isn’t a shortcut or a way to avoid hard work. It’s a legit weapon in your social arsenal.

Automation is not a solution to growth. That mentality is why Instagram bots have gotten such a bad reputation. People think of it as an easy shortcut to growing their brand even though it can do more damage than good. At its best, marketing automation scales up proven manual efforts. Test out what works with your target demographic and then automate it to reach a larger audience.

Default settings on popular Instagram bots suggest generic auto-comments. This make it obvious the account is botting. On top of this, the average user will target the most popular hashtags rather than going with a targeted approach. Without researching Instagram hashtags, automation is pointless. Once you know your target and test out comments manually, automation can be a huge game changer.

HootSuite has gone as far as saying you can’t automate comments. Bullshit. To prove it, I’ll give you an example of how I used Instagress automation. I had a 70%+ reply rate to my comments, sparking real human-to-human conversation.

My account is your pretty typical travel blog. I’m an expat and not a backpacker so I have a lot more time to plan out my trips. First off, I find hashtags unique to digital nomads and long-term backpackers. I do this using my systematic approach to Instagram hashtag research. Next, I add region-specific targeting so I’d only comment on photos from areas of southeast Asia I plan to travel to. Finally, I pop this auto-comment into my Instagram automation service:

How often do you get comments like this on your photos? Comments where someone is asking engaging questions that are genuine? It’s rare. Very rare. That’s why my reply rates are through the roof. Automated initial outreach, but my intentions aren’t malevolent. Once someone sends me a DM, I have a real conversation with them about their experience. I’ve even met up with some of them while traveling and became good (internet) friends with a few.

The odds of these people following my account after this conversation is very high. Once I travel, I tag the people in my photos at locations they recommended I should check out. Automation done right is very human.

The Takeaway: Don’t believe everything you read on even the top marketing blogs. Everyone has their own motives for writing what they do. Ours happens to be dishing out real advice and telling it like it is. Think outside the box on how you use marketing tools. Create hyper-targeted tactics. Instagram automation is here to stay. Instagress might even come back after rebranding. For now, we’ll be migrating to alternative services.

Want our real, free, no-bullshit advice on how to develop a social media strategy that delivers results? Email us, right now. Props if you can figure out how to automate a relevant message.

Chris Tweten