Instagram automation: all you need to know

The first thing you should about Instagram automation: don’t do it. Tons of followers, minimal effort, all BS—it won’t work. Here’s what to do instead.

New to all this? Start with our guide to social media marketing.

Don’t automate your Instagram account.

Why? Here’s a selection of comments I’ve had on my recent Instagram posts:

Photo of the day!” – for a photo that I posted three months ago. “Great job!” – on a photo of brunch I’d had at a local restaurant. “Keep up the good work!” – when I posted a picture of street art, clearly stating that it wasn’t my work.

See a pattern? All these comments are lacking context. And all were automated posts from Instagram bots.

But these comments are nothing compared to what happened when a Hootsuite blogger decided to try automating comments on his Instagram.

In one case I’d commented ‘damn!’ on a random bride’s wedding photo (she graciously said ‘thank you’ instead of calling me a creep). I’d also written ‘I’m jealous!’ on a photo of a man beside a very ugly painting that he was clearly ridiculing.

Are those the kind of messages you want to be spreading?

When you use Instagram automation, you end up tarnishing your brand—by being annoying, irrelevant, and even offensive.

So don’t invest in Instagram ‘like’ bots. Don’t spend ages Googling “best Instagram bot” hoping that your social media prayers will be answered.

Here’s a few more reasons why you shouldn’t automate your Instagram efforts—followed by what you can do to organically up your Insta game.

Violates Instagram’s terms & conditions

Yep, you could find yourself being kicked off Instagram for good if you use an Instagram bot.

That’s because it breaks Instagram’s terms of service, specifically regarding the use of its API.

Are API’s your thing? Check out Typeform’s new developer portal.

Best case scenario, that bot you paid for gets shut down anyway.

Because Instagram has been cracking down on this. Even the high-profile Instagram follower-bot Instagress was no match for the Insta-regulators:

And if they couldn’t get away with it, chances are you won’t either.

Hurts brand credibility

You don’t want to be the company that posts generic or embarrassing comments on posts. And you don’t want to be the business that spams its users.

If you are that business, you’re sending two messages to your customers: you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’d sooner tick people off than figure it out.

And that leads to a loss of trust in your brand.

Here’s an example of how Instagram bots make your brand look spammy in front of potential customers:

Wastes your marketing budget

As any good marketer knows, you need to target your communications to specific groups. Don’t just fire out random messages and hope they resonate with someone—not a good social media marketing strategy.

But this is how Instagram automation bots work, casting wide nets using the most popular hashtags:

#love #instagood #photooftheday #tbt #beautiful #cute #me #selfie #tagforlikes #happy #followme #fashion #summer #picoftheday #like4likes #fun #art #friends #instadaily #girl #smile #repost

Notice a common theme? They’re incredibly broad.

If you choose to target generic hashtags, you’ll end up getting generic followers.

And even if you do get a reply on a comment you posted, you can’t automate a conversation—so you’ll have to reply to it manually anyway.

So automation turns out to be money spent on hollow follows.

Destroys your feed and engagement

Back to the Hootsuite blogger who tried out an Instagram follower and automation bot:

To earn those 250 followers the bot followed over 1,400 people in less than three days—making my feed useless garbage. It was filled with accounts sharing terrible photos while my friends and users I was actually interested in got buried.

By auto-following accounts on Instagram, you end up with a feed full of spam and unengaged followers who don’t care about your brand. This also means it’s harder to keep up with the accounts you care about.

How you'll feel looking at your Insta-feed run by bots. Photographer: Kev Costello

So how should I grow my Insta account?

With its one billion users, Instagram is a crucial social media marketing channel for most brands. But instead of going down the Instagram automation route, try these tactics to build an organic following that contributes towards your business goals.

Define a clear and specific target audience

Who is your target audience? Where do they live? What do they like? How old are they?

Once you’ve defined your audience, you can work out which accounts you should be following, which hashtags you should be using, and what kind of content you should be posting.

Also, keep an eye on what your competitors are up to. Track who they’re following and who follows them. Take note of their top-performing posts and the tactics they use to engage their fans.

Build an emotional connection

Natural and genuine engagement is the only way to grow a community that supports your brand. Instagram also favors accounts with better engagement, not just the highest number of followers.

Here’s some tips to help you build genuine connections with your followers:

  • Post high-quality content that’s relevant to your brand and useful for your audience.

  • Give your followers special offers they can only find on Instagram.

  • Use Instagram photo editor apps to make your pics look more professional.

  • Run campaigns using user-generated content.

  • Analyze your top, and worst, performing posts.

  • Use—but don’t overuse—hashtags that are relevant to your brand.

  • Like and comment on posts from people you follow—and always reply to comments on your posts.

  • Ask questions get opinions, and include calls to action.

Staples is a great example of an Instagram account that engages with its followers by asking questions and replying to user comments.

Where’s my printout? In 3 words, tell us your biggest printer area pet peeve.

A post shared by Staples (@staples) on

Reflect your brand values

Your Insta feed should express who you are, what your brand stands for, and the voice of your company.

Are you funny? Serious? Emotive? Sarcastic? If you really want to stand out, then every Instagram post needs to reflect the tone of your brand.

Smoothie company Innocent is one of the best at this. Everything from their packaging to their communication reflects their serious commitment to charity and the environment, while having fun at the same time. And the company’s Instagram feed is a natural extension of this.

It's Monday. Time to channel your inner tomato.

A post shared by innocent (@innocent) on


Are you sure I shouldn’t at least think about Instagram automation?

We are sure. Don’t invest in Instagram bots for comments, followers, or likes.

If you do, be prepared to fill your feed with spam without seeing improved engagement, clicks, likes, and conversions.

To build a successful Instagram strategy, you need to focus on human interactions that reflect your brand values and offer unique experiences to your followers.

Only then will you start to see people become followers, and followers become loyal customers.

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