One of my goals for 2017 is to grow my collective social media following to 100,000. I'm currently at about 20k. Is it an ambitious goal? Yes. Impossible? No. However, I realized this wasn't going to happen all by itself. I started doing some research on "branding" and "marketing" (and other buzzwords we heard a lot in 2016) and how to make my content more interesting and my profiles more engaging. The verdict? Color schemes, 20 hashtags, frequent (but not too frequent) posts...and bots.
What is Instagram automation?
Instagram automation tools (aka "bots") automatically like, comment and engage with targeted Instagram profiles to increase the user's following. The user can specify the location, interests and/or "hashtags" of their targeted audience so the software "knows" who to interact with. The process, options and results vary depending on the bot and there are dozens of options on the market.
Most of these automation apps offer users a free trial so users can witness the bot in action before making a purchase. I tried 5 different bots to see which one would make me the most #InstaFamous. I used the same criteria in each trial (using hashtags like "music", "musician", "piano", "songwriter" and "pageant" and designating Boston, Providence and New York as my targeted locations). While none were as effective as having Rob Kardashian for a dad, some of these bots were very useful. Others were just awful.
$99 per month
Boostgram was my first experience with bots, so I didn't really know what to expect. The app automatically liked, followed (and unfollowed) targeted users which could be specified by hashtag, location and gender. The layout was user-friendly and within a three day trial, I gained 87 followers. I wasn't super impressed, but I didn't feel let down by BoostGram's performance. $100 a month, though? Is that the going rate for these things? Next.
$9.99 per month or $79.99 per year
Instagress seems to be the most popular one, but I was not a fan. The user can specify the targeted tags, location and age, as well as several other complicated and unnecessary options like delay range, media type, user profile filter, likes per hours and about three dozen others. For the average user, it is definitely confusing, and quite honestly, not that effective. The biggest annoyance? The bot followed 400 new accounts that 1) I don't know 2) Didn't follow me back 3) Often had nothing to do with my designated tags. Therefore, my newsfeed was filled with posts I really wasn't interested in (nor do I think they were interested in mine).
3. Archie (my favorite!)
$19 (business account) or $29 (premium account) per month
Archie is the real deal. It is easy to use. You enter your tags per usual, "super targeting" accounts (celebrities or pages whose followers you want to interact with), location and blocked tags/users (if you feel so inclined). Instead of following a ton of random people like BoostGram and Instagress, Archie just liked a ton of pictures. Within the three day trial, I gained 41 new followers. More importantly, these followers were genuinely interested in my content. With some of the other trials, my "message requests" became flooded with emojis, "hello"s and creepy comments from random people. With Archie, people were sliding in my DM to inquire about my local shows, tell me that they enjoy my blog and introduce themselves because they are also upcoming musicians. To be fair, I had two major radio interviews that week so I am entertaining the possibility that some of those new followers were introduced to me there. Still, well done, Archie. Skeptical? Try it yourself.
$9.99 per month
Instazood claims to be "the best online Instagram bot". This is a lie. It is confusing to use. It is time-consuming. It is useless. Instead of being able to type several tags in the same box, you have to manually create a "new promo" for each individual criteria. The bot automatically followed hundreds of accounts completely irrelevant to my brand. The bot left weird comments and emojis on pictures posted by people I don't know (nor do I have anything in common with.) Personally, I thought it was a little weird that the bot felt the need to comment on pictures of some lady's 4-year-old child. On the other side of the world. And seriously? All of this for 14 followers? No thank you, Instazood.
$39.99 per month
By the time I got around to Gramista, I was pretty done with these bots. Overall, they were harming my brand more than helping. Archie was the exception. However, the growth was slow. Unlike other companies offering 3+ days as a trial, Gramista was only willing to fork up 12 hours. I figured I could try just one more.
I gained 50 new followers overnight. They were seemingly interested in music and songwriting like I had specified. The bot hadn't followed, liked or commented on weird profiles. "This is great!" I thought. At $39.99 per month, Gramista was a little more expensive than most of its competitors. "Still", I figured. "This is REAL growth."
Then this happened.
I can see how bots are a useful tool for larger "commercial" profiles such as businesses or established bloggers. However, they just don't benefit nor realistically emulate the average individual. It looks like I'm going to have to build my Instagram account the old-fashioned way.