Instagram automation tools help tons of accounts reach new audiences with algorithms that target users using generic comments, likes and follows, which every so often leads to those users checking out your account and, hopefully, deciding to follow you.
The problem is, this type of social automation can damage your brand faster than a tap-happy intern. Automation needs to be handled very carefully. So how do you decide where to draw the line?
Recently, Instagram took steps to draw the line for you. Major Instagram automation platforms, such as Mass Planner and Instagress, are quickly being shut down because Instagram "requested" this.
Not worth the risk
Honestly, these services scared the crap out of me. Injecting a bot's automated engagement algorithms into a brand's DNA may cause a boost in followers, but in the end there's a simple name for it: spam. Posting meaningless comments on posts is not only in bad taste, it could seriously damage your rep. Can you imagine your brand commenting, "This is great! *thumbs-up*" on someone's post about the family dog that recently passed away? That's the risk you're taking.
That's not to say all automation is bad. Here's a trick for automating effective social media marketing: think curation, not conversation. Automatic tools that start internal workflows, distribute your blog posts or aggregate third-party content are all great if you know how to work them. But beware letting a machine algorithm control your brand's voice.
The trick to Instagram success -- like all social media marketing -- is patience. The best social companies online focus on both creating genuine content to connect with fans and being proactive about engaging with the right people. Brands like LaCroix have become dominant forces on the platform by building on small wins over time. You have to keep your eyes on the long view.
So instead of investing in "Insta-bots," it's best to focus on less risky Instagram marketing techniques that have been proven successful -- and on automation platforms that aren't going to shut down anytime soon.
A prime example is outbound engagement. Rather than just focusing on creating great content, think proactively about how you engage with other users. For example, you may want to follow and engage with the people who follow your top competitors or the accounts that inspire you most. Other tactics include committing to posting five comments per day, setting up a hashtag calendar, restructuring your photo database for easier posting, using a tool like OnlyPult to schedule photos in advance, and organizing your notes and schedules so you remember to regularly post throwback photos.
Another crucial tactic is influencer marketing. Partnering with popular personalities allows brands to cut through the "Insta-noise" in a way that's impossible with a branded page. Microinfluencer marketing is just as effective. By encouraging your regular, day-to-day customers to become ambassadors for your brand, businesses of any size can reach a much-wider audience in a super genuine way that really sings on the platform. Whether by offering something like a coupon or a freebie or creating photo display opportunities for them to willingly take part, thinking about your followers as microinfluencers can change the way you do business on Instagram.
A manual approach to Instagram will do a lot more for you in the long run than a bunch of random, automated likes and comments.