We’ve talked at lengths about fake Instagrammers and how they simulate their influence. But this summer, the war against fake influencers on Instagram is going nuclear. Recognizing problems with their platform, Instagram quietly revealed upcoming changes to the API. The change tackles fake influencers biggest weapon – botting. The result is going to be very, very bad for anyone who has been faking it. So, let’s dig in!
UPDATE April 5: They fast-tracked the update and deprecated them today as per this blog post!
How Fake Influencers on Instagram Use Bots
Right now, the way that fake influencers on Instagram make it appear they have influence is through botting. The user connects their account to a botting service which uses the Instagram API to perform a variety of tasks. The most common botting tools are:
- Mass Follow/Unfollow. Basically, every day the bot follows X number of people in hopes that the person will follow back. Then, 3-7 days later, if the person DOESN’T follow back, the bot unfollows them. As a result, their following grows with relatively no risk. There is a limit on the number you can do daily, but bots are careful to not exceed them.
- Like Farms. This works two ways… the first is where their account automatically likes other people’s content in hopes of a follow. The other way is they pay for bots to like their content.
- Basic Comments. This type of botting comments something very basic to improve the chances of getting a follow. When someone gets both a follow, a like and a comment, they are more likely to reciprocate. But, there’s an inherent risk in this because bots can’t determine context as is proven by the tweet below:
Need a reason not to use bots on Instagram? How about the influencer we spotted leaving a "Love that!!!" comment on a post about another blogger's miscarriage.
— Stephanie Fusco (@stephaniefusco) February 28, 2018
Instagram is About to Kill Fake Influencers
January 30th, Instagram quietly announced major changes to their API. This included updates to business profiles and for the Graph API. But the bigger announcement was their plan to start Deprecating the current Instagram API. The changes are occurring in two waves but will be completed by year-end.
On July 31st, 2018, Instagram will be deprecating the following APIs:
- Follower List – ‘read the list of followers and followed-by users.’
- Relationships – ‘follow and unfollow accounts on a user’s behalf.’
- Commenting on Public Posts – ‘post and delete comments on a user’s behalf on public media.’
The impact of this API change will kill 90% of the common botting techniques. No longer will fake influencers be able to follow/unfollow automatically. If they want to continue that behavior, they’re going to have to do it manually. It will also remove their ability to leave those basic comments like ‘Love that!!!’, saving them from the shame of loving someone’s miscarriage. This change will also impact fake following. When someone buys followers, they rely on ‘relationship’ API access to tell their bots to mass follow that person. With it gone, growth will stall.
On December 11th, 2018, Instagram will be deprecating the following APIs:
- Commenting – ‘post and delete comments on a user’s behalf on owned media.’
- Public Content – ‘read any public profile info and media on a user’s behalf.’
- Likes – ‘like and unlike media on a user’s behalf.’
- Subscriptions – ‘receive notifications when media is posted.’
This update will kill off the last bastion of the fake influencer – automated liking. This will damage them in two ways. First, they won’t be able to mass like other people’s content in hopes of getting likes. Second, they won’t be able to post a picture and pay for likes. With both abilities dead, their 100K followers and 37 likes are going to be looking pretty bad for them.
A Field of Dead Influencers Seeking Life
The only way to describe the July 31st update is that it’s nuclear warfare against fake influencers. In an instant, their world will be completely destroyed and they’ll be left in a nuclear winter. They won’t be able to bot their influence. Their engagement numbers will drop to nothing. Their follower growth pattern will stagnate. They’ll post content that no one will engage with (other than likes… but that too will be going away.) By year-end, assuredly, many fake influencers will delete their accounts or ‘start fresh’. They’ll come up with excuses about being shadowbanned or hacked. Anything to hide the shame that they have been lying for years about their influence.
And for everyone who’s been doing it legit – it will be a wonderful day. There will be chorus’ of angels. Endless laughter and giddy excitement. For YOUR time has come! It will be a great summer where everyone will finally see what many have been saying for years. This is an incredible development and should make every fake Instagram influencer very nervous right now. Get ready for your reckoning, because Instagram has had enough!