Should You Use Bots to Grow Your Instagram? Confessions of a Social Media Automator

The age of social media bots is over.

 

Well not really, but it is for YOU.

 

Back in the old days (last year), you could set up a robot on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter for about 20 bucks a month, and automatically start receiving ‘real’ followers, engagement (hopefully) sales. 

 

It was straight up MAGIC honestly, and the reason we built an entire business off of setting up and managing the automations for clients.

 

For a while we were making a really good chunk of cash for doing pretty minimal and uninventive work.  Ah there’s nothing quite like lavishly spending money you didn’t work that hard to earn…

 

With all quick money businesses, things change for the worse.  Instagram cracked down on automation (an insanely trivial task for them) and started making life pretty miserable for anyone brazen enough to automate their profiles.
Accounts were throttled, or banned outright.  Our customer service budget 5x’d overnight and suddenly our cash cow became a real job as we had to continuously iterate to get around the challenges.

 

Gross. 

 

Instead of digging in to play the game of whack a mole for the long haul, I decided to get out of the biz and watch things develop from afar.

 

Ok, that’s not entirely true.  I spent months writing all kinds of fancy code and trying crazy methods to avoid bot detection.  We bought 100s of phone sim cards, built autonomous software to read emails and enter in 2-factor codes,  hacked wireless routers to reboot and change their address every 15 minutes (to simulate a cell phone user switching towers), and a bunch of other shit that turned out to be a waste of time and energy.

 

That was last year.

 

This year, I am NOT back in the botting game (thankfully), but I have used the knowledge/experience from my time automating EVERYTHING to create processes for Sales/Growth on several platforms (specifically LinkedIn and Instagram) that:

 

  • -Can get you consistent growth and eyeballs on your profile (top of funnel)
  • -Don’t cost a fortune
  • -Won’t get your accounts banned/throttled. 
Disclaimers:

 

Before you go replying with “it’s never worth the risk to get your account banned” from your terms of service reading pedestal…

 

You might totally be right.  For some people its NEVER worth the risk to try and automate stuff in their social media.  But business is not a riskless endeavour my friend, and I’m simply trying to arm the people with the info to decide for themselves what level of risk you want to take.  There certainly can be a big enough payoff.  

 

What I’m about to share has worked for me for the last year (and rigorously tested), and of course could come to a crashing end tomorrow.  Based on what I’ve done on the platforms over the years, I seriously doubt it will.  Hence why I take the risk (and reap the benefits in the short term). Automation through software technically is never allowed.  that being said it’s still done a LOT and it would easy for you to do.  

 

If you’d prefer to never mess with the software automation side of things (fair)  simply take everything I’m saying in this guide and apply it to an SOP for your VA to do on the up and up.  You can only potentially get banned if you use software to do the actions. 

 

What Still Works in Automation

The real truth is not much… and whatever still does is likely to cause you more problems than benefits. 

 

Instagram

Automation is pretty much off the table here, unless you’re willing to go more the ‘spam’ route and create hundreds of accounts to promote your main account.  I have done this before and it’s generally not worth the time/headache.  But alas, I have a plan to get around the watchful eyes of the gram.

 

What really does still work is hiring a VA to login on the Instagram App (on an actual phone, not web)  and run a series of tasks for you.   This generally falls into 3 main categories:

 

  • -Follow/UnFollow
  • -Sliding into DMs
  • -Engagement/Posting

Follow/UnFollow

Ah the oldest trick in the gram book.  For the uninitiated this is when you follow someone new, wait for the mto follow you back,  then unfollow them a week later.  

 

It’s the most classic way to grow followers and potential customers, and it DOES still work especially if you target well.  
Here’s the algorithm for this:

 

  1. 1. Identify a list of accounts who you think your target customer would follow.  
  2. 2. Throw out all the accounts from that list that have more than 50k followers
  3. 3. Now have your VA visit each account from that list, and start following all of THEIR followers.
Simple enough right?

Sliding Into DMs

https://media.giphy.com/media/l1KdbcsVCEBnjHhmM/source.mp4
You’d be amazed at the kind of sales/relationships you can build with customers by having your VA send a value giving DM with a little appreciation sprinkled in.  

 

Engagement and Posting

Content is still king,  and Instagram is designed to reward people that post the goods and do it consistently. Having a VA ensure you are posting with regularity (and even editing photos etc. for you) is the best way to get this done. 

 

This is easier said than done, it’s a pain to constantly source new content that is great (or create your own).  I don’t have a great solution here,  you can repost stuff that is already trending on Instagram (look up guides on finding viral content).   It’s always better to work with your own images and overlay quotes/text on them. 

 

Consistency is the most important part here.  Don’t avoid posting because you aren’t sure if your memes are fire af or super litty. Just keep cranking and you naturally will start to get a feel for your content groove. 

 

For pure engagement, you can have your VA simply like and comment (intelligently I hope) on posts made by your target customers.  Simple enough.

 

Pricing

My basic SOP above has gotten me contractors willing do the work for around $70-100 a week. 

 

These are the cheapies, if you’ve got a little more budget you can get much better service. If you don’t, then just prepared to go through a bunch of lousy contractors until you find the gem that can do it all for cheap. 

 

*Pro Tip* – want to know if your contractor is doing the work?  Sign up for a free account on igblade.com and start tracking your account.  IGBlade breaks down your daily account activity (how many people you followed, how many people followed you, your posts etc.)  so it’s the perfect way to see if a contractor is actually doing the work. 

 

The irony is not lost on my that my solution to automation for Instagram is to not use automation. Fortunately we still live in a world where you can buy the efforts of a human being for incredibly cheap online. If Instagram growth is worth it to you, then I’d say go this route.

 

Twitter

Twitter allows some old school automation, but you will be ona fairly tight leash (less than 50 automated follows per day).  So again, hardly worth the time/risk.  You can use a tool like Jarvee for this, just go sloooooow and be careful. 

 

For VA automation, same strategies and pricing apply here from the Insta section.

 

LinkedIn: Still Open For Business

LinkedIn is an amazing platform for B2B sales (and will be for the near term future).  Just keep one thing in mind.
People f*cking hate spam messages on LinkedIn.

 

There was a time when you could fire up big drip campaigns and generate a lot of sales interest.  Depending on your industry this is still possible, however for many that era has passed.  

 

Almost every day I see another post (with thousands of likes/reshares) complaining about the volume of ‘spam’ offers someone is getting. 

 

I’m not discounting cold email/messaging.  It does still work, but in the context of ‘automation’ I’m leaving it out completely.  Do not use bots to send message campaigns on any platform.

 

Here’s what you can do on Linkedin (and automate)

  • -Scrape a ton of emails for cold outreach
  • -Search for and add connections in a targeted fashion
  • -‘Follow’ people.
  • -Post your content in groups
  • -Invite People to like your company/page
I won’t belabor all of the above points. Most can be done with the mainstream automation platforms like MassPlanner and Jarvee.  I only have one significant insight that you guys might find juicy when it comes to LI automation.  If you guys want  more practical guides, let me know.

 

Sending Custom ‘Connection Requests’

This is interesting.  
I have found over the past 1.5 years of doing this, that I get noticeably more replies/interest when I send connection requests WITHOUT a custom message. 

 

My theory on this is because EVERYONE who spams on LinkedIn sends some little intro message when they request your connection.  Stuff like “Looks like we have a lot of the same connections!” or  “Hi Ethan, I want to reach out today because…”.
[ throws up all over keyboard ]

 

Everyone gets these and immediately knows ‘this person is trying to sell me some shit’.

 

Now I’m not saying that cold messages don’t work, I’m just saying that they likely won’t be worth your time if you can’t customize them a bit and actually be genuine.  This means for automation they’re out. 

 

So instead, be a little mysterious.

The reason I send empty connection requests is because a noticeably higher percentage of people go view my profile.  They may be asking themselves:

 

  • -Who is this handsome young man sliding into my professional network?  
  • -Is this the guy that threw up at me at that conference 4 years ago?
  • -Did I work with this guy at some point?  can’t remember…
  • -We have 50 mutual connections, I must know him from somewhere…

 

AND THEN THEY READ MY PROFILE.

Several of our sales have come through this method, where I simply added a random person, they read my profile and were curious about our services.  

 

So get to automating all of the above,  you won’t regret it.  Just a few more notes before we move on.

 

Pay for Sales Navigator 

Sales Nav is expensive and pretty shitty as an interface.  But it is powerful for searching for leads and definitely has its uses in automation.

 

You definitely are allowed SIGNIFICANTLY more leash when it comes to automation on LinkedIN if you’re a paying member.   I have tested this significantly, and in my almost 2 years as a LinkedIn Pro member I have only had one two instances where they dinged me for too much activity and signed me out. 

 

Amount of Actions You Can do Per Day

This varies and always will.  But here are some general rule of thumbs for your Linkedin Campaigns.

 

-Connection Requests:  Don’t hit more than 40 per day, and spread them out.
-Follows/Follow Requests:  I’d stay sub 100 here (I have never pushed this one)
-Direct messages: Don’t automate this, I consider it the only really risky move with LI automation. If you are sending manually, blast away until they rate limit you. 
-Email Scraping:  You can visit easily 100-200 profiles per day with a bot.  I have had no issues here unless I got greedy and really ramped up scraping. 

 

As a general rule of thumb, start your automation off at bare minimum settings (5 actions per day for example) and scale it up over the course of a few weeks.

 

Conclusion

There is still success and sales to be had by getting on top of your social media game.  Automation tools are one thing to help that, though I would really only consider LinkedIn a worthy candidate for straight up automation. 

 

Be careful about spamming on any platform, use VAs whenever you can, and above all else… KEEP POSTING.

 

-Bryce.

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