Once you’re up to your eyeballs in scheduling, responding, and #engaging obligations, Instagram isn’t quite as fun as it used to be.
If you care about engagement, you A: need to post regularly. And B: need to post at the right times.
It’s no wonder that there are countless tools on the market for automating everything from following other users to scheduling posts. There are even tools for commenting on your behalf.
But when does automation veer into the danger zone? It’s hard to say. Here, we’ll look at some of the platforms available ranging from the legit to the not-so-much.
What is Instagram automation?
There are countless Instagram automation tools that claim to save you time, energy, and make you more popular in the process. But, they all offer a slightly different feature lineup. Some are paid, others, like Bot4Gram, are free.
The simplest way to define Instagram automation apps is that these are tools that take care of your in-app busy work for you. There’s a varying range OF price points, features, and customization settings. It’s a matter of “you get what you pay for” in a lot of cases.
For example, the now-defunct Instagress was designed to comment on your behalf. A HootSuite blogger shared their experience with the tool. The blogger mentions that you’d choose a set of comments that a bot could use to “engage” with other users.
Sad news to all of you who fell in love with Instagress: by request of Instagram we’ve closed our web-service that helped you so much. pic.twitter.com/sIRYfFVywX
— Instagress (@instagress) April 20, 2017
Postable is another option, and it is still around. However, it is still in beta. This tool allows users to pre-schedule posts, connect your account to DropBox, Google Drive, and other cloud-based storage tools, and automate engagement. Postable does manage follows and unfollows, as well as giveaways, but they don’t comment for you or dig into the DMs.
Postable costs a few bucks per month, but they aren’t a bad option if you need a helping hand.
Instagram schedulers are NOT the same as automation bots
It’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between apps that automate scheduling posts and apps that have a bot component.
Most marketing blogs have arrived at a common consensus. Brands should not automate IG comments or DMs.
It’s also worth pointing out that any user who is caught trying to cheat the system is in violation of Instagram’s terms of service so you might get booted from the app.
Automating likes vs. automating comments and DMs
Instagram automation works by outsourcing specific tasks to bots. So, you might automate comments, likes, and following and unfollowing accounts.
Automating likes is basically the equivalent of paying Instagram for a sponsored ad. It’s an opportunity to be seen by hundreds of people who otherwise wouldn’t find you.
Marketers are getting wise to the idea that people are gaming the system. Bots can search for users in your niche and follow them, as well as follow people who have followed you.
You can also automatically unfollow people who haven’t engaged with your site in a while — you know, the ones dragging down your engagement rates.
Can you automate Instagram without it being scammy?
Okay, it’s honestly hard to tell. Services like Postable and Social Captain are paid services. They offer as much functionality as the type of tools that an SEO pro might use to look up keywords. They also offer what a PR expert might use to identify influencers and publications to partner with.
Features like automated follows and unfollows are unlikely to cause too many problems down the line, but they do violate Instagram’s ToS.
Social Captain, for example, offers a set of automation settings you can set and forget:
However, automation is one of those things that, in moderation, delivers some benefits like growth and convenience. Also, Instagram is none the wiser.
That said, if you’re not careful about follow limits or you’re using shady automation features like DM-ing strangers with a bot, Instagram might issue a temporary ban.
Sure, this type of automation isn’t the same thing as buying another user account or buying followers and likes. However, Instagram still considers it cheating.
Without a strategic approach to automation, you could do more harm than good. Long story short, keep bots out of your comments and DMs — at least until they know how to behave.