The days of purchasing followers, likes and comments on Instagram are coming to an end.
On Monday, the platform announced that it is removing fake followers and interactions from users who employ the aid of third-party apps to boost their popularity.
Instagram will begin its crackdown by messaging users who may have “unknowingly” shared their login information with a third-party device to change their password. If they don’t heed Instagram’s warning, users could experience other consequences.
An Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch that users who continue trying to use third-party apps “may see their Instagram experience impacted… [Instagram] may limit access to certain features, for example.”
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You might notice follower numbers dip, which signals that Instagram has cleaned your profile of fake followers. The move is a blow to the plethora of services that have appeared over the past several years to help social media users inflate their online communities—on Instagram and other platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.
Some of the most popular bot apps for growing followers like Instagress and Social Growth have been shut down, but others like Archie, InstarocketProX and Boostio charge $10 to $45 per month. They often claim not to violate Instagram’s policies, though they do. The New York Times this year found many well-known celebrities had stooped to buying fake Twitter followers from a company called Devumi.
… One big question, though, is whether Instagram will crack down harder on ads for services that sell fake followers that appear on its app. I’ve spotted these in the past, and they sometimes masquerade as analytics apps for assisting influencers with tracking the size of their audience. We asked Instagram and a spokesperson told us “Ads are also subject to our Community Standards, which prohibit spammy activity like collecting likes, followers, etc. — so you are correct that ads promoting these services violate our policies. Please feel free to report them if you see them.”
Many users bulk up their Instagram profiles’ numbers to land influencer deals with organizations. Brand managers have turned to this tactic, as well, to quickly establish their organizations or clients and make them look more legitimate in less time.
However, if Instagram wants to continue attracting marketing partners, it must work on making the platform as authentic as possible.
As Instagram grows into a platform for influencers and brands to hawk more products, more accounts will inevitably turn to third-party apps to artificially boost the popularity of posts. Just this week, The New York Times reported on the phenomenon known as “nanoinfluencers,” or people with as little as 1,000 followers now trying to earn free products in exchange for advertising those items on Instagram. Like with Twitter’s crackdown on bots, weeding out fraudulent activity is something Instagram will need to continue addressing if it wants to protect the integrity of its ad business.
It’s easy to understand why people pay to boost their “Likes” and followers. An Instagram influencer with a larger following, or more engagement, can charge more to advertisers who want pay them to promote their products. There’s also a psychological element to it: The more followers you have, the more legitimate you look to real Instagram users who may also want to follow you.
But social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have been cracking down on bots and “inauthentic activity” in recent years. Some of it can be dangerous, like when Russian actors used Facebook to try and sway public opinion ahead of the 2016 U.S. elections. It’s also annoying, and delegitimizes the rest of the service. Who cares about follower counts and “Likes” if they’re coming from bots?
The recent move is the latest in a succession of battles staged by social media platforms to banish fake followers and activity, along with the tools that help users take a shortcut to online popularity.
Instagram is following other social networks’ attempts to eradicate inauthentic followers. Twitter purged 70 million fake accounts from its site in May and June alone, and gave users the ability to report accounts that they believe to be fake last month.
It’s also only the first step of Instagram’s plan to increase authenticity.
In its blog post, Instagram wrote:
Since the early days of Instagram, we have auto-detected and removed fake accounts to protect our community. Today’s update is just another step in keeping Instagram a vibrant community where people connect and share in authentic ways. We’ll have more updates in the coming weeks on additional measures we’re taking to tackle inauthentic activity on Instagram.
What do you think of Instagram’s move, PR Daily readers?