Instagram Spam Bots: Here’s How To Stop The Madness
Instagram, with its sprawling network of over a billion monthly users, stands as one of the predominant social media platforms. The platform’s extensive reach and influential power attract countless businesses, influencers, and casual users, eager to share moments and connect with audiences.
Yet, with this colossal popularity comes a shadowy underbelly: the rise of Instagram spam bots. These seemingly harmless virtual entities can impact genuine engagements, skew performance metrics, and tarnish the overall user experience. Dive deep with us as we dissect the world of Instagram spam bots, arming you with knowledge on their identification and eradication.
What is an Instagram spam bot?
An Instagram spam bot is an automated account used to fake likes, follows, comments, posts and more. These accounts are often powered by scripts designed to carry out specific tasks without the need for human intervention.
The objectives behind these bots can vary. Some aim to inflate engagement metrics artificially, while others seek to promote products, services, or links. Yet, regardless of their intention, their presence often results in negative experiences for genuine users.
What can these bots do?
Their ability to mimic genuine engagement can distort perceptions, mislead audiences, and dilute the authenticity that platforms like Instagram strive for. Users and brands must approach these capabilities with caution and prioritize genuine, human-centric engagement over artificial growth and interactions. As the platform continues its battle against bot intrusion, awareness remains the first line of defense for its vast user base.
- Automate engagement – Follows, likes, comments One of the primary uses of bots on Instagram is to auto-follow and unfollow accounts. This strategy aims to increase a profile’s follower count by banking on the principle that some users will reciprocate a follow. Bots can be programmed to auto-like posts or auto-comment based on specific hashtags or user accounts. This action increases visibility and might prompt genuine users to check out the bot’s profile or linked content.
- Inflate engagement rates to boost fake popularity By rapidly liking, commenting, or sharing content, bots can artificially inflate engagement metrics, making posts appear more popular than they genuinely are. Bots are also designed to view stories en masse, providing the illusion of increased engagement (similar to viewbots). They might also interact with polls, questions, or other interactive story elements.
- Send you direct messages Automated direct messages can be sent to new followers or specific user groups. These messages often contain promotional content, greetings, or links. They can also be used for phishing attacks to collect your private information.
- Create large amounts of Instagram accounts in seconds As many as 95 million Instagram accounts were created by bots, according to a recent report. Fake accounts can easily be spun up at scale with software and taught to engage in other posts.
- Create life-like images and content With the help of AI, bots are now able to create fake accounts with life-like images and content (see “bot-generated influencers” below).
- Scrape data Certain bots are designed to scrape data from Instagram. This includes gathering user information, comments, likes, and other engagement metrics for analysis or sale.
- Click on ads Yes, there are even bots that click on Instagram ads and sponsored posts – aka “click bots.” By bots clicking on ads, it helps boost ad performance, suggesting that certain Instagram profiles are more influential to their viewers than they actually are. This false signal can cause the advertiser to inadvertently spend more ad dollars, and direct sponsorships, with that influencer.
New: Bot-generated influencers (with millions of followers)
With the rise of AI-driven image generators such as Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, there is now the capability to craft entire social media profiles and selfie pics for non-existent personalities.
This advancement plunges users into the depths of creepy-ness, where AI-generated influencers—predominantly resembling conventionally attractive women—captivate audiences with their digital allure on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Notably, these AI creations boast characteristics like enhanced skin textures and repetitive backdrops, trademarks of AI image generators, yet the deception is often remarkably convincing.
Consider the profile of “Milla Sofia,” purportedly a “19-year-old robot living in Los Angeles.” She has nearly 3 million followers and she’s created over 1,200 posts with pictures of her in her daily life, traveling the world showing off her fashion style.
Here are examples of some popular bot-generated influencers:
Example of bot-generated influencers on Instagram
How to identify activity by bots
While bots are becoming increasingly sophisticated, there remain some tell-tale signs of their activity:
- Generic or irrelevant comments
One of the most recognizable traits of a bot is the posting of vague or generic comments. Phrases like “Awesome pic 🔥🔥🔥” or “Love this ❤️” frequently dot posts, regardless of the content. Sometimes, these comments might be entirely unrelated, urging users to click on a suspicious link or visit a dubious profile.
- Incomplete profile information
A fake account is usually missing profile information such as a headshot or about info. They may also have zero posts or their handle is gibberish – such as @bucket_8930.
- Unusual account activity or growth rate
Genuine users have patterns to their interactions. An account that suddenly follows thousands within hours or likes hundreds of unrelated posts in rapid succession is a beacon of bot activity.
- High Follow-to-Follower Ratio:
Accounts that follow a vast number of profiles but have a minimal follower count may be bots trying to increase their network rapidly.
- Sparse personal content:
If a profile feels impersonal or lacks original content, it’s a potential red flag. Bots often repost content or have feeds filled with promotional images and links.
- Overly promotional content
If a profile lacks original content, it’s a potential red flag. Bots often repost content or have feeds filled with promotional images and links.
There are also online tools that can help you identify if a profile has too any fake followers, such as Modash.io (no relation to Fraud Blocker). They combine many of the signals mentioned above to determine the ratio of fake to real followers.
Sample results from a tool that helps you identify fake follower counts of Instagram profiles.
How to stop the spam bots on Instagram
While detecting bots is part of the battle, the real challenge lies in blocking them. Here are some steps you can take to avoid the spam:
Filter comments based on keywords you choose
Inside your privacy settings in Instagram, you can turn on additional settings to block spam based on keyword and/or offensive language. Note: Instagram does handle some basic filter, such as for phishing attacks or posts that break their Terms of Service.
To add this filter:
Navigate to Settings and privacy > Hidden Words. From there turn on “Advanced comment filtering” and then select “Manager customer words and phrases.” Add the words you’d like such as “hate” “onlyfans” etc.
Step-by-step instructions to filter Instagram spam based on keywords
Limit comments to just followers or people you follow
This can lower your overall engagement but it can help with spam, especially if you’re receiving an unusually high amount. Go to Comments in the Settings and privacy (as noted above).
Avoid using broad-based hashtags
If you use popular hashtags in your posts, such as #love #fashion or #nature, then you make it easier for bots to find and spam you. Consider using more specific ones that reach a more targeted audience.
Limit tagging locations
Heading to Vegas or Cancun? By tagging popular tourists destinations in your posts and stories, bots from promoters and the like can over-run your posts and DMs.
This can be a bit repetitive, but you can manually report bot spam to Instagram. Simply tap on the username of the suspected account, then tap the three dots and select “Report.”
Consider third-party using tools with advanced filtering rules
There are a number of their-party platforms, such as StatusBrew or CommentGuard (no relation to Fraud Blocker), that offer more advanced spam blocking rules. These includes blocking users based on language, comments with attachments, type of conversation location (e.g. Instagram comment, Ad comment, Mention, etc) and more. Other tools can help block bots that may be clicking on your ads (Fraud Blocker will be offering protection against advertising bots on Instagram shortly).
Spam bots remain a massive problem for Instagram users, brands and advertisers.
It’s important to understand the broader implications of these spam bots. Beyond mere annoyances, they can compromise the authenticity of engagement metrics and impede genuine user interactions. Your understanding of this issue and your vigilance to help prevent it ensures not only the preservation of your personal digital space but also the maintenance of Instagram as a platform of genuine connection and interaction.
Coming soon to Fraud Blocker: protection against Instagram spam bots to reduce ad waste and improve your performance.