Call me naïve, but it blew my mind how frequently – and how easily -- people “cheat” at social media. And while all these black-hat tactics can be used across multiple platforms, I’m mostly fascinated with them being used for Instagram.
I only started working in SEO this year (that’s search engine optimization, mom - except I gave up trying to explain to my family what this is, and now whenever someone over the age of 50 asks me about my industry I say “internet marketing.” Or if I’m feeling particularly playful, I tell them I fux with Google rankings.) so you could say, despite my many years of browsing the Internet (insert obligatory #millennial), I’m a novice in my field – all things considered.
OK, so I knew about buying followers – bot accounts, basically, which are coded to follow you, Like your posts, and sometimes – for the advanced bot – even comment on your posts. Ah, the beauty of AI…
But it goes deeper than that. (“We have to go deeper!”)
Into the rabbit hole we go.
There’s social media pods, which is 9 times out of 10 a Facebook group OR a Viber/WhatsApp group or a Slack or Discord (ok, a 3rd party platform, you get it) filled with people who have mutually consented to liking and commenting on each other’s posts.
(If you look at Yelp – a platform that insists it’s NOT “social media” – you can see the work of pods more evidently; for example, a popular Yelper may post a review for the gas station down the street and within 15 minutes there’s 30+ upvotes validating how “useful/funny/cool” said review is.)
There’s also the case of sell-out feature accounts, and this surprised me more than it should have, considering I work in SEO. Yeah, you know that super artsy food account you’ve been following? The kind that says “Use #MYHASHTAG to be featured” on their profile, so all aspiring foodie bloggers tag them in the hopes of being featured and getting more promotion…?
MANY OF THESE ACCOUNTS ACCEPT PAYMENT TO BE FEATURED. It’s basically the same concept as those blogs that accept paid guest posts. You literally pay them like, $50 and suddenly you’re featured. It’s less about the organic content and more about the $$$.
And here I was thinking Instagram was run on aspiring photographers or honest creatives. It turns out THE SYSTEM IS CORRUPT. It’s pay to play, all the way.
Yeah, there’s the honest photographers or curators on Instagram still. The ones who think if they throw enough popular hashtags in their caption plus excellent content will guarantee a slow but sure hard-earned success.
You just haven’t heard of them because they’re buried by the black-hat Instagrammers.
I collaborated with my team here at Eminent SEO to create the infographic below, accompanied by a brilliantly written piece by my colleague Remy, who goes into more depth regarding the black-hat tactics I briefly mentioned above: