Popular automation services Instagress and Mass Planner have bitten the dust. Is this the end of Instagram automation?
There are plenty of people upset, and also plenty of people jumping for joy — and for good reason.
It’s important to note that the kind of automation we’re talking about here was never really allowed in the first place. Programs like Instagress, Mass Planner, and Follow Liker were always breaking Instagram’s TOS, but many many people got away with it if they were careful and stuck to certain guidelines.
For this reason, automation programs were a godsend to some busy people and business owners — because handling your whole Instagram strategy manually every day is a lot to ask of entrepreneurs who also have Pinterest, Facebook groups, blog posts, collaborations, advertising, sales, etc to look after on a daily basis as well.
On the other hand, programs like Instagress and Mass Planner have caused rampant inappropriate comments (like a good ol’ “awesome pic!” comment on a photo of you in the hospital), “fake” likes, followers, and annoying bots. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t many real people left on Instagram at all.
But alas, it’s all coming crashing down…
Instagram’s War on False Engagement
A few weeks ago (as of this writing) in April of 2017, Instagram shut down the very popular automation program Instagress.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Instagress is a service that Instagram users could use to automatically perform actions like following, commenting, and liking. With this service, you could follow hundreds of users per day, leave loads of comments, and give thousands of likes.
Why do this?
Because engaging with others on Instagram is one of THE best ways to get them to notice you and follow your account.
But as of April 2017 — one down. No more Instagress.
Then, in May of 2017 Instagram registered another win against another similar automation service — big hitter Mass Planner was shut down.
Mass Planner is similar to Instagress in that it can be used to automate liking, commenting, and following on Instagram, but it can also be used for other social media platforms as well.
As of May 2017 — two down. No more Instagress, and no more Mass Planner.
This begs the question: is Follow Liker next?
My best guess is that it’s just a matter of time.
With the shutdown of these two popular automation services and the recent talk of “shadow banning”, it seems like Instagram is really focused on getting rid of spammers and returning to more authentic engagement on the platform.
Though the “shadow ban” is mostly speculation, there are plenty of people having trouble getting seen on the platform and are finding their content missing from the hashtag search.
This could be due to using strategies that Instagram considers “spammy”, or something as simple as an ongoing glitch with hashtags that Instagram addressed on their Facebook page in February:
So it’s safe to say that this has been an issue for a while, and without a direct response on the whole “shadow banning” issue from Instagram it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s not.
But with all the excitement and change going on, what can you do in order to keep on growing your audience without the use of automation or breaking the rules?
I’ve got you covered.
Here are a few things you can do to save time and still keep a health level of growth on your Instagram account.
1.Go Manual or hire a VA to do it for you
If you’ve got the time to dedicate to Instagram everyday, doing all your following, liking and commenting yourself is definitely the way to go.
It’s the most authentic option, and you’ll be able to target your ideal audience even better than if you used an automated bot (plus build real relationships with your potential customers).
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend hours on Instagram everyday to see great results — but you DO need to be able to spend a few minutes on the platform several times per day. I.e. spending 10 minutes liking and commenting on the posts of my target audience, repeating 4 times per day (at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, and 4pm).
Because Instagram has limits to how many likes, comments, and follows you can do per hour. That’s why you’ll need to spread out your strategy throughout the day in order to grow your following.
Generally, the limits are 60 follows, 60 comments, and 350 likes per hour. If you want to avoid getting locked out of performing these actions or getting banned, keep below these limits.
If you’re looking for more ways to grow your account the RIGHT way (without relying on automation that may get you banned), I have a free cheat sheet that will walk you through exactly what you need to do in order to succeed. Interested? Sign up below:
I realize this is inconvenient, spending small amounts of time throughout the day as opposed to getting it all done at once, but it’s what we have to work with (curse you Instagram!). It can also be very distracting if you’re constantly dropping what you’re doing to get back to Instagram every hour or two.
If you don’t have the time to do all this yourself (and you have a budget to work with), you can hire a virtual assistant to do it for you. There are lots of lovely VA’s out there who can perform menial tasks for you, and that includes looking after your social media accounts.
2. Cut down on time by scheduling your Instagram posts
I know this doesn’t cover your growth strategies that involve engaging with your audience, but if you’ve got to spend more time in the future doing things manually (as a result of the shutdown of your automation program), you can cut down on your time spent in other areas to make up for it.
By using a program like Later or Plann, you can batch schedule your posts for the week and not have to worry about coming up with compelling captions or the figuring out the perfect hashtags on the fly.
Please keep in mind that there are currently no “true” set-it-and-forget-it Instagram schedulers — both these apps with send you a notification at the scheduled time and you’ll have to manually hit the Publish button.
This is because Instagram doesn’t allow this kind of automatic posting. There are apps out there that do post automatically for you(like Grum for example), but I’d be wary of using them at this point.
Especially with the way Instagram has been putting its foot down with programs who break their rules. If “shadow banning” is a real phenomenon, it’s probably best to stay away from anything and everything that goes against Instagram’s TOS — which programs like Grum do.
You probably don’t want your social reach to take a hit for the sake of convenience.
3. Join an engagement group to boost your likes, comments, and followers
Since automation is out, what is a legitimate way to boost the engagement on your posts and gain more targeted followers?
The best answer I can give you right now is to join or create an engagement group.
There are two main types that are most popular and effective:
Small Instagram DM groups with a maximum of 15 people per group.
Basically, you want to form a private message group on Instagram with other people in your niche.
When you publish a new photo to Instagram, you post about in in your DM group and everyone in the group likes and comments on your photo. In return, you do the same for everyone else in the group when they publish something.
This helps you get a boost in likes and comments, encourages your own audience to like and comment, and exposes you to audiences similar to your own.
Join enough groups like these and you can see a considerable boost in follower growth when you post great content (but make sure you stick within your niche for best results!).
Large engagement groups or ‘Rounds’ groups on Telegram.
Since Instagram DM groups are limited to 15 people, many larger groups have formed on other platforms as a result. The platform of choice right now is a chat app known as Telegram (if you’re not familiar with it).
Groups of several hundred to several thousand people join these groups and participate in like rounds at scheduled times.
That way, if you post at the same time as a round, you can get a BIG boost in engagement right away, which can in turn push your post to Instagram’s Explore page.
What’s so great about the Explore page? Once you land there, your post gets exposed to a wider audience of people who are not already following you, and it has a chance to go viral — netting you hundreds of new followers in one go. You’ll still need a bit of luck and the right content to achieve this, but it is incredibly effective when you get it to work.
Interested in joining our Telegram group? Read more about it and sign up here!
What are your thoughts on the end of automated programs on Instagram? Good thing / bad thing? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or sign up to learn more ways to grow your Instagram successfully with my free cheat sheet: