Let's Talk About Automation

What Is Automation?

Automation is when robots comment and/or like Instagram posts from other people automatically for you. These don't just exist on Instagram, but on all platforms. Instagram and Twitter are most often automated though.

There are plenty of services online that anyone can sign up to. They can do lots of things, automatically follow/unfollow other users, automatically like photos on a specific hashtag, or even comment on photos.

And We Get It

There's a lot of pressure to be online. Once online, the pressure is on growth. More followers, more engagement – more is always better.

Where We're Coming From

We're coming from a standpoint of building an audience. Not just an online audience, but one that is prepared and willing to leave the comfort of their home for an evening to see your act perform live. They'll pay money to do this, plus make the necessary plans to be there.

In Other Words – A Room Full of People

What works on real people? Advertisements work, email campaigns work, and if the audience is very engaged, they might follow your act on some social media platform to make sure they don't miss the next performance.

What doesn't work? An 'engagement message' that is very clearly automated and says nothing of substance.

Automation Gets You Into Trouble, Quick

Evan LePage of Hootsuite wrote this hilarious account of genuinely trying to automate his Instagram engagement (we recommend reading the whole thing).

LePage went straight in for high performance, choosing to automate comments. In his words:

"I tried to choose generic comments that would apply to any situation
– “Nice one!” (This works for about 90 percent of photos)
– ”Damn!” (same idea, but cooler?)
– “I’m jealous!” (I thought this would apply to those beach sunsets and vacation pics)
– “your pics > my pics” (complementary, and encourages them to look at my pics for proof)"

The results were, ehrm, awkward.

"In one case I had commented “damn!” on a random bride’s wedding photo (she graciously said ‘thank you’ instead of calling me a creep). I had also written “I’m jealous!” on a photo of a man beside a very ugly painting that he was clearly ridiculing (What was I jealous of? Did I want the ugly painting? Did I want to be ridiculed?). And, the worst of the bunch, I commented “your pics > my pics” on a selfie of a boy who was clearly in middle school. In fact, his account was composed of only four pictures, three of them selfies. I felt uncomfortable. The teenage boy told me I was being modest."

It Gets Worse

We know firsthand (and need to filter those things out from gogoCapture) that there's a lot of questionable content that gets posted on Instagram – up to and including graphic adult content and drugs being bought and sold.

While LePage's examples with the bride and the teenage boy are definitely awkward, at least the potential for damage is limited.

There are ways to see what an Instagram profile likes and comments on. Imagine if your carefully crafted brand is seen posting "Damn!" on a photo of content of illegal nature, or seen liking a bunch of photos that have religious quotes, questionable celebrities, or literally porn.

That's Why Automating Engagement is a Horrible Idea

The gains are close to zero. The odds of turning any of those random users into tickets are slim to none.

The downsides can be severe. Best case is alienating or diluting your actual audience, and worst case could be a serious scandal around your brand.

This is not just on Instagram, but across all platforms.

Building an audience has always been hard. The internet has revolutionised reach and potential for growth, but that doesn't mean building an audience isn't still hard. Selling tickets requires actual people to buy those tickets. Cheap tricks will come across to those people, as exactly that, cheap.