Wanted: Instagram Vanity Metrics. The war is underway.
In terms of entering the mass market, the internet has been around for over a generation now. Those of us that were around in the beginning, witnessed several digital wars. At the time, it is possible we couldn’t fully comprehend what we were looking at. They make more sense looking back.
For example, there was the browser war between Microsoft and Netscape. We watched the search engine war. I was rooting for Alta Vista. Unfortunately Yahoo acquired them and Google took the crown. The social media war, where MySpace grasped defeat from the jaws of victory, handing the reins over to Facebook.
Internet nostalgia. Good times, good times.
Today, I’d say we are witnessing the cryptocurrency and blockchain wars. The AR and VR wars are coming to a headset near you. All these battles for supremacy have shaped the way we use the internet today.
There seems to be another war underway. Many are aware of the practice, though may not consider it a war. The result of this battle will not reshape the way we function on line, however there are companies competing for the top slot. What battle are we talking about?
It is the “Instagram Followers for Sale” war.
Also referred to as the “Buy Instagram Likes” War and the “Buy Instagram Engagement” War. Anyway you want to call it, you’re buying and it revolves around Instagram.
Yes, grab your popcorn and watch this unfold.
That is unless Instagram actually enforces its own policies.
As reported by Josh Constine of Tech Crunch, many of these “buy followers” services have been running ads on Instagram. Yes, Instagram was supposed to have banned these systems due to rule violations. In reality they are profiting from ads from these same systems.
Wow. Just wow.
You don’t have to spend much time on Instagram to come across accounts offering follows, likes, and comments for a price. It is news they have actually been running ads.
Who was the first person to even attempt to run an ad like this? Was it treated as a company suicide mission? Like, we’re probably going to get completely banned from this platform but whatev.. Here goes nothing. Submit. Approved?!
While this issue isn’t going to be thrown into the same category as data misuse, and election issues, it does demonstrate that Facebook either cannot or will not police it’s own advertising system. These are paid ads. Not posts buried in the feed somewhere.
This isn’t something that just slipped through the cracks, as an unnamed Instagram spokesperson suggested. Constine reports he was able to speak with a few people running these services. He notes that Ez-Grow’s co founder claims he is spending $500 a day on Instagram ads. Social Fuse is spending a couple hundred dollars per day between Facebook and Instagram.
The report doesn’t say how long the ads have been running at these dollar amounts, but it stands to reason, this was not their first day on the job. At $500 per day, we’re talking $182,500 per year in Instagram ads. Not exactly chump change. There seems to be a market for purchased Instagram metrics.
Facebook apologies on copy and paste.
Of course the Instagram spokesperson gave the typical and tired response. The same old “we need to get better.. we’re taking action.. we’re committed to improving” bullshit that Facebook loves to spew.
Seriously, it might as well be a recording of Zucks apologizing out of his Harvard dorm room. Say you’re sorry and continue doing exactly what you we’re going to do in the first place. This strategy has largely worked out well for him so far.
A couple things.
Referring to clients, Ez-Grow’s co-founder mentioned “now we even watch stories for them”.. Intertwined in those stories, are likely to be other ads. Just what a legitimate advertiser wants to discover. Their ad is potentially running in front of viewer who also runs ads. It just so happens the viewer run ads that offer a service that clearly violate Instagram’s rules. Not only did they get approved, they turn a profit. Think about that.
And they thought bots we’re the only thing skewing their metrics. Who says the advertising system is broken?
Pay attention to the methods and tactics some of these services use to obtain followers. Some services, require you provide your Instagram name and Password. Yes you have to give them your password and let them access your account. Unreal.
Then they do the old “follow – unfollow” thing. For those who are unfamiliar – follow numerous accounts in hopes a significant portion of those accounts will follow back. At a later point, unfollow all of them. Repeat over and over. Nothing builds trust like that type of shit.
Literally this is what you are paying for. Spam. The same spam you can do yourself. Whatever happened to go old fashion unwanted emails. And it’s worth repeating, they have your password.
In other methods, your followers come in the form of dead accounts, sometimes bot generated, often with a privacy setting applied. No likes or comments from them. Just zombies accounts that are feasting on your brain that you handed them when you bought them as followers.
At any time, Instagram can purge all of them. Go to bed with 5k followers wake up with, 700. Ouch. Didn’t check the refund policies on these services but let’s just assume the money is gone.
Theory on how and why these ads were approved.
How did it these ads get through? Only those on the inside can give a real, fact laced answer. Since that will never happen, we can only theorize. I’ll take a shot at it..
Since these ads are a clear and blatant violation, they should be an easy catch, right? The discussion on Facebook’s end should be along the lines of “nice try, how stupid do you think we are”. Instead we have a journalist at Techcrunch pointing it out and explaining why it’s a bad thing.
So here are a few possibilities:
Facebook’s AI, machine learning, or whatever tech they are using, is straight up terrible. These ads were littered with easy keywords, that should have been simple to detect back in 1999 let alone 2019. The advertisers didn’t even try and throw Instagram off course. Likes, followers, boost.. All over the ads, clear as day.
A shortage of humans checking on the ads. Think about it.. People had to accuse Facebook of playing a role in the genocide in Myanmar for them to get humans working on things. Why would something like this be any type of priority?
There may be commissions, bonuses, and quotas, involved. It’s possible they saw the issue and didn’t want to turn away money. Let is slip once, twice, then again, now it’s the norm. The issue that happened at Wells Fargo should not be forgotten. People can be driven to extremes when pressured with hitting numbers or losing their livelihood. Some results of those pressures at play here.
Maybe there are too many knuckleheads working there. Not just eyes on the ads, but decision makers in the system, who shouldn’t be making decisions. People implementing protocols and guidelines. Non-leaders, leading. People who don’t care or half ass things. Over the course of time, screw ups like this are to be expected.
Again, it’s all speculation. Facebook is obviously cranking up the Instagram ad machine, It went from no ads, to some ads, to ads in the stories., and now ads are coming across every fourth or fifth image. Hey they didn’t pay a billion dollars for no reason.
Who wins the Instagram followers war?
The unfolding of these events have changed the game. Instagram has banned these accounts, but the truly committed will adjust. The landscape might scatter to new platforms but the battle continues. Can these same services advertise on Google ads? How about Twitter, Reddit, or Tumblr? Snap maybe? If not, there is no shortage of blogs looking to up their ad revenue.
There is an obvious market for buying these metrics, whether they serve any practical purpose or not. Yes, it looks ridiculous to have 15k followers and average 50 likes per image with a few comments here and there. Maybe others don’t notice, maybe they don’t care. I can’t help but smell the desperation through the screen.
Whatever Instagram’s original intentions were when Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched the platform, or whatever it has evolved into over the years, there is a certain element of vanity ingrained in it. To what degree that vanity registers, is dependent on the behavior of the individual user. It only makes sense that vanity metrics will be sought out from outside sources, when they cannot be generated organically. The followers war rages on.
I’m going to predict there will be no winner in this war. Previous battles for digital supremacy were fought to become the user’s destiny. They would become the virtual land, where the user would operate. This gives a certain degree of control and leverage to the winning platform.
Follower services are fighting the battle on land they do not own. They might win a few battles, they might make a few bucks. Eventually, all of them will lose the “cat and mouse game” they have to play. In the end, Instagram will be the victor, and Facebook a little bit richer.
Thank you for reading