Faking it on Instagram means many things to different people.
Buying Fake Followers.
Pods. Threads. Farms. And don’t even get me started on Telegram.
Actually, I will get started on Telegram, but in a bit.
This post isn’t me sitting on my high horse sanctimoniously casting judgment over other’s actions though. It’s about the effect it’s had on my mental health and my business.
You might read this and think I’m just bitter or jealous because I don’t have hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. I hope not, but I appreciate that you might.
What’s real and what’s fake on Instagram?
Hands up, it’s hard to tell all of the time but there are some tell-tale signs on how to spot someone who’s faking it.
- A channels’ Follower count might grow in thousands over the space of just a few days.
- After posting an image, they might accrue an unusually high number of Likes in the first 30 minutes.
- The Like/Comment ratio is oddly disproportionate on everything they post. E.g. hundreds of Likes but only a few Comments.
- Their engagement rate is much higher than the worlds biggest celebrities get.
- The comments they do get tend to be around four words in length and often feature the phrase “sounds like a great product” or “sounds like you had a great time” etc. Um, since when did an image sound like anything?
For a better account of how to spot a fake on Instagram, read this article.
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I stressed out so much over what to wear to the awards. I never GO anywhere fancy and have no dresses for stuff like this! . I got this from @chichiclothing via @asos_au and love it so much – I was a bag of nerves and it helped make me feel a bit more confident. . Plus, it’s clearly in my all-time fave colour ???? . . . . . #ausmum18 #ausmumpreneur #ausmumpreneurawards #mumsinbusiness #mumsinbiz #mumpreneur #mumpreneurs #mumboss #momboss #mamapreneur #businesswoman #businesswomen #mumsinbiz #ambitiouswomen #inspirationalwomen #femalesinbusiness #femaleentrepreneurs #mumstyle #fashionover30 #instamums #realmumstyle #fashionafter30 #outfitinspo #nearly40 #fashionover40 #outfitoftheday #dresslikeamum #wiw #mumfashion
But are they all fake?
No, absolutely not. Some accounts genuinely explode overnight.
Some influencers, businesses and celebrities do have raving fans that are constantly refreshing their feed to see the latest happenings on their account.
I know many influencers and businesses who have accounts like this. Whose followers hang on their every word and who take real and immediate action when the influencer makes a recommendation.
So why do I care about this?
Because for months, if not years, Instagram has slowly chipped away at my self-confidence.
My images aren’t good enough, my life isn’t instagrammable enough, I’m not posting at the right time.
Hell, I’m just boring/ugly/weird. (I do appreciate that this might be true btw).
It got to me so much that I made two stupid mistakes.
Firstly, I tried to copy what other Instagrammers were doing. It was working for them, so why not me? I tried the same filters, angles, even style of writing captions.
Of course, it didn’t work for me because it wasn’t genuine – and followers aren’t stupid.
Plus, you have to have a real passion and skill to make things successful and making someone else’s idea work for you, well, doesn’t work.
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Biggest learning from the @mums.and.co MPowered conference today for me…stop feeling like I’m not good enough, own who I am and my values and have more confidence to go for things. ? Not always easy though, is it? ☺️ Do you ever wonder if you’re on the right path? x . . . . . #selfconfidence #selfesteem #followyourheart #followyourownpath #followyourarrow #confidence #positivethinking #betruetoyourself #girlpower #mumpreneur #mumpreneurs #australianmums #mpowered2018 #empoweringwomen #empoweringmums #momlife #mompreneur #momboss #selfstartmums #mumlife #mumsinbusiness #momsinbusiness #businessmom #businessmum #motivationalquotes #motivationmonday #inspirationalquotes #mumbosses #goodenoughmum
Secondly, I joined pods. Pods and Threads to get more Likes and Comments. This was a long time ago btw.
For those of you who don’t know, pods and threads are a bit different but essentially the same thing. You go in with a group or a list of people/posts and agree to all Like, Comment or Follow each others posts.
This was a while back now and what started as the occasional participation quickly became an addiction. I’m going to focus on Instagram particularly here (although Facebook and every other channel you can think of is part of this too).
Why did I do it?
The intention of participating in these groups was to try to ‘beat the Instagram algorithm’. The consensus generally is that if your post performs well on Instagram in the first ten minutes of posting, Instagram will show it in more people’s feeds and the chances of it appearing in their Explore section is higher.
So I played along, thrilled that my posts were getting 10-50 more Likes and Comments than before. I purposefully only joined pods/threads with other’s in my niche because I didn’t want to attract anyone outside of it. So I joined with other influencer/blogging mums. I also signed up to an automated service that has your account Like certain hashtags like #mumlife etc.
I didn’t ever follow anyone or comment on anyone’s posts automatically though – that kind of bot crap makes me cringe.
These were the days before Telegram, by the way – it was a while back.
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Nearly 2.5 years since I finished chemo – sweet Jesus my hair grows slooooowly! But it’s getting there ? . Annoyingly, it’s also started falling out again because #stress but hoping that stops soon. Do you get physical symptoms when you’re feeling stressed? . . . . . #hairloss #chemohair #chemohairgrowth #hairgrowth #hairgrowthjourney #finehair #finehairproblems #mumhair #mumhairdontcare #growhair #growhairgrow #alopecia #losinghair #selfconfidence #selfesteem #instamum #instamums #bob #shortbob #bobhaircut #brunette #brunettegirl #feelingstresed #hairlosshelp #hairlossproblem #hairlossprevention #stressedout #selfcare
But then I got addicted.
Addicted to the higher stats. And it became a habit to start participating in threads and pods every day, sometimes multiple times a day.
It took SO much time and my anxiety levels went through the roof because some of these threads had a cap on how many people could participate. First in, best dressed.
And I was so hooked that I started participating in groups that were out of my niche. Big mistake.
Then one day, I realised that as well as the time and stress this kind of action was causing me, it wasn’t even bloody working.
My Follower count had grown minimally. And the number of Likes and Comments I received on my posts apart from the podder ones hadn’t grown a bit.
But the addiction then turned to fear.
When I stopped participating, my stats would crash. I would be FOUND OUT.
Would brands stop working with me if I looked like I had less ‘influence’?
How I stopped being fake on Instagram.
This was a while back now and I’m glad I made the decision to stop overnight.
I removed myself from pods, groups and threads and you know what happened? Not that much.
Yes, the number of Likes and Comments on my Instagram posts dipped massively overnight but then, in a matter of weeks, it crept back up. Instagram started showing my posts to my actual followers again.
I really believe that Instagram had sussed what I was doing and had probably started hiding my posts from my followers but when I stopped trying to game the system, started showing them again.
By the way, I have never PURCHASED Likes, Comments or Followers on any channel.
I’m adding that unless you include the use of Facebook and Instagram ads as I have ran those to increase followers and engagement. These ads have been highly targeted though to attract the right people who will enjoy my content and stick around.
I have participated in reciprocal threads and pods a while back and never would again. I have never touched Telegram and never will. Just my choice.
How NOT being fake on Instagram has affected my business
For the last few years, I’ve collaborated with brands on sponsored Instagram posts.
This is where I will be paid a fee to, in some way, promote their product or service in my feed.
I try to limit the number of sponsored posts I do but you’ll easily be able to tell because I use the hashtags #sponsored or #ad or #collab etc and make it very clear that it’s a sponsored post.
My sponsored posts generally do not get as many Likes and Comments as the non-sponsored ones for two reasons.
- it’s just the way it is – can’t say much more than that. People don’t like sponsored posts as much as non-sponsored and don’t interact as much because of this.
- my other posts tend to be much more personal about my mental health struggles, health issues such as cancer etc – they’re probably more relatable and compelling to those who follow me. They have much more of a reason to interact because followers see themselves in these images and captions.
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Trying to stay positive but always quietly shitting myself that it will come back. . Especially today. . Tomorrow is annual scan and mammogram day – results next week. . The last few weeks, actually months, have been a steady build up to being stressed and anxious AF and I just want it to be over. . No real sleep, lots of memory issues, mood swings and a constant background noise of ‘what ifs’. . It will be over soon – the waiting bit I mean, and hopefully the anxiousness. . And then it’s like your life is handed back to you and the positivity comes back. . But I hate this part. I really really hate it. And I wish this bit wasn’t a part of my life – or anyone’s. . I can’t believe it’s been three years. . . . . . #breastcancer #breastcancersurvivor #survivorship #cancersurvivor #mamogramssavelives #mentalhealth #mumlife #lifeaftercancer #grateful #mindfulmum #aussiemum #anxiety #anxiousmummy #anxiousmommy #mentalillness #yourenotalone #ptsd #spreadthelove #itsoktonotbeok #depression #mentalhealthawareness #aftercancer #afterbreastcancer #anxiousmother #cancer #cancersucks #fuckcancer #cancerawareness
Am I tempted to put my sponsored posts into engagement pods or threads to bump up the numbers?
I’m not prepared to waste my time, money or a brands’ money by creating what I now know is fake engagement. I wish I had never done so.
Yet there are some brands and some agencies who just don’t get it. Who would rather turn a blind eye to what’s really happening on Instagram.
Or, worse still, actively encourage fake behaviour.
It’s all very well to call influencers ‘fake’ but everyone needs to take ownership of this issue.
Influencers have gained a pretty crap reputation in the last few years for being fake or money-grabbing.
But recently, an ‘influencer agency’ has encouraged me to ‘boost’ my stats by buying Instagram followers so that I can work with them. I declined. They were not the kind of real followers who would stay with me, they were fake profiles.
Another brand, who pitched a sponsored collaboration to me, then retracted because they “usually work with influencers on a higher engagement and follower level”.
But, Mrs Agency, does it lead to any sales for you?
Does working with influencers who participate in Telegram groups or engagement threads and pods get you any ROI other than Likes and Comments? Does it translate to sales?
There are many bloggers and businesses who participate in Telegram pods – it’s no secret who does and doesn’t. It’s easy to spot.
And each to their own – if you have the time, or can employ a VA, to participate in pods and groups then go for your life if you really want to.
And can I just add again that I know that not all big accounts do this – I know many who do not. Plus, it isn’t all the big players, many small accounts play the game too.
It’s all the ‘rage’
So my own rage to the fakeness on Instagram is slowly subsiding. I’m out.
Rather than stress over slogging away to build my follower count, to try and write a more compelling caption or filter a photo fifty ways to appear younger, brighter and oh-so-more-instagrammable, I say ‘fuck it’.
If that means I’m not an Influencer, I don’t care.
I have never wanted to be an Influencer yet I got caught up with the hype of being bigger, bigger, bigger.
But I actually enjoy writing, connecting and teaching.
I receive hundreds of emails from my blog readers to say that something I’ve written has resonated with them. That I’ve helped them with a tiny hack to being more organised at home.
That they’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and found me after desperately searching for a positive story on Google.
That they’ve always wanted to work for themselves but needed the inspiration on how to start.
Even that winning a giveaway I’ve run has made their day because their husband has just lost his job and they couldn’t afford to buy what they needed for their new baby.
So whilst I might not be influencing the masses on Instagram, I’m not going to stress over it anymore either.
I love Instagram, I love having a go at taking a picture. I love trying to come up with a little caption that might spark a conversation.
And that’s enough for me.
What are your thoughts on faking it on Instagram?
Voicing my opinion on Instagram has opened the door to a lot of open conversations with my blogging peers and it’s good to know that so many others share my views. In fact, many who were caught up in the Telegram bubble have since burst out and haven’t regretted it.
I’ll put my hands up, I’m still going back and forward on the whole “grow your account” addiction. Because essentially, I want to be liked. I’m human.
I’m still 100% committed to never buying fake/bot followers though and any growth strategies I put in place that are not organic will be completely targeted to people who are real and who are in my blog’s niche.
I want people to stick with me because they like my content and I want them to engage with me. No fakes.
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