When you head to Google and type in the phrase, “How to get more done in less time”, you’ll quickly realize that entrepreneurs, brands, agencies and even independent creatives trying to pitch themselves in a marketplace all focus on one buzzword:
The secret-not-so-secret powers of automation apparently include saving copious amounts of time and money, cutting down on the amount of time you need to spend on social media and actually helping you make more money through auto-billing clients.
These are all true — but only when taken with a grain of salt. Inevitably, Instagram has its own version of automation: the Instagram bot and the apps that set you up with your new bot version of Alfred the butler.
But is Instagram the exception to the automation rule?
Here are 5 hard-learned lessons about making Instagram automation work for you.
1. Automate Followers…then Prune
Using Instagram automation works — but in very specific cases.
You must know the limits and strengths of the platform you’re using as well as the bots themselves. What features does the platform offer?
Let’s put lesson number one this way: use automation to either start the research process or end the posting process. But don’t use it for the chunk in the middle: engagement.
You can definitely use Instagram bots to do some of the heavy lifting of research into hashtags, competitors and relevant accounts you want to zone in on to build a relationship.
But you can’t leave the building of a relationship to a bot. If you could do that, successfully, we’d have a less staggering divorce rate.
Kidding (kind of).
But the point is this: Instagram is now a vast platform and, to use automation wisely means understanding what its good at. Automation is good for cutting down on time spent, not necessarily cutting it out.
So allow your bot platform to root out information you may otherwise have to spend hours looking for. But then it is up to you to take it from there.
Decide which of these accounts are truly relevant and do some research into the metrics of the chosen hashtags. Remember that you should going for a high engagement with a low count (10K to 100K, where possible).
2. Say It Right
People are now using an Instagram bot for leaving comments. Rather than taking the time to head to the individual’s page or leaving consistent comments within their feed, you can now use bots to leave comments on selected pages for you.
The problem is the same as when trying to get any bot to communicate on behalf of you: these are not organic, human interactions and so they don’t feel like human interaction. There is something strange and artificial in the communication process that the end user can intuitively sense, even if they can articulate it right away.
Bots, like any form of automation, are great at taking orders and even, as Siri shows, asking guiding questions. They use systematic if/then, pre-programmed instructions to carry out functions.
But they’re not able to qualitatively evaluate a photo and then decide on the text that would be most appropriate for the given context.
In fact, “context” is not in their vocabulary. So until we get AI bots or automation based on learning neural networks, skip using automation to comment.
Otherwise, you’ll end up with a comment like “Nice one!” on a photo commemorating a fallen veteran. Or something equally as awkward — at best — and totally wrong, at worst.
3. Brands — This One’s For You
Here’s a really important lesson: as a a brand, you’ve got the start-up capital to hire a team, no matter how lean. Whether you make your copywriter your social media manager and your accountant, all at the same time, or not, is entirely up to you.
But brands should not be using Instagram automation or bots to post. Building relationships with their fans is what brands are all about. Any inauthenticity in these interaction or comments that are out of context can damage the brand-customer relationship and perception.
Furthermore, because brands rely so much on marketing, there needs to be someone who is managing their Instagram identity as this individual will be able to root into the metrics.
Instagram insights is where humans can understand their key demographic and then refine their strategy, making decisions on posting and content type but also getting a chance to understand where on the buyer’s journey their fans or audience are or even what the particular customer avatars are.
Bots can deliver data but these nuances, especially for brands, are best left up to a community or social media manager.
4. Use Automation for Posting
Here’s the best place for automation and where you can really take advantage of cutting down on time as well as refining the overall process: posting.
Using apps like Later, IFTTT, and Social Sproud you can automate pre-filtered, and ready-to-go photos that can be queued up to your Instagram account.
While some will upload automatically based on a predetermined time you’ve set for posting, others will drop the reminder and post you need directly on to your phone so you can remember to post right away.
This means you can get truly organized, with an Instagram-specific posting calendar, write out captions in advance and queue up posts while you’re off doing something else.
5. Hand hold your Bot & Check In Periodically
Here’s the best lesson that undergirds all the tips above: don’t leave your bot unattended and unsupervised. It may not swallow small parts and color the walls with markers but it may just put you in situations where your account could be flagged or suspended.
Look at the Instagram automation platforms that use bots like a very useful tool that you can put under your employ. But, always, you must be checking and guiding it, refining your parameters and helping it to help you do the work.
The work, after all, is unavoidable.
Use Instagram automation for its perks, not its setbacks and you’ll be good to go.