Mass Planner is down: Instagram’s bot battle and how you can overcome it

Instagram has come out all guns blazing in its battle against the bots.

Instagress was just the beginning. Early this week, in one fell swoop, it shut down five bot/automated services – Mass Planner, Easy Social Grow, Instaplus, Fan Harvest, Peer Boost.

shut down

It’s obvious, Instagram wants real human engagement. Don’t we all? Yes, bots save time, but what is the point of getting followers and likes from machines? Your buyers don’t get to see your account or your products and you don’t see your sales going anywhere.

Personally, I’m really tired of seeing ‘Awesome!’ under posts completely unrelated to awesomeness. I once put up a memorial post for my dog, and got 20 variations of ‘Great’ and ‘Fantastic’ with happy faces. I would rather have no comments at all than ones so blatantly automated.

But, if you have been dependent on these services to auto manage your Instagram, this has not been good news. You may have been up tossing and turning all night wondering what to do about your Instagram engagement.

Take a step back, don’t panic. You can overcome this.

If Instagram wants organic engagement, you give it organic engagement. What is clear from Instagram’s current strategy is that if you want to be in Instagram’s good books, you need to come up with good content.

Here’s what you can do to amp up your engagement:

1. Bad photographs are out

There may be a photograph you really like, but if it’s grainy or blurry and has an unpleasant angle, refrain from posting it. Instagram is a visual content medium, not your family album. If you want to develop your brand aesthetic, you have to play by some rules.

If you really want to post the photograph on your social media, try Facebook or Twitter. Leave Instagram out of it. Although the better thing to do would be to hold your heart, chuck that photograph and post a high quality image, irrespective of which social media channel you are using.

Good photographs liven up your feed and for a medium so entirely visual as Instagram, you shouldn’t compromise on this aspect.

PRO TIPS: 

  • Avoid using Instagram’s camera. It doesn’t have the functional tools that, say, your iPhone camera will have. If you have a DSLR, use that over a phone camera. Since you cannot upload photos through the Instagram website, email the photos to yourself, open them on your phone and upload to the Instagram app.
  • Always shoot in natural light. Lowlight indoor photographs don’t come out as good. Steer clear of the flash.
  • Shoot horizontally rather than vertically. Photographs come out better this way. You can always crop it later.
  • Pay attention to composition. Take into account the surroundings – the objects, the color palette, the area you want to include in your picture. Do you want it to look busy or do you want it spaced out? Do you want a front angle, a low angle or a flatlay? Consider all of it before clicking the shutter button.
  • Take lots of photos, then choose the best one for upload. The more photos you take, the more options you’ll have. It’s always better to be spoilt for choice than to be compelled to post something for lack of choice.
  • Edit. Yes, natural is all good, but on a medium where you’re trying to appeal to people’s visual senses, editing doesn’t hurt. Filter apps like VSCO Cam, A Color Story, Afterlight are all the rage. Don’t just use one app for editing. Mix up and see what works best, but ensure you don’t go overboard. The key is to make a photograph look as natural as possible in spite of the editing tools used. Subtlety is your mantra.

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2. Step up your caption game

A lot of times, we tend to ignore this. After all, Instagram’s about photographs. Who’s going to care about captions, right? Wrong.

Captions are the way to tell your story. Not everything can be conveyed through the photograph. Or maybe your followers want to know what went on behind the photograph. A little write-up does no harm. Leave them a story, a personal anecdote, anything relevant to the photograph that you think will catch their interest.

PRO TIPS:

  • Create a story. People love stories. It’s the most human way to communicate without having a conversation.
  • If you’re not the kind to write long-form, try short and witty one-liners. Anything that will give your audience a glimpse into your personality. This adds a personal touch that will keep the audience hooked enough to stay.
  • Use relevant keywords. When writing the caption, ensure it has keywords appropriate to the content of the post. This way you will figure high on searches by virtue of Instagram’s algorithm, which has now turned its focus entirely on quality content. Try Wordstream to look for keywords.

charity water

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3. Hashtags rule the day

The most efficient way of getting your profile out there is through hashtags.

This doesn’t mean you put in all the hashtags that you can think of. Hashtags should be a good mix of the trend-heavy, generic ones, as well as ones that cater specifically to your niche audience.

Suppose, you’re a seller of yoga-wear looking to target young mothers who practice yoga. Simply using #yoga, which has 34.5 million posts tagged under it, will make your post disappear under the flux of further posts without generating any traffic at all. On the other hand, #yogamom (1.2 million posts), especially geared toward a target group, will make your post rank high and send browsers your way. The list of hashtags you use for your post should be a balance of the popular and the particular.

PRO TIP:

Looking for the best hashtags for your post can be both cumbersome and time-consuming. If you use the OrangeTwig app for your social media marketing, you can use the hashtag research tool as part of the InstaSuccess toolkit, to apply the most relevant hashtags to your posts.

Don’t worry, OrangeTwig is fully compliant with Instagram’s policies and has been approved by Instagram.

4. Call-to-action for realtime engagement

Your audience will stick around with you if you actively engage with them. Irrespective of whether you’re running a business account or not, your account needs personality and a voice. That comes through only when you interact with your audience. Not all CTAs have to be business related. Just throw in a question at the end of your caption. Of course, it should be relevant to the post and not just any question.

PRO TIPS:

  • Personal stories will move your audience to engage in conversation. Even if you’re plugging in a product from your store, you can write a story around it. Talk about the creative process, the practical problems you may have run into while in the process. The human touch through a machine-oriented medium is always a win,
  • Leave questions for your audience to answer. Questions can range from something as generic as ‘How do you manage your time?’, to something as personal as, ‘Have you ever found yourself in a creative block? How did you overcome it?’, depending on the nature of the post.
  • Reply to comments. The more your audience sees you responding to them, the more encouraged they will be to engage further. And once Instagram’s algorithms see actual engagement happening, they are more likely to feature you high up on the search feed.
  • Reward your followers. Hold contests for them on reaching milestones, such as a certain big follower count. This is a way of giving back to them. It makes your followers feel important and appreciated.
  • Repost. Repost content you like from other accounts. This way you can end up partnering with other similar accounts, reposting and by default, promoting each other’s Instagram accounts. This is a good engagement driver. You can do this easily through OrangeTwig’s InstaSuccess Toolkit.
  • Like and comment on your followers’ accounts. Know what they are up to. By regularly leaving behind comments and likes, you will also stay on their minds and they will keep coming back to your profile.

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5. It’s all about the right timing

Once you start interacting with your audience, you’ll start noticing when the comments and responses to your posts are flowing in. This will give you a fair idea of when your target group is online. Zero in on this time span and create/schedule your posts at this hour.

For a long time now, Instagram’s algorithms stopped showing posts chronologically. Now the top posts are always the ones with more engagement, the ones Instagram thinks you’re more likely to be interested in.

If you post at a time when you’re followers are online most, you’re likely to get instant likes and comments, which, within an hour’s time will push your post to the top of the feed. The key here is to engage quickly. Swift engagement will increase your engagement even further.

PRO TIPS:

  • Weekdays see better engagement than weekends. Most people are too busy doing other things than staying online on weekends. You’ll get more hits on the weekdays.
  • On weekdays, post during off-work hours. Most people are online during the hour following their last work hour. Gauge your audience. Do most of them have 9 to 5 jobs? Then they’ll most likely be online during the 5-7 slot. They are also most likely to be online during the hours before work.
  • Avoid posting late into the night. Not very many users are active at this time. Unless, of course, you are specifically catering to an audience in an different time zone than yours. For that, you have to revolve your strategy around your customers’ time zone.
  • Find out when your followers are most active and what demographic those followers fall into, through Instagram Insights. Instagram Insights is a feature available only on Instagram Business profiles, that provide you with more information on who your followers are, when they are online and what they are engaging with. All you have to do is go to your profile and click on the bar sign on the top right. It also gives you post-specific insights.

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6. Link up your shop to your business profile

You have a business page. You’re on your way to establish your brand. But where are you leading your potential customers?

You can have a horde of followers, but you lose out when you do not lead them to your shop.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram allows you to put up only one clickable link – in the bio. Make sure you fill this in. A lot of businesses miss out on marketing opportunities because they do not plug in their website. You don’t want that to happen to you.

PRO TIP:

A better marketing strategy is to have clickable links in all your posts. This way, clicking on a product post will take your followers to the store page from where they can purchase the product immediately. OrangeTwig‘s InstaSuccess Toolkit makes all your posts clickable. It’s a fantastic way to market smart through Instagram without violating the platform’s policies.

7. Go thematic to get more traffic

Have you randomly browsed through Instagram accounts and stumbled across a beautiful feed that you couldn’t turn yourself away from?

That’s the power of the themed feed. Instagram is no longer about just specific posts. The brand aesthetic is built on the overall feed. What is noticeable is that the biggest Instagram accounts have a consistent theme working through all their posts. Following a theme on your Instagram will put your brand aesthetic forward.

PRO TIPS:

  • You can build your theme around a specific subject. The Instagram account ihavethisthingwithfloors is based entirely on interesting floorings. While posting the same subject over and over can sound boring, the key is to get creative within that known universe.
  • You can also make a theme out of a particular color that you repeatedly use as your subject background, or use through the objects in your image.
  • Maintain a similar aspect ratio (width to height ratio) for all the images and videos that you post.
  • Play around with your borders. Use white borders, or black, or even round frames. Either you can keep one kind of border throughout or mix it all up and give your feed a playful look.
  • Go the grid way with some of your posts. Try 3 part grids or 6 part grids or even 9 part grids. This way either 3 or 6 or 9 images are used to make up one big picture. It’s quite artsy.
  • Use one filter in varying capacities throughout your feed for consistency.

Find out more information on themes in How to develop a visual theme for your Instagram business profile.

i have this thing with floors pattern

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8. Content potpurri to keep audience interest alive

Your followers won’t be taking back much if you keep flooding them only with direct promotional posts. In fact, over-promoting your products may backfire and cause people to unfollow you on grounds of being ‘spammy’.

A good idea here would be to follow the 80:20 rule of social media marketing, which says that in order to have an engaged audience, only 20% of your posts should be promotional posts, while 80% should be other kinds of content around your focal topic which you think will catch your audience’s interest.

For instance, if you’re a seller of bicycles, your focal topic will be sports and fitness. This means that if you have a total of 50 posts, 10 should promote the bicycles you’re selling, while 40 should cover sports and fitness on a broader scale. This 80% doesn’t necessarily have to be created content, but can also be curated content.

PRO TIP:

OrangeTwig‘s new feature Q-rator, lets you choose content – blog posts, videos, quotes, images – from around the web and schedule them for automatic posting across your social media channels. Basically, your social media calendar will be ready months ahead, through just a few clicks.

Remember:

Instagram’s bot services might seem like a quick-fix way to get your social media game on top, but they really don’t contribute to real engagement. Automated engagement does not translate into sales.

If you want the sales, you have to have a dedicated strategy. With the 8 tips above, you can build a strong social media presence that will not only bring in the numbers but also give you organic engagement.

Mass Planner or not, you will be climbing high on the ladder of social media success in no time.