Did hundreds of new people follow you within just a few hours without any effort on your part? It may seem like a miracle to newcomers, but experienced social network users know that this kind of activity is not good. Any unusual activity on a profile attracts the attention of Instagram's security system, whether it's a login from an unknown device or an abrupt spike in audience numbers. Therefore, it's important for everyone who wants to promote their social media profiles to recognize a dangerous situation in time and take certain actions.
To begin with, you need to determine if it's really fake users that are following you or if someone just unexpectedly gave you a shout-out. Maybe some popular creator bought your brand's products and liked them so much that they decided to recommend you to their followers. So check your in-app notifications first - that's where you'll get a message when someone tags you in a post. If there's no message, they are probably bots. Here are three basic signs to help you spot them.
Weird username. Usually, we use more or less coherent usernames on social media so people can easily recognize us and we don't feel embarrassed before our coworkers because of some ridiculous username. But people are unlikely to choose a random set of letters and numbers as a username. So if you see users with these following you, that's the first sign of a fake account.
There may also be profiles with adequate usernames, but mostly foreign or using combinations of foreign characters. The spike in foreign followers that can't be a part of your target audience should alert you.
Empty profile. Most of the fake profiles are not filled out in any way: there's no bio like "Beloved wife and mother of two little angels," no relevant Stories, and the feed has long been covered with dust because they haven't posted anything in a while if at all. There may be no userpic, or there's a cat photo instead of a human face.
But the more expensive a bot is, the more its profile will look like a real one, which means it's less likely to get blocked. That's why the profile may have published Stories, Highlights, and even vacation pics. But don't let this fool you: on closer inspection, it becomes clear that this is just the appearance of activity.
Too many followings. Another red flag is a large number of subscriptions to other profiles. Usually, fakes are subscribed to at least a thousand pages, but sometimes that number can be in the neighborhood of 300-500 accounts.
If you look at these signs individually, they can be justified and you will not suspect anything. For example, many moms and grandmas also subscribe to a million pages and do not post anything in their feeds, but that does not mean they are bots. But you have to admit, it's one thing to have a couple of people like that subscribed to you, and that can be taken for granted, but when you're talking about hundreds of people, it's starting to be bothersome.
First, as we mentioned above, Instagram monitors suspicious activity on the platform and, to protect your profile, they can block it for a while.
Second, mass bot followings are cheating and the platform frowns upon this kind of activity. So if the system sees that someone is breaking the rules, it can impose a long-term block or remove your profile.
Third, the influx of fake accounts affects your stats in a negative way. The engagement rate (ER) depends on how often people interact with your content: they like, comment, share, or at least linger on your posts. This affects the reach, that is, how many subscribers will see your posts and reels. Since bots don't engage with your content the ER won't grow and Instagram will take this as a signal that your content is not of interest to the majority of users and therefore not worth displaying. As a result, your content will be excluded from your followers' feeds, your metrics will plunge, your sales will drop, your posts will stop showing up in Recommendations, and things will slowly start to stagnate.
No one is going to send bots to someone else's account out of good intentions. Therefore, it's likely that you have detractors. These could be competitors who want to mess up your stats so that you can't promote yourself or haters who want to hurt you.
They can also be scammers whose goal is to steal your account. We'll tell you how it happens below. Other unscrupulous guys engage in extortion: they choose popular creators and start pouring fake traffic into their profiles. After that, they demand money to stop this. It's likely they bet on the fact that after investing huge amounts of money in promotion, a person will probably want to save their hard work from blocking.
There are also creators on Instagram whose followers are mainly fake accounts. They are confidently selling ads and ordering clicks on promoted profiles. In this way, they create an illusion of compliance with your requirements as a sponsor. People seem to follow you but in fact, you only get bots.
This is also the method used by shady SMM managers. In their desire to show the effectiveness of their work, they guarantee the arrival of a thousand or more followers but use fake accounts to achieve that. Remember: no professional will make a promise to bring a specific number of people to your profile because it's simply impossible. Only after working with you for some time and studying the specifics of your niche, they can predict numbers but not guarantee them.
Another type of people who like to promise the arrival of a substantial number of followers is the giveaway organizers. This way of promotion is quite dubious: yes, real people may follow you as a result of this method but most likely, they won't be your target audience. Some unscrupulous people might just buy fake profiles to follow you.
The first thing you need to do is make your account private. The bots will continue to request to follow you but since you won’t accept it, there won’t be much harm. The problem here is that you’ll have to switch from a business to a personal account, which means that you’ll lose your Insights data and won’t be able to set up ads. These restrictions are too strict and not many people will choose this tactic.
Bot attacks are usually targeted at a certain username so if you change it, the bots won’t find your profile and it will stop. There won’t be any major consequences so in a while, you’ll be able to go back to your previous username. There’s a small hitch though: the attacks might be targeted not at a username but the account ID so changing the username won’t help. Some creators also say that after they changed their usernames, their profiles were hacked by scammers. We discussed how you can protect yourself from this in this article. Make sure to read it before introducing any changes to your profile information.
Another option is to do nothing. Yes, this means you might get blocked and your stats will drop but you’ll be able to continue to promote yourself by using ads. Sure, the stats will normalize but as a rule, that takes time.
As you can see, all three options have their benefits and drawbacks so it’s up to you to make your own decision. For example, if you’ve just started working on your profile and haven’t yet used ads to promote it, switching to a personal account won’t hurt your promotion in any way. Those who are afraid of losing Insights data can make screencaps and use them for further analysis and show them to sponsors. But if you know you can get rid of fake accounts and increase your ad budget to quickly eliminate the damage then it’s better to just wait for the bot attack to end.
Regardless of which option you choose, we recommend contacting support right away and reporting that your page is being flooded with fake accounts. Specialists can give instructions on how to proceed, as well as help to ensure that the bot likes and comments are removed. Sometimes Instagram itself removes the fake followers. But unfortunately, this is very rare and more often than not, users do not get a response from the platform. Despite this, we still advise you to contact them and attach some evidence to your message. Thanks to this you will be able to confirm that you initially reported strange activity on your profile and did not violate the platform rules.
A bot attack can't last forever: it's expensive, so it's unlikely that someone will spend money on you on a regular basis. Typically, it lasts about 2-3 days, but in some cases, it might be longer. Along the way, you can gradually remove fake followers. You can find some information online about Instagram having daily limits for this action. For example, if you signed up less than half a year ago, you can unfollow no more than 30 accounts per hour. For older profiles (from 6 months on the platform) the figure doubles. The developers have not confirmed this data, so it's up to you to decide if you want to comply with it or not.
Yes, bot removal is a time-consuming and annoying thing to do, so some are tempted to entrust it to special services that will do it automatically. But this is not a good idea, because in order to do this, you will have to provide access to your account to some third-party apps First, the platform forbids it, and secondly, this might lead to your profile suspension. The safest option is to remove fake followers manually. And may the force be with you on this path!