In November 2019, TikTok, a new video sharing platform that centers around short, fun videos, officially hit 1.5 billion downloads and outperformed Instagram. Since that moment, TikTok has been consistently beating Instagram at its own game.
While there are still more than one billion users actively using Instagram, the platform is slowly losing its charm. The recent algorithm change scared more users away. User engagement is dropping, and Instagram is no longer seen as the fun and entertaining platform.
Another reason why Instagram is losing its charm is the millions of fake accounts flooding the platform. This is a problem that Facebook – the company behind Instagram – is working hard to fix, but is the platform really dying thanks to fake accounts?
The War Against the Instagram Algorithm
The most recent Instagram algorithm is designed to do one thing: prioritize posts with high engagement. Instagram automatically measures the initial engagement rate of a post and decides whether to display the post to other users; yes, not all of your followers will see your latest Instagram post under this new algorithm.
To bypass the algorithm, you can choose to promote your posts. Paid promotion on Instagram is relatively affordable, so it doesn’t take much to give your posts the exposure they deserve. Promoting every post, however, is not a sustainable way of engaging users. You’ll end up spending more and relying on promotions too much.
Another way to get around the new algorithm is by faking user engagement as soon as a new post is made. Once again, fake accounts and bots are the tools to use. Many influencers resort to this tactic in order to maintain their long-term exposure, but this too isn’t a healthy method to use on the platform; especially one that is struggling with fake account problems.
The latest Instagram algorithm is clearly scaring users away. New users are struggling to gain traction because hashtags and location tags are no longer as effective as ways to gain exposure. When was the last time you checked posts that use a particular hashtag? Exactly.
Good Bots, Bad Bots
As mentioned before, the increasing number of bots and fake accounts on Instagram is fueled by the need to remain relevant and popular on the platform. With the new algorithm in place, influencers and everyday users saw a huge drop in their engagement rate. For a popular user, that drop can be as significant as 80%.
The drop is only because a new post isn’t gaining traction quickly enough according to Instagram’s own algorithm. This is where bots come in. By faking user engagement using bots and fake accounts, the same post can gain better long-term traction and return to its original user engagement level. Can you see how this is quickly becoming a problem?
The use of bots for boosting user engagement is only the start of the problem. Bots are also actively engaging other users, spreading misinformation, running spam campaigns through mentions and DMs, and even inflating other users’ follower counts by a significant number. Rather than getting recognized organically, users – especially new ones – are choosing the faster route.
As demand gets higher and supply becomes more abundant, the prices of fake accounts and related services are dropping too. You can get 1,000 real-looking followers for as little as $1 and the bots behind them will continue to interact with your account for several months. Crackdowns and account banning are not effective enough to curb the growth of fake accounts.
So, is Instagram dying thanks to fake accounts? Yes and no. Yes, fake accounts are causing the platform a lot of problems. Organic reach and exposure is more difficult to gain and there are no real ways of fighting the algorithm without using dubious methods. After weeks of not getting any exposure, new users will eventually leave the platform, leaving only fake accounts behind.
At the same time, the algorithm is also responsible for the platform’s decreasing growth. Slowdowns are mainly caused by inconsistencies in how the algorithm select posts to be promoted. If not all of your followers cannot see your new posts, it is easy to see how even the best content can get lost in noise and thousands – millions – of other posts.
Facebook isn’t going to solve the bot problem anytime soon. Actions have been taken to limit the growth of fake accounts, but purges and account deletion aren’t effective enough; there are always more new fake accounts than deleted ones. The number is growing exponentially now that tools for managing multiple accounts are widely available.
Should you stay on Instagram with all of the problems it now has? No. It is much better to leave the platform and actually go outside without taking a photo of your meal or a selfie.