First of all: we don’t want to offend or judge anyone. This post is our personal point of view on Instagram these days. And we’ve experimented with about 90% of the bad stuff explained below.

As most of you know Yentl has his own web design & online marketing company so this post will give you a bit of a marketing insight on the matter as well.

In our opinion Instagram is getting fake, because of the following 4 reasons:

  • Fake followers
  • Fake engagement
  • Fake life
  • Fake pictures

We’ll try to explain for each of these why they occur and how we think they’re affecting Instagram.

But first: how does Instagram work?

To fully understand why Instagram is getting fake, you need to understand how Instagram works. Instagram is mostly based on engagement and interaction (in 2018 at least).

We’ll explain how engagement works on an account with 10k (10 000) followers. Don’t worry, it’s the same for small and big accounts.

Once you post a picture, Instagram will show your picture to about 10% of your followers. This percentage will vary based on the engagement on your previous posts.

Let’s say from those 1000 (10%) followers, 300 like or comment on your picture. That’s a 30% starting engagement.

Based on that starting percentage Instagram will show your picture to 3000 (30%) of your followers in total (2000 more).

The entire algorithm is of course way more complicated than just 1 calculation, but this is the general idea behind it.

Hopefully you do now understand why you’re seeing all those very likeable cat pictures on your Instagram, but never that selfie of your aunt Margaret. Unless she’s incredibly famous and sexy of course.

Fake followers 

Fake followers are as old as Instagram itself. It’s an easy and cheap way to increase your followers. A simple Google search shows that you can buy 5k followers for less than 40 USD.

Why do people buy fake followers?

Let us start by saying:

Don’t buy fake followers on Instagram as they’ll ruin your account

There won’t be any engagement from these accounts, so Instagram won’t show your pictures to your real, organic audience as explained above.

Anyways, it does happen, and here’s why:

  • It gives you a certain social status
  • The current generation is growing up with a need for likes
  • You can only use the swipe-up feature with at least 10k followers. (Guilty of wanting that!)
  • People think that the more followers you have, the more brands want to work with you. That is not true, anymore. As of lately, brands start to check engagement rates too. There’s no point working with someone with 100k followers if they only reach 1000 of them.

Fake Engagement

So here’s what happened next: people got themselves fake followers and noticed they broke their accounts. Whoops.

How do you fix that? With fake likes of course!

Ever noticed those #L4L or #F4F between the hashtags? Well basically you ask people to like your picture and you promise to like one of theirs back, same with the follow for follow.

And yes, you can even buy fake likes.

Same price, different ‘product’, but it gets pricy after a while.

A few years ago, when I just started my online company some clients asked me to do it for them. At first, I did it (at their own risk), because it got them quick and good results.

But after a while, their organic reach died. Literally died. They just had to buy likes to keep up the presence. We ended up creating new accounts and we grew them again, the right way.

Instagram pods

Buying likes is not the only problem. Your real followers see right through it. Well, at least some of them do.

So that’s when people started creating Instagram pods.

An Instagram pod is a group of about 15-20 people who have Instagram accounts in the same niche, in our case ‘travel’. When one of the members posts a new image on IG, they notify the group. Depending on the group rules the other members have to either like or comment on that post.

How do pods work?

At first, people posted the URLs directly to their posts in the pods. Instagram got a hold of it and they started punishing the pods. Then the pods moved to other platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram. Instagram punishments followed. The current trend is that you make some kind of fake conversation in IG direct message groups (for example, you tell the others what you’ve eaten) and then they’ll know you posted something new and will go to your profile and like/comment/save your latest picture.

We’ve been in 3 pods ourselves. It seemed nice to have a few extra likes and especially followers, as we wanted to hit those 10k followers for the swipe up.

It worked out nice, got us some new followers and lots of engagement. But we had to spend at least an hour on the pods per day, per pod.

We know a few fellow Instagrammers who are in 11 or 12 pods. That’s just crazy if you know how much work it is! They are the entire day on their Instagram (about 8 hours a day they told us), and yes it pays off if you look at their followers. But at what price? And how long until Instagram starts punishing these accounts again?

We started using pods at the end of September and in November we decided to stop with it because it was too time-consuming. We saw a drop in engagement, but a huge spike in the joy we have on Instagram again. We’re focussing more on our stories now, and less on those likes. In the end those likes mean nothing anyway.

Money can buy you everything on Instagram

Next in line: personal Instagram assistants. Starting at $10, you can get your own personal Instagram manager.

We’ve never tried them and will never use them as you never really know what they’ll do on your account. They can ruin your account in 2 hours. Easily. But I guess there are some good social media managers you could find there as well.

The idea: they engage with other users for you. They follow accounts, like other pictures, or comment on niche-specific posts.

Basically the stuff you actually have to do yourself to get noticed on Instagram nowadays.

Fake life

Again: no judging here. It’s just what we think of it, and we were heading that way too.

Now that we’re travelling the world full-time, we have a lot of time to think and to look around.

There hasn’t been a day where we have not seen someone posing for a picture. Not a single day.

It’s all for ‘the gram’. Trends like #husbandofinstagram are being created, not because it’s funny, but because it’s true.

I’m one of them. I take a gazillion of pictures, every day. It used to be all for Instagram, but nowadays it’s more for personal memories. They just end up in our Dropbox, instead of online.

The thing we hate the most is seeing those sponsored posts.

People selling their soul for a free watch etc. You can literally count what they have to do: ‘post 3 pictures with the watch visible with these hashtags and 5 Instagram stories telling people why you love our watch’.

We’re not saying sponsored posts are bad. The opposite is true. Influencers are the future of marketing.

When I tell my friends that I really love my OnePlus or Dell XPS, they will look into these devices because they know I’m a geek who’ll only use the best equipment available. That’s what influencers are all about.

And yes, we do are jealous too when we see fellow travel bloggers staying for free in a nice hotel. But only when their only task is to write an honest review. Positive and negative. Just their honest opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

Fake pictures

Anno 2018 it’s hard to scroll on your Instagram feed and spot a picture that has no filter on it. And that’s okay.

People love to look at beautiful pictures, but we kind of liked the early filter-free Instagram too.

Anyways, we’re using Lightroom filters too. Not because of the likes, but because we like our filtered pictures more ourselves 🙂

But then there are the millions of edited photos. Photoshop edited. I’m really good at Photoshop editing, but I would never make myself skinnier on a photo. Agreed, I was too heavy, but still, I wouldn’t do that. Because it’s fake, and that’s not how we want to be.

PS. if you want our Free Lightroom filters (desktop and mobile) just let us know in the comments below and we’ll send them for free 😉

What’s the solution?

There is no easy solution for Instagram, as many people are earning a lot with their accounts. It’s a multimillion-dollar business, and when there’s money involved things are hard to change if that would make people earn less money.

That being said we do think there are a few easy steps you can follow yourself to make Instagram less fake.

  • post more stories as they are more representative of your ‘real life’.
  • only follow accounts you really like and feel connected with. I’ve read somewhere that @bettertraveltogether is a nice example 😉
  • Engage with people because you like their content, not because you think they’ll return the favour.
  • Don’t post fake pictures or heavily edited ones, unless it’s obvious and it’s your kind of thing or USP.
  • Enjoy Instagram. If it’s getting too stressful and time-taking, take a break.

Thank you for reading! Let us know in the comments if you agree with us or not.

Instagram is getting fake
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