TLDR: I would not recommend that credible brands use Likestagram. There is too high a risk of the brand getting into hot water over the "likes" that are given out by the bot to adult or controversial content. I would suggest that Likestagram is more suited to bloggers and individuals who are trying to grow their profile and community numbers.
Right now Instagram is the hottest property of all the social platforms for brands and individuals who are fighting to try and get ROI from their social media activity. I say this against the backdrop of brand engagement on Twitter falling across the board for not just our own clients but also in all the industry research pieces that we are reading. Whilst Facebook and Twitter are now very much pay-to-play, Instagram has not only remained a trusted free platform for brands (yes, I know there are insta-advertising options), but in our eyes it has really emerged as the hottest social platform of 2015.
A number of our clients have experienced far greater brand engagement on Instagram in 2015 than on any other social platform and with that in mind we have been exploring ways in which we can speed up the growth of engaged audiences by setting up stand-alone Instagram account for testing new things. I say "engaged" because it would be very easy to go and buy followers from the numerous sites that are out there, but these just deliver spammy, probably not real, followers. We are far more interested in finding followers that are interested in the content we are creating and, you know, real people and not just bots talking to bots!
One of ways in which many people "game" social platforms is through the deployment of "like" widgets. These are essentially "bots" that sit on your account and scour the social platform of choice (in this case, Instagram) and automatically "like" content that contains certain keywords. The one that we are going to look at today is Likestagram.
For this experiment I used an Instagram account that I set up to log my own journey to try and get fit. I know! How cliche! It is called FitnessWanker. I set it up some time ago because I did not want to become one of those people who saturate their personal social media accounts with status's bragging about going to the gym. There you go, I have explained myself.
Being completely honest, I also set it up because I wanted to try and "game" my way towards being seen as an "influencer" by those pieces of software that are out there that churn out industry influencer lists. I wanted to see how easy or difficult it would be to start from scratch and build a personal profile and brand that was seen as influential. A real life social experiment, if that makes sense.
Anyway, onto Likestagram and the test.
The Set Up
First up, it is really, really simple to use and get working. You sign up, authorise your Instagram account, select and purchase the amount of "likes" you want your widget to go and give, and then set the parameters of how you want it to work. I bought 250k of likes for $49.99... a bargain!
Here is the pricing chart:
The "parameters" bit is essentially:
1. How many "likes" you want your bot to give per hour - I chose 60 for this test.
2. How many people the person is following before a like is given - I figured that people with thousands of followers are probably going to be less likely to follow my account because they are either famous or gaming the system themselves. I selected that likes should only be given to those with 1k of followers or less
3. The Hashtags (#) that should trigger a like... in this case I chose #fitness #diet #gym - with hindsight I should not have used #diet!
Done! My bot set up is complete and off we go.
I set it up before I went on holiday and at the time of launch I had less than 50 followers. It was also set up to run whilst I was on holiday so I did not really check the results that often. When I did randomly check, all looked fine. Follower numbers were going up, likes on my own content was going up and as I say, all looked fine. After returning from my week off I had gone from 50 followers to around 150. Triple the original amount so I was quite happy.
At this point I had not really had to do any work and thought it was a really low-maintenance piece of kit. #win. How wrong I was.
The first flag that something was amiss was a few days after returning home from holiday and going down to my regular gym. I was chatting the people I know down there and a few of them follow the test Instagram account (they do't know anything about 10 Yetis, just my fitness social accounts. They were having a bit of a laugh and joke about some of the pictures I was "liking". I laughed along and tried to explain what I was doing but it fell on deaf ears. I figured I should go take a look. OH::MY::GOD!
I had not taken into account (I don't know why!?) that people would try and "game" the "gamers", i.e. take advantage of those who use bots to hand out likes by using popular hashtags with their rude or spam content. By rude I basically mean, dodgy adult images, dodgy adult vid clips, spam accounts trying to sell followers, you get the drift.
This really low-maintenance piece of kit suddenly became a time consuming beast.
I started having to spend 20 mins in the morning and 20 mins in the evening going through all the images that my bot had liked that were rude, spammy, or could, bottom-line, lead to a divorce. I also had to wade through all the comments that were triggered, mainly to see if I was being offered any freebies, or if the comments were all just spam (the majority were spam).
Here is a how to quickly find the posts you have liked so you can go in and delete the dodgy ones!
I started the Likestagram experiment on 31st July 2015 with 49 followers. At the time of writing, 8th September, the account now has 462 followers, an increase of 842%. The figures speak for themselves, that is a huge increase.
The unexpected by-product was loads of likes on my own content. People seemingly want to test the water before committing to a follow on Instagram. They will like a few of your images and then, if you like a few more of theirs back, or give them a follow, 99% will then also give you a follow. Your content engagement scores go through the roof.
I have used TrueSocialMetrics to look at some of the engagement charts to show the increase in comments and general engagement since deploying Likestagram.
Comment Engagement Graph
Overall Engagement Graph
All in all, the stats look great but, bottom line, what did it result in, in terms of clicks through to the FW site. Nothing! All this gaming looks brilliant from a social media engagement perspective but it drove no extra traffic. Yes, maybe a slightly more consumer facing brand name may have resulted in better click-thru stats, but being honest, I doubt it.
In Summary - Positives and Negatives
Positives of using Likestagram:
- Rise in engaged followers
- Higher comments stats
- Slightly higher overall average engagement level
Negatives of using Likestagram:
- Amount of work needed to cull the likes given to dodgy content
- No real benefits in terms of increase in driving traffic through to a site
- Feels very spammy
Overall Recommendation (TLDR)
I would not recommend that credible brands use Likestagram. There is too high a risk of the brand getting into hot water over the "likes" that are given out by the bot to adult or controversial content. I would suggest that Likestagram is more suited to bloggers and individuals who are trying to grow their profile and community numbers.