I was considering writing this type of posts on the blog for a long time, as this topic seems to me more for digital marketing forums. However, I am aware that the “profession” of Instagram influencer is becoming more and more popular, also based on fake success paths descriptions,  so I have concluded it is fair to put things out there as they in reality are.

This text is the result of my Instagram research I did in last couple of months and it is made for informing  individuals considering this “career” as well as brands searching for the right way to cooperate with influencers, who are to present their brand in a best way.

Officially Instagram has around 1 billion profiles and this number makes it one of the most popular social networks. Its aesthetic nature makes it very popular within photography lovers, while hashtags and newest features like Insta-stories are enabling you to connect with similar minded people and to build your own brand. In the past it was obvious that big Instagram profiles are generating big number of likes and comments, so Instagram was recognised as one of the social media networks with highest rates of user engagements. This fact helped in bringing the brands attention in the game, who are now seeing influencers as an effective marketing tool for promoting their products. Counting on their influence, they are hoping for direct conversions respectively higher selling rates of their products.I wrote about this here.

This is at least official version. Unofficially but still quite open, there are followers and likes sale online options, which will make the account to look more prominent, than it really is. With simple google search you are able to find dozens of pages where you can buy followers, likes or both. These are fake accounts or those established only to follow the profiles which are paying for that. Considering the big number of such accounts, pages like these are using automatised software, which will, upon your order and payment, deliver hundreds or thousands of followers and likes. Avoiding misbalance between followers and likes-comments count, you are able to buy also automatised likes and comments, so your account seems credible.

Maybe you are asking yourself why would one go through all this, especially making real expenses in order to get Instagram popular? The answer lays in marketing space charges, based on fake numbers. For somebody who has thousands of followers and hundreds likes-comments, it is assumed to have huge influence over the following. Based on this brands make their calculations, where they get quite promising purchase potential. More followers you have more you can demand for marketing services and other way around…This concept was basic for influencer collaborations up to one or two years ago where brands started to get that those automatised likes and comments bring no conversions…Luckily those kind of fake services were easy to spot – comments like “Bravo”, “Super”, “Nice”, “Nice photo” and similar.

Taking this and Instagram alghoritm change in March 2016 into account,  there was clear need for change in boosting your Instagram presence. Changing Instagram alghoritm changed the way posts were appearing on the users feeds…instead chronologically they started to appear based on their popularity. So, people you are following will start to appear according to the popularity of their posts…based on likes and comments numbers and the interactiveness between yours and their profiles (here there are still some unclear details but this is an official influencers version) and not anymore chronologically… This made influencers reach and engagement drop, especially micro ones (up to 100 k) and new ideas how to trick the new  alghoritm were born…The insta-pods were made!

Instagram pods are 15,30 or even hundreds of profiles groups, obliged to like and comment each others posts, so they help each other to “climb” the alghoritm lather and give higher engagement impression. When one profile publishes a post, the information is sent via direct message or other non-Instagram media to all the pod members in order to like and comment it. Comments usually have to be longer than 4 words, thoughtful, containing reaction to the caption or similar…all this with the goal for things to seem more authentic and honest, so automatised services impression would be avoided.

Beginning of 2018, almost two years from change in the alghoritm,  it seems half of Instagram is in pods. Recently, for research purposes, I joined to two Facebook Instagram pods groups and based on my first pod application post I received several proposals from different accounts. This would make my every next post seem more popular but it would oblige me to return the favour. Entering into some of these profiles I could notice they were very pretty, aesthetic and it would be no problem making nice comments…on the other hand, other ones were so low quality, no aesthetic or inspiring aim and  it would be almost impossible to make sure providing regular and genuine comments. About this more some other time.

So, if we sum up the whole picture, possibilities of likes, followers and comments purchase and pods engagement bring the question: are most of Instagram micro influencers made like this? Where is the border between personal and discretion decision everybody makes for himself and the one which is morally or even legally questionable? The answer is: where this is used as basis for selling marketing space!

Imagine you are a newspaper owner, printing your newspapers in 50 k prints everyday, which are eventually gifted for free to your friends, family or simply thrown away…After few moths, you are starting to offer your marketing space in the newspapers to companies for sale, where 50k circulation is stated. So the company which buys your marketing space has to pay the price for selling 50 k pieces although you maybe sell 10 all together? Does this look like a fraud? This is what is currently happening on Instagram!Brands still don’t get it…or they do not want to get it! The big true is that in the world of micro influencers, popular individuals, extroverts are bigger influencers than those naming them selves like that… Those who are part of their comment section are not likely to give their money for advertised product, but probably expecting to get it for free too.

When you would have to compare this system with pyramid games popular few years ago and Tupperware sessions what would it be?