Suddenly one day you think you might have cracked the code, that you will finally become an influencer on Instagram. Your photos, for no apparent reasons, are getting twice as many likes as they normally do, and the likes are coming in fast. Some 200 likes within 30 minutes is not something I am used to. And it happened on one image, then on another one the same day, and once again the following day. Three photos now had gotten about 400 likes, at least 150-200 more than they usually do.
But the sudden popularity of my Instagram account had nothing to do with my skills as a photographer. Instead, the likes were a “gift” from a spammer who approached me to sell his or her services (i.e. buy likes or followers). This was the message I received via DM:
I admit that I was a bit suspicious, the unproportionate number of likes from Russian accounts didn’t make sense. But who knows? Instagram’s algorithm works in mysterious ways. My sudden fame in Russia could have a logical explanation. Unfortunately the explanation was fake likes.
The last few weeks, there has been an increase in spam on Instagram with accounts that sell fake followers commenting on a large number of photos. As influencer marketing continues to grow in importance, there’s also money to be made from inflating follower numbers on social networks. Just don’t fall for it. In order to succeed, you will need a fan base made up of real people.
Footnote: I am @kullin on Instagram. Follow for travel photos, sunsets and architecture.
One of the most common advices on how to get more likes and followers on Instagram is to use popular hashtags on your photos. By doing that, your photos and videos can be discovered by other people than just the ones that follow you.
Instagram removes recent photos from some popular hashtags
But for quite some time, Instagram has had major problems with spam and inappropriate content. Some of the most commonly used hashtags have been flooded with offensive content that do not follow the community guidelines. That can for example be nudity, threats or hate speech.
Instagram’s response to this problem has been to completely remove the “Most Recent” section from the app/site for that hashtag and only show Top Posts. This is done for a limited period.
Some of the top hashtags that have been affected by this problem recently are:
These are among the most used hashtags and if you use them in order to increase visibility for your photos, there is a real risk that it will not work. Only top posts will be visible under these hashtags and no new users will see your photos.
My advice is that before you tag a photo on Instagram with a popular hashtag, always check if the tag has been temporarily suspended. If not, then it’s ok. But if it has, choose other tags.
To find relevant tags to use you can for example:
- Find top 100 hashtags on Websta.me
- Go to the search tab on Instagram and see trending hashtags
- Visit a hashtag page on Instagram and find up to five related hashtags on that topic
Note: find me on Instagram at @kullin
Like most people, I get a lot of unsolicited emails in my inbox. This week I noticed an unusual trick from a conference organizer who was hoping to get noticed, a trick that is one of the least classy I’ve seen in a while. This sender intentionally wrote email invitations that included spelling errors, for which they sent a second email in which they apologized for the embarrasing typo.
The first conference invitation included the word “joint” instead of joined.
The apology came almost immediately after in an email titled “Terrible mistake”.
Notice the “PS”. It’s not a marketing trick. But it is. I got the same made up story last year. The first email then misspelled “shores” with the less appealing “whores”.
The follow up email that time had the title “Sincere apoligies”.
My advice, if you are trying to trick people into reading your emails, at least have the decency to reinvent yourself. That way you run less risk of being exposed as a liar.
Although Instagram has taken some measures to crack down on the increasing problem with spam, users are starting to become tired with the amount of fake accounts and comments about how to get more followers. In a response to the lack of action from Instagram, the community of instagrammers have decided to announce Dec 4 as the day many will turn their profiles to private. This protest is intended to send a message to Instagram that users are fed up with the situation, they just want to be able to share images without having to be approached by spammers.
Under the hashtag #onedaywithoutspam you can see protest images like these:
“Observing a day of protest against all the #spam on Dec. 4 by posting this and setting my profile to Private for 24 hours on that day. Please join in and hopefully #instagram will begin to take more serious steps to address this annoyance that is out of control.”
Whether this will have any effect on the spam problem remains to be seen.
There is a growing amount of spam on Pinterest and I blogged today on my Swedish blog about how it is easy to replace a link on a pinned image to send unsuspecting users to a spam site. Just replace the image link with a link using a URL shortener and no-one can tell before they clicked the image that they aren’t going to end up on the site where the image was originally published. In my blog post you can see the screen shots from an image of Strandvägen in Stockholm, which if you click on it, sends you to a site selling weight loss pills.
Here’s how it works. Pin an image to Pinterest, then edit the link and add a link to the site you want users to visit. Use a URL shortener to hide the real address. Alternatively you use the BBC redirect scam which works like this. Instead of using a URL shortener, you type the address of the landing page after this BBC redirect URL, example:
This way, Pinterest displays “bbc.co.uk” as the source of the image. Credible, right?
You can type any URL after that BBC link, for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/redirect.shtml?http://www.cnn.com This link will send you to a BBC page which automatically redirects you to the site at the end of the URL.
Here is a live (at least for now) example of the BBC scam, on an image I found by searching for Copenhagen on Pinterest:
The popular online pinboard Pinterest has been hit by a series of spam ads. Pinterest user Craig Fifield found that a strange image had been posted on of of his wife’s boards. It was something she would never pin on the site, an ad for Wal-Mart. The same thing was noticed by Om Malik on Gigaom:
Fake gift cards for well known brands such as Wal-Mart, IKEA, iPad and others are suddenly all over Pinterest.
They all seem to be pointing to the site facebook-goodies.com and some spammer has probably posted several photos and then after they were repinned, the image changed to an ad through some kind of script. The original images seem to have been posted to boards themed “party ideas”, “beauty” and “quotes” to name a few.
Some of the spam ads have been repinned more than 6,000 times.
This is of course quite serious for Pinterest, since it is a blow to the very heart of the site. If we can no longer trust that images we repin aren’t going to turn into spam ads, dare we use the site at all?
Another form of spam that has been emerging is that the same image is posted multiple times on multiple accounts, but with the exact same text.
Update: one of the accounts that seemed to be the origin of some spam ads have now been deleted: http://pinterest.com/ElisabethCarla/