We already discussed the phenomenon of Instagram pods, or groups of people who upvote each other’s Instagram posts to help gain higher visibility. That was good timing too, because this issue of pods and trying to use the Instagram algorithm for your benefit just got a lot more serious thanks to new reports from Instagram travel legend Sara Melotti. Melotti has gone on the record to show just how nasty gaming the system can get, and it’s raising a lot of questions about Instagram and how it should be used.
Travel photos are some of the most popular on Instagram: They tend to show beautiful people in beautiful, exotic locations, and who doesn’t like that? They can also make locations, advertisers, and bloggers in the “Explorer” section a whole lot of money, which adds incentive to well, cheat. Specifically Melotti has called out a “Instagram mafia” of sorts in her industry that is turning Instagram into a pure tool of advertising instead of a social site. What does that mean? It comes down to several practices designed to manipulate Instagram’s algorithm and the people who use it.
Some of these practices are understandable: If you were to imitate a particularly successful photo your competitor posted, nothing fishy would be going on. But ethically, not all of these tactics are right – and they certainly doesn’t encourage healthy community behavior. Suppose you started using the worst tactics to promote your own photos, and then a competitor with more resources comes along, copies everything you do, and makes your Instagram profile useless: That’s not great for your business.
Social media is very much a “rising tide lifts all boats” endeavor. When it becomes dog eat dog instead, a few dogs win for a little while, and then the whole thing falls apart because the audience can no longer trust anything.
This brings us to our final point: Tactics like these, especially when called out, cannot last. People tried to do the same thing to Google, and Google had no problem adjusting its algorithms and handing out penalties to stop it. Instagram has many reasons to discourage this type of behavior, and will likely take steps to fix these issues rather than risk losing popularity. That’s the problem with using cheap tactics. Sooner or later, you get called out.