I am one of thousands (maybe millions?) of dyers, knitters, creatives who have had their Instagram photos stolen by spambots. And it's time to talk about it, so that people stop following them and making their existence acceptable.
Over the last year, the emergence of spambots has crept up so much that I personally blocked 25 of them in one day. So what are they? I am not a tech expert, but from what I can gather, they are T-Shirt peddling automated Instagram accounts. They occur in a lot of different 'genres', from crafts to fitness. They seem to pick up certain hashtags or words, and repost to their accounts, without giving credit to the original poster. They often give links to their T-shirt printing businesses, and often share photos of their T-shirts using slogans which fit in with the theme of their profile ("I knit so that I don't kill people", you know the type of thing). But is there something more sinister going on?
After doing some digging, I have found that some of these accounts are set up to harvest information, even passwords. And some are set up as a way of selling followers to people who are willing to buy them. I would also hazard a guess that once these accounts have reached a certain amount of followers, the accounts themselves can then be sold to people who want a ready made following (That's a total guess, but probably a good one!).
So why should you block them? Surely more followers is a good thing? No. Not necessarily. These accounts don't engage with your content, and if you run a business they aren't being converted into sales. They are dead followers, utterly pointless. And whilst it is often thought that having a high number of followers is the best way to get ahead with social media, it definitely isn't always all about the numbers. You want genuine, good quality, organic followers (sounds like I'm talking about vegetables! Haha!).
So why are we getting annoyed? If you are a business, you are getting free advertising!
Again, no you are not. The vast majority of these accounts do not give credit to the original creator. And even if they do, they certainly aren't paying the creator for that content.
But you put that content on Instagram! It is fair game!
Nope, it's not. The copyright still belong to the original creator. And believe it or not, we are entitled to payment for our intellectual property (this obviously depends on what country it was created in though!). What about actual professional photographers? Their images are their money. And they are being stolen and used time and time again. They have every right to ask for payment for their art.
I am personally fine with people sharing my products, I don't expect you to pay me for the privilege, you share away! But the difference is that I am 99% sure that the average human knitter will give me credit. And it will result in a sale or a genuine organic follower. If I'm not getting credit, then it isn't advertising, it then turns into use of my intellectual property. So damn right I'm going to want to be paid for it.
The other issue here, is that these bots are stealing things which are precious to the original creator. I have seen photos of people's children being shared. Their pets. Their own faces. Their business logo. And even other people's business names. Daisy at Devon Sun Yarns has had this happen recently, and she was understandably extremely upset.
Instagram doesn't seem interested in doing anything to combat this situation. You can block or report, but 9 times out of 10, they won't remove the content or the page. I have reported several of my stolen photos, to no avail.
What you can do, as a user, is stop following them! In order to do that, you will need to first identify them.
From my experience, they often have obvious names, such as Knitting_Love. They ALL seem to use the underscore or dash in their names, I am yet to find one that doesn't.
Stay safe when investigating whether they are real, do not click any links on profiles unless you recognise it (www.lollipopguildyarns.com, for instance).
They almost always have photos of Stephen West, and Hedgehog Fibres. And they use lots of emojis....so many emojis! Arrows, pointy fingers, hearts.
They link to other spambot pages too, so you can often find two in one go!
Also check out their content. Does it look like a real person? Is there any consistency to their photos?
And their taglines (the info bit under their name) is often utter gobbledegook which vaguely relates to the topic.
You can also go through your followers and identify and block them. Your numbers will go down, but you will get more organic reach that way! From your followers list, I have found that the best way to identify them is if their username is the same as their page name. So if you look at mine, it will say Lollipop Guild Yarns, and then Rox underneath. These bots will say Knitting_Lover and then the same underneath. Check them out first though, because I have almost blocked genuine people using this method!
Lets make Instagram a better place to be, with genuine followers and geuine people. Say no to spambots!!!