Since my older posts about getting rid of spam on Instagram and stopping and preventing your account from sending spam are still quite popular, I decided to revisit the subject with an updated post. Instagram has changed quite a lot between then and now. This includes many changes to the algorithms, which dictate the reach of your images.
With all these changes, spam hasn't gone away. As a matter of a fact, spam has only evolved. Now you aren't only dealing with spambots, but also using spammy methods for growing otherwise legit profiles and their following and reach, is extremely common.
At the moment, people view the number of follows, likes, and such as a sign of a person's influence, without actually checking the quality of those numbers. A recent story in The New York Times tells how celebrities, marketers, influencers, and pretty much anyone with a huge following are buying fake followers. Their methods don't stop there, but they also utilise follow-unfollow-scams and spamming your images with automated comments and likes. This makes the situation on Instagram even more messy, than it was only with bots spamming you.
While getting rid of spam altogether is impossible anywhere online, there are methods you can use to keep your Instagram as spam free as possible. These are the ways I do it.
1. I don't panic
Spam is an unfortunate part of online life. While I wish it wasn't, I understand it is something that happens. Spamming and scamming isn't going to go away by clicking a magic button. The first and foremost thing, is not to let it get under your skin.
Scaring people with spam and scams online is great for clicks. This is why you are constantly afraid that any day now someone is going to hack your account. It may happen, but it may as well not happen. You won't know until it does.
This is why it's important not to panic.
Not everything is spam, not even all of those comments that look spammy. It is likely that someone saw your image on Instagram, and liked it so much they had to write a comment that was only fire emojis. While this may be sign of an automated comment, it also may be a real comment by a real person. Not everyone knows that these kinds of comments are viewed as spam, so don't be so fast to judge a person who writes one.
2. I do my best not to be spammy
Are you using hashtags that aren't relevant to your image? Or are you writing those comments which can be viewed as spam? Maybe your images are all sourced from sites that offer free images. All of these things appear spammy, and that is like catnip for spammers. Spambots and people using spammy methods see you as an easy mark, maybe one of them.
It can be hard to tell what is seen spammy. It can be the content of your images, the captions you write, the hashtags you use, the comments you write... Anything. Someone, somewhere is always thinking that you are spamming them.
However, there are some easy ways to make sure you are doing your best not to be spammy. Use only hashtags that are relevant to your content. Check the hashtag pool before using the tag, in case there's lots of spammy content in it. Write thoughtful captions, and try not to use empty quotes or sayings in them. Write thoughtful, 4 words or longer, comments to other people's images. Use your own photos or other images only.
Think which images, captions, and comments by other people seem spammy to you, and avoid repeating those patterns.
3. I don't follow for follows
Follows for follows are for spammers. I may unfollow people, when I notice their content isn't that interesting to me, and I unfollow those who unfollow me. The last part is to keep my main feed considerably controlled. I don't follow anyone just because they followed me.
Actually, I try not to follow too many profiles. It's easier to keep my connections real, when I don't follow half the Instagram. When following someone, I ask myself a bunch of questions. Is this a real person, or a bot? Is their content relevant to my interests? Do they seem like an interesting person or business? What does it give to me to follow them?
I also don't participate in pods, or do likes for likes or comments for comments. These are all spammy ways to grow your reach, and may cause your profile to be banned by Instagram.
4. I don't obsess over the numbers
That story in The New York Times tells about the reality behind the social media numbers. A person with thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of followers, likes, shares and such, can actually have a huge amount of fake followers. Those fake followers are not only following them, but adding comments, likes and resharing their content for building the numbers. Those numbers aren't real.
If someone promises you free or paid followers on Instagram, run away! Those who promise you free followers are trying to get your login information, and corrupt your account to send spam. Or their account has been compromised, and they are sending spam without knowing it. Those who promise you paid followers, will only give you followers of fake profiles.
Some of those fake profiles will seem real, because they are stolen identities. Thus, buying followers like that means you will be participating in identity theft. Do you want be that person?
On Instagram, I don't obsess over the number of my followers, likes, comments, or story views. I do check them, to see basically how my profile and images and stories perform. I don't get too invested in those numbers. I know the numbers don't tell the whole story.
A spam follower isn't as good as a real follower, so the number of followers as is doesn't tell much about anything. Same goes to the interaction, such as likes and comments. Some comments are spam, some are legit. Some likes are spam, some are real. They cannot be viewed as equal.
5. I report spam
I'm happy to report spam profiles, spam comments, and spam images on Instagram. (I have yet to stumble upon spam story.) If a profile promises me x amount of new followers, I report it. If I see a comment that either tells you to follow someone, or to click a link, and is clearly spam, I report it.
Reporting spam content happens by clicking the three dots above the content, choosing "Report", and following the on-screen instructions. When reporting a profile, you click the three dots on top right of the profile, choose "Report" and follow the on-screen instructions. Spam comments are reported by swiping left the comment you wish to report, tapping the exclamation mark (!), and choosing "Spam or Scam" or "Abusive Content". Your reports are anonymous, meaning that the person won't be notified you reported them.
Not every profile you report will be removed, but this is a good way to keep spam away. When you report a comment, it will be removed from your images.
Try not to report profiles, images and comments which aren't really spam or abusive content. The spam reports are checked by actual people, and if you flood them with false reports, they won't have time to keep the real spam away.
While spam isn't completely avoidable, as long as you are online, there are many things you can do to keep your head with it. I cannot emphasise enough the need not to panic, and to understand that spam happens. It's not your fault. It's not even personal, in most cases. It just is.
If it happens that you are receiving spam, take a deep breath. Then report all the spam you can, and audit your hashtags, content and other things I mentioned above.
If it happens that your Instagram account got hacked or you suspect there's something like that going on, take a deep breath. Then change your password, and follow my instructions for fixing the situation.
The less you stress out about spam, the more you can concentrate on doing your thing. Instagram, eventually, is just another social media service. It is not important enough to cause you stress.