Here’s What Happens When You Cheat to the Top on Instagram

CHEATING TO THE TOP ON INSTAGRAMA few weeks ago we talked about the largely anticipated topic: the Instagram algorithm. And after requests from Kherington, Allison, Eden, and DeAnna, this week we’re going to talk about how “cheating” your way to the top on Instagram will hurt you and the bloggers around you. (By the way, I love requests so please keep ’em comin – nothing is off limits!) 

Ok back to cheating to the top on Instagram…

It’s unfortunate because none of the NAB babes cheat yet are being punished for it. So if you have any blogger “friends” that you know are cheating but not sure how to call them out, just share this article on Facebook, Twitter, Instastories or Snapchat. It’s a subtle way of being like “I know what you’re doing. I see you over there. And you’re only hurting yourself” without actually saying it.

Naturally the bloggers who cheat think they’re beating the system right? They think they’ve cracked the code to a huge following, authentic engagement, and major brand collaborations.

But the thing is, by cheating on Instagram they do just the opposite. And sometimes it takes them even longer to get the authentic engagement and killer brand collabs that their competition is getting. Here’s why:

loop giveaways

I’ve talked about loop giveaways before (here) but in short, loop giveaways are a quick fix to a larger problem: not “enough” followers or engagement. And usually the root of that issue is due to lack of consistency or just plain crappy content.

If you are not consistent on Instagram, you won’t have consistent engagement. You easily be forgotten about. And no loop giveaway will suddenly remind your current followers like “Oh yeah she’s still around, I wonder what she’s up to”. In fact, they’ll probably be annoyed that you’re cluttering their IG feed with obnoxious giveaway pictures. You know what I’m talking about. The flatlay with a camera, phone, and gift card with an overlay of mismatched text.

However before you get all defensive if you’re a blogger who uses loop giveaways, I do see their perks (as explained here). And a prime example of a well done branded giveaway would be one that The Skinny Confidential or Fashionlush has done.

I mean both those girls made their loop giveaways so subtle that it actually looked good with their feed. It wasn’t some out of place picture. But I feel those are rare cases and usually bloggers get stuck with some random shot that doesn’t go with their aesthetic at all.

using bots

A few people misunderstood what I was trying to convey with my last blog post about bots. The thing about blogging today is people are more likely to skim your posts than actually read them. So, that’s exactly what happened and some people were confused as I “recommended” bots as a way to beat the Instagram algorithm.

I don’t recommend bots, ever, ever, which I said in that blog post. However, if you want to “cheat” then by all means use a bot but be ready to experience the consequences.

There’s this rumor going around that Instagram will “shadowban” users that use bots, use the same hashtags, buy followers, and engage too much. Really? You’re going to punish us for engaging too much? But this is only a rumor. 

I’ve never had it happen to me personally and I’ve never actually met any blogger that it has happened to so there’s that. We could be all in a tizzy for nothing.

This could be all hearsay or it could actually be true. I don’t know. You don’t know. No one knows. Unless Instagram says it’s true, take any Instagram rumor with a grain of salt.

But usually, there’s no smoke without a fire so always be cautious. Just be a good, ethical blogger and you shouldn’t have a problem.

Now let’s talk about how bots are proven to negatively effect you and your brand. Bots aren’t real, they’re… bots, robots essentially, so when your readers find out you’re using one, which they will, you’ll be caught red handed and your credibility will be shot. End of story. Don’t use a bot.

shop the look

buying followers

This is the absolute worst, worst thing a blogger can do. Ugh! It’s one thing if you don’t know how negatively buying followers can affect you and the bloggers around you but it’s another thing when you know what you’re doing is wrong and continue to do it anyway and act like “hard work” was what got you there. Like no. Sorry, but we see you. We know your tricks and soon brands will too.

Buying followers is like driving to the finish line of a marathon and winning first place. It might have worked this one time because there were trees blocking your ride but your next race is across a desert with no coverage. Now what? Everyone is going to know your time isn’t as good as you made them believe it was.

When you buy followers, the conversions aren’t there. So say you get a brand collab and they give you a unique link to use to drive sales of the product you’re supposed to be promoting. Well, when the brand checks the link, they only see one sale and you have 50k followers. Only one out of 50,000 people wanted that product? Really? Just one? Then the brand realizes something isn’t adding up.

So what happens now is the brand is ultra cautious and stops paying influencers to work with them. Or the worst case scenario is this brand stops working with bloggers completely. Awesome. Thanks a lot, guys!

Not to mention brands talk. So the brand you cheated on a collab with talks to another brand who warns them of you who then talks to another brand and another brand until every brand (and blogger) is aware of your reputation of buying followers and wants nothing to do with you. It’s harsh but, you’re the one cheating here so what do you expect?

Not only does buying followers ruin things for yourself but it ruins things for the entire blogging community as well. Not cool.

paid features

There are some IG accounts that you can pay to be featured on. These are usually the accounts with 100k+ followers and in the bio you’ll see “DM for inquires” or “Email to be featured!”

So then you send the account an email and they reply with a list of prices for individual posts and bundle packs. That’s great, but how do you know the followers are authentic? You have to do a lot of research and even then you might not be totally sure. It’s so so so easy (and cheap) to buy followers that anyone can do it and then start a business by ripping people off through paid features.

There are a few scenarios that could happen here. Let’s say the account you paid to be on has fake followers, well then you’ll get some of those fake followers thus it’s like you bought followers. Fake followers = no credibility.

Or you could pay to be featured on an account with real followers and then nothing happens and you just lost $50. For me personally, I prefer to be featured organically. Again, I feel paying to be featured is another tacky marketing technique, especially if you’re like “Omg thank you @streetstyle for featuring me!” Like, come on, of course, they’re going to feature you, you paid them to!

So the bottom line here is the worst that can happen is you waste money and gain fake followers or you don’t gain any followers at all and lose money outright. Either way, it’s a gamble and you never know what you’re going to get.

instagram ads

Honestly, there’s nothing too, too bad about using Instagram ads. However one can speculate that when you use them once IG could sneakily change the algorithm and make it harder for your followers to see your content thus forcing you to use ads again and again and again. Again, this is pure speculation, ya never know!

Not to mention for Instagram ads to even be effective you have to really do your research. You need to know who you’re targeting: what they do, where they’re from, how old they are, and what they’re interested in. You also need to know the days/times they’re most active. The more specific you can be the better. Otherwise you’re just shooting in the dark and wasting money yet again.

The other issue with Instagram ads is well it’s an ad and what do you do when you see an ad? You scroll right past it. Let’s be honest, ads are annoying AF. Every time I see an ad on Instagram it makes me annoyed with the person posting it especially if they’re trying to sell something. No, I don’t want your 6-week Pinterest course, thanks. Instagram ads can come off pushy and sales-y which could turn off your audience completely.


What I’d love for you to do right now is share this post. The more awareness we can bring to these issues, the more we have a better chance at stopping it. Do it subtly on Facebook or post to your story on Snapchat or IG. But just do it because the sooner people realize this the better off we’ll all be! 


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  • Reply
    08/29/2017 at 11:57 am

    I’m passively aggressively sending this to all the cheaters I know on Insta. And for the most part, I hope posts like this just help us make the Insta/Blogger community more authentic and full of genuine posts. Thanks for continuing to lead the charge!!
    Erika recently posted…My Revamped Playlist: Copy CatsMy Profile

    • Reply
      08/30/2017 at 10:26 am

      YAASSSS HONEY! Thank YOU for being a pioneer in the movement. I hope it helps too. Thank you for your continued support! xx

  • Reply
    08/29/2017 at 6:45 pm

    This post is awesome! Thanks for sharing 🌸

    • Reply
      08/30/2017 at 10:24 am

      Thanks so much for reading Kristina! Please stay in touch! xx

  • Reply
    Liyana Aris
    09/06/2017 at 10:06 am

    I think with the Instagram algorithm microbloggers are wanting more and more; more followers, more likes, more engagement. I myself am not excluded, as I did mention I tried a free trial for an automation program (which I think is the same as the “bots” you talked about?) because I was curious enough to see where it would lead me. It makes sense that people are coming up with more ways to cheat the system, because of this wants and needs to get to the top of the game!

    By the way, I have never even heard of some of these “tricks” until you mentioned them here and in the previous related post! Very interesting, I must say. I don’t mind loop giveaways (never joined one though) but I just really don’t get the idea of buying followers. I’ve also been asked to pay for a “feature” but I never even bother replying to that DM, I thought the idea was absurd. Didn’t realise people actually DO do it, until reading your post. That’s probably why those kind of accounts thrive…?

    By the way, I read your reply in the previous related post, and I noticed another comment from your reader talking about how she was in two Instagram pods. I was actually asked to join one a few days ago by a vlogger (she and I are friends on IG), but I had never heard about “pods” until that moment. Still not sure what it does, but I like her and said yes I’d give it a go, but after reading that comment by your reader I’m regretting it now! Do you know if Instagram pods are good or bad?

    Thank you for your insightful posts, Brittany. I think it’s a good time to share these infos. I keep seeing tweets by bloggers saying they notice their growth on Instagram is slowing down, as I have in recent weeks. I always thought cheating your way through Instagram is laughable but didn’t realise it could impact other bloggers negatively. Food for thought, definitely.
    Liyana Aris recently posted…A Good Boxy Blazer & My Favourite Two Toned Frayed JeansMy Profile

    • Reply
      09/07/2017 at 10:16 am

      Wow, thank you so much for your comment Liyana. I love it! I do think there is a lot of pressure on bloggers that we place on ourselves to catch up to others and to be the next Sincerely Jules but when you do so inauthentically, you will suffer the consequences. Having patience is such an underrated trait to have when growing a business, it’s crazy. Everything is moving so fast now so we think we have to be moving just as fast but it doesn’t work like that. The bloggers who have millions of followers now got to that point after years and years of working hard (most of them have been chiseling away for a decade).

      I don’t think there’s any harm in engagement pods, I think they’re a great way to make connections and help one another, however who knows what Instagram thinks and what changes they will make in the future. No one can say. My best advice is to focus on creating high quality, valuable content and the followers will come. It just might not happen when you want it to. xx

  • Reply
    Liyana Aris
    09/06/2017 at 10:07 am

    Oh dear didn’t know my comment was going to be THAT long, I’m sorry for that, Brittany!
    Liyana Aris recently posted…A Good Boxy Blazer & My Favourite Two Toned Frayed JeansMy Profile

    • Reply
      09/07/2017 at 10:16 am

      I loved every word of it! xx

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