Can Instagram Stop Insta-spam?

Our social and online reputation teams have noticed a recent rise in what we affectionately refer to here as “Insta-spam.” That is, spam bots leaving fake comments from fake profiles, or hashtag hijackers posting dozens if not hundreds of often inappropriate photos, directly tagged to client brand names.

Hashtag hijackIn the fast moving world of social media, the rise of spam accounts can wreak havoc on carefully constructed company brand profiles. Worse, suspicious links in the posts to malware can compromise users’ computers, causing real damage and even potential account hacks.

One of the latest methods spammers are using to ride direct selling brands is hashtag hijacking. It works like this: the spammer simply tags a photo of (typically) a bikini-clad women or low-res sunsets with dozens of direct selling brand names, like #organogold or #primerica. Users searching for a brand name will come upon the photo connected directly to the company name, and the spammer gets extra followers along the way as they follow the spam accounts, believing they are real and thus connecting the spam account to your brand.

Sounds terrible, right?hashtag hijack

The good news is there are practical limits to the potential damage such slimy marketing can be. First, hashtags do not typically show up first in search, the brand profile does. So if you have a robust presence on Instagram it’s unlikely many people would click the hashtag in their search for your brand over the actual brand page.

So to alleviate the risk, we suggest that brands should never market the company using the company name only in hashtags; they should be more specific (thus harder to hijack). If your company wants to create a hashtag say, for an event, it should use the event name (i.e. #OurEvent2015 or some such) rather than simply the brand name.

Hoping to protect its increasing share of the social media traffic, Instagram has recently made well-publicized attempts to squash the spammers, including mass deletions of bot accounts in December and again in April.

And while it’s true that Instagram has implemented countermeasures to block spambots and fake accounts, much more needs to be done. Until then, be sure you are on top of how your brand is being used (or abused) in the Insta-sphere.

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