How wannabe Instagram influencers use bots to appear popular

Jason Wong founded a clothing store called Fifthtee this year that pledges a fifth of its proceeds to nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society. Wong used a bot service for his business account @fifthtee to automatically like and comment 24/7 on posts that included dog-related hashtags. While the provider didn’t get @fifthtee — which has a little over 6,000 followers — as many followers as expected, it helped the account generate more than 100 likes per post than usual, according to Wong.

Many agencies and marketing platforms promote the idea of “micro-influencers,” who are considered more authentic than those with millions of followers. But this cohort — whose following base typically falls in the 10,000 to 100,000 range — are mostly likely to turn to bots to inflate their authenticity. Like Wong, many micro-influencers on Instagram are using bot providers — the costs range from $9 to $40 per month — to generate followers, likes and comments based on certain rules in an automated way. For instance, a user can ask the bot to comment “I love it!” on posts about travel or like images posted from New York City.

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