A few years ago, I would often post blogging tips and even ran a Facebook group helping bloggers. Blogging is so fast-paced and ever changing and,  well, I just couldn’t keep up with it all. That didn’t mean that I still didn’t research new strategies, platforms, and ways to do things.

There are always new strategies that Influencers employ to expand their reach and influence. While the majority of these strategies are proven to be helpful, there are practices that have turned out to be dangerous to the industry as a whole.

The latest strategy that I have seen being used are Instagram Loops.

What is an Instagram Loop?

There are two different kind of Instagram Loops that are currently being ran: Secret Loops and Influencer/Blogger Loops.

A Secret Instagram Loop is a giveaway held on an Instagram account that Influencers can buy into. These loops can range from affordable ($30) to outrageous (up to $600). The main Instagram account then follows all accounts who purchased a spot and host the giveaway.

To enter the giveaway, you have to follow everyone the main account follows and leave comments on a few of the latest photos. The main account claims to monitor all new followers and comments and chooses a winner for the grand prize.

Influencer/Blogger Loops are loops are run by a collection of Blogger or Influencers, usually, in the same niche. Influencer A posts and tags Influencer B who tags Influencer C, etc. People would then click through and follow everyone who is tagged until the reach the beginning of the loop. This is a true Instagram Loop.

The Influencers who bought into the giveaway in return gain hundreds, if not thousands, of new followers.

Why participate in an Instagram Loop?

The main reason for participating in Instagram Loops is to gain followers. There is a pressure in the industry to have huge numbers so it’s easy to understand why an Instagram Loop would be appealing. You gain a lot of followers in a short amount of time for a relatively low investment.

But do those followers stay?

There are some Influencers who have participated in Loops and gained some genuine followers. And that’s great that they stuck around! That means you picked a Loop in your niche and targeted real followers who are interested in, well, you! This generally happens in a Blogger/Influencer Loop.

While that is the ideal of these Loops, more often than not, the exact opposite happens. Once the giveaway has ended, follower counts drop as these new followers start hitting the unfollow button. This is commonly seen in the Secret Loops.

So what’s the big deal?

By quickly scanning the new followers of those participating in Secret Instagram Loops , you will come to some conclusions.

  1. Private accounts which make it harder to verify participation and the authenticity of account.
  2. Public accounts with a small following and few images.
  3. Foreign accounts that appear to be fake.

It also has been speculated that those who are running these main Loop accounts are purchasing the followers to participate in these giveaways. Simply put, Secret Instagram Loops are a pretty way to buy followers. While this has not been confirmed, it’s troublesome.

Others have even questioned if the prizes had, in fact, been awarded to a winner. The New York Attorney General’s office is investigating a Fake Follower company. It’s only a matter of time before this spreads to other platforms, especially when it involves a giveaway or a sweepstakes. Throw in that some of these giveaways or sweeps are taking place internationally you have another can of worms with sweepstake laws.

With Facebook (and soon Instagram) pushing for more authentic and genuine content, the giveaway entry comments (often in another language or emojis) will not come across to brands, networks, and the platforms, themselves, as authentic. In time, they will do exactly the opposite of what the Influencer is trying to accomplish. It will pull down their reach in the long run.

Twitter and Instagram are notorious for performing mass purges of accounts they deem fake. They do these purges with absolutely no warning. There will come a day when many Influencers will wake up to a significant decrease in their numbers when those accounts are wiped out. Leaving them with nothing to show for the money they invested in these Instagram Loops.

How can you spot it?

It’s not hard to spot an account that is participating in Instagram Loops if you really take a look.

Example of chart on Social Blade of an account participating in Secret Loop

Websites, like Social Blade, pull follower numbers for many social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. If you see a huge gain across a few days (think hundreds or thousands a day for 3-4 days), it’s quite possible that account has participated in an Instagram Loop.

Of course, there is a chance their account has gone viral which is everyone’s end goal. To verify, head over to their account and take a look at the engagement on their account.

You will also see them lose a good chunk of those followers in the days after the loop ends. This keeps the Influencer in a never ending cycle themselves of having to participate in these Loops to keep their numbers up.

What does it all mean?

Numbers don’t always tell the whole picture. Brands and Influencer networks are slowly opening their eyes to these practices. Fake followers are actually ruining influencer marketing. There is no value of fake followers.

Today, Activate by Bloglovin’ sent out a newsletter that highlighted their thoughts on fake followers. It was refreshing to see a network come right out and support Influencers who are growing their accounts organically and authentically.

At the end of the day, each and every Influencer has to do what he or she is comfortable with their business. Ethical business practices will also be held to the highest standard. When researching ways to help grow your reach and business, it’s best to look at it from all sides. The good. The bad. And the ugly.

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