Have you experienced a sudden downturn in Story views on Instagram? Don’t worry – it’s not you and you’re not alone. Instagram is cracking down on growth hackers, clearing the platform of inauthenticity, and helping marketers and influencers alike to accurately gauge Instagram Story performance and engagement with users.
In case you might have missed it, just three months ago, Instagram users noticed a sudden increase in Story views. Those who observed the rapid upswing found that in addition to their usual followers, their Stories were now also being viewed by strangers who didn’t follow them at all.
Then, in August of this year, Instagram confirmed what most users had already figured out for themselves – Instagram Stories were experiencing a sudden influx of fake Story views, and the culprits were third-party services artificially boosting the engagement of illegitimate influencers.
Let’s backtrack a bit
In our blog Social Influencer Marketing – The good, the bad, and the ugly, we discussed the use of social media bots which imitate human behaviour and artificially boost illegitimate influencer follower counts. With Instagram cracking down on these bots, a new trend has now surfaced – ‘mass looking’.
What is mass looking?
Mass looking is essentially third parties generating fake engagements by ‘viewing’ Instagram Stories on behalf of illegitimate influencers. This latest growth hack strategy is an exploitation of the phenomenon social psychologists call ‘reciprocal liking’ – a human tendency to take an interest in people who appear to take an interest in us. By ‘viewing’ millions of Stories every day, these growth hackers appear more legitimate, encouraging users to follow them and boosting their profile visibility.
On the ground level, mass looking works something like this: Instagram users with a small following post to their Stories and check to see who has watched them. When they go to view their statistics, they discover an unknown profile and click on it to learn more about who watched their Story. If that profile matches their interests, that user might start following it or engage with it in some way.
It might not sound like much but with third-party bot services claiming to be able to view up to 30,000,000 Stories every day, and CTRs (the rate at which people click through to view who’s watching them) ranging between 1% and 5%, illegitimate influencers (or growth hackers) are increasing their profile visibility at an exponential rate.
What is the impact of mass looking?
Mass looking artificially boosts engagements on social media but ultimately it doesn’t pay dividends, only serving to undermine the marketing industry. The impacts can be far-reaching, moving beyond the frustrations of influencers and brands who work hard to foster genuine relationships with users online. Though it may be less relevant to smaller business and organisations creating targeted ads, larger brands looking to increase brand awareness through digital advertising campaigns on Instagram Stories can lose valuable budget on ‘views’ that aren’t being seen by anyone. While Facebook does take measures to ensure invalid activity across its platforms is avoided or refunded, most of their checks and validations are completed through automated processes and must be constantly monitored to ensure fraud attempts are thwarted before impacting your bottom-line.
Instagram’s crackdown on mass looking
Thankfully, Instagram has been able to crack down on these growth hackers, eliminating mass looking as it crops up. The fallout is that for the wider Instagram community, there has been a sudden (and for some, quite significant) decline in Story views. It should be some consolation that the decline is reflective of Instagram removing artificial engagements, and not necessarily indicative that your content is missing the mark.
How the fallout impacts you
Apart from the short-term blow to your metrics, and of course that initial feeling of dismay at the sudden decrease in your Story views, the systematic removal of mass looking is actually positive. Your view quality is up and now you have more relevant metrics. What’s more, your metrics are now a true representation of who is actually viewing and engaging with your content, rather than some bloated vanity number with no real value. So, keep posting organic content and engaging with your followers; it might not be the fastest way to boost your profile visibility and get more followers – but it’s definitely the best way.
If you want to grow your social media following or form more meaningful relationships with your existing audience, NOUS can help. Whatever your brand needs, we can deliver – because at NOUS, brands are what we make.