Jun 12, 2013

Dealing with Instagram Spammers

I’ve been on Instagram for a while now and despise spammers. They ruin social media. Social media professionals generally are equipped to deal with spammers, but with emerging social media applications likeVine and Instagram that are becoming widely accepted, spammers look at them as the wild wild west. Spammers descend in droves trying to get people to buy something and when they go to far it begins to ruin a good thing. 

My personal blog has over 20,000 followers on Instagram and I’m very active on the platforms I generally get about 20-30 notifications a day. I’ve set my notifications to only alert me if someone comments on my photos or tags me directly. Last month I updated the Instagram app and a new feature appeared, “Photos of Me”. I thought how cool, people who recreate my recipes can post them in here. (My Instagram account is my personal food blog.) I went three weeks before the first person posted a ‘photo of me.’ After a month I have 4 total photos. 

This past Saturday I was out with my three year old. My phone had a modest 60% charge and we went to our local grocery store to grab some barbeque supplies. I left my phone in the car for about 30 minutes. When I came back, I noticed it was lit up with notifications. It went dim for a moment while I strapped my daughter into her car seat and then it started buzzing and chiming.  It just wouldn’t stop.  Now for parents with three year olds, especially ones that can be a little moody when they don’t want to be strapped into their seats, it can take two or three minutes. During this toddler tantrum, I kept hearing the notification chime, constantly, every second it would chime. I thought, WHAT IS GOING ON?! Is there an emergency?!

I finished strapping her in, got into the drivers seat and turn the car on, blasted the air conditioning, gave my three year old her iPad and then grabbed my chiming iPhone. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on. I started scrolling through the notifications and kept scrolling. All it said was “xyz user has taken a photo of you.”  Over and over and over, 500 times. I thought to myself, what?! How is it possible, within a span of 30 minutes, to have 500 pictures of me show up in my profile. SPAM that’s how. Spammers had targeted my account because of my default settings established by Instagram. My entire “Photos of Me” tab in my profile was littered with, ‘Buy more followers’ and ‘Get Free Followers.’ If spammers post on my pictures, I remove and ban them, but I didn’t know what to do with this particular issue. I sat there, with the car running, for a few minutes and then I realized something even worse. All of these vibrating notifications had sucked the life out of my battery. I’m sitting with a 2% charge and the notifications are still pouring in. I finally grabbed a screen shot, thinking no one would believe me later. 

After investigating the issue, I discovered that Instagram has an automatic or manual setting for ‘photos of you’. This setting by default is set to ‘automatic.’ That means spammers can flood your account with whatever spam they want and you are stuck spending hours fixing it. That’s exactly what I did off and on the rest of my Saturday. I had to manually remove all of the tags in the photos of me section. After I set my profile preferences to ‘manual,’ the spam soon stopped. I pulled my phone into my charger, asked my three year old is she wanted an ice cream cone, because I sure did, and we started home. 

Social media can be tricky sometimes. Dealing with ugly comments, trying to grow and be engaging, insightful and adding value to the community can be difficult, but spam gets in the way of all that. Instagram and Vine need to make sure that spammers don’t drive people away. I was so mad it happened that I told my wife it made me almost want to quit Instagram, I just love the community to much. 

Remember on any social media, check your settings. If you update the app, often times that means that new settings are available. Don’t learn the hard way like me!

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