The plan, which I worked out with my editor and a slightly confused Bloomberg Businessweek lawyer, was this: With Saynt’s company advising me, I would go undercover for a month, attempting to turn my schlubby @mchafkin profile into that of a full-fledged influencer. I would do everything possible within legal bounds to amass as many followers as I could. My niche would be men’s fashion, a fast-growing category in which I clearly had no experience. The ultimate goal: to persuade someone, somewhere, to pay me cash money for my influence.
I signed up for a service recommended to me by Socialyte called Instagress. It’s one of several bots that, for a fee, will take the hard work out of attracting followers on Instagram. For $10 every 30 days, Instagress would zip around the service on my behalf, liking and commenting on any post that contained hashtags I specified. (I also provided the bot a list of hashtags to avoid, to minimize the chances I would like pornography or spam.) I also wrote several dozen canned comments—including “Wow!” “Pretty awesome,” “This is everything,” and, naturally, “[Clapping Hands emoji]”—which the bot deployed more or less at random. In a typical day, I (or “I”) would leave 900 likes and 240 comments. By the end of the month, I liked 28,503 posts and commented 7,171 times.
Siegel could offer me as many perfectly framed lattes, hipster hotel lobbies, and urban sunsets as I wanted. I bought 20 for $400, which brought my total tab for photography services to $2,000. I asked her about credit—should I note in my feed that she was the photographer? Siegel suggested that I might shout her out once or twice, but crediting her would break the illusion. As she pointed out, “You’re the one who is supposed to be experiencing these things.”
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Bloomberg writer tries to become an Instagram influencer