There’s a constant trend of people who ask, “Is this possible?” or “Can you do [x]?”
If the first thing that comes into your mind when you have an idea is, “Go online and ask a bunch of random people whether this idea is possible,” then you’re in the wrong mental space.
It’s amazing how many questions get asked online that could be solved with a simple Google search. Even more could be solved with a little positive attitude and five minutes of work.
Even seemingly massive projects are basically only a search away. Yet people don’t do anything remotely resembling independent thinking and a little work.
Here’s a good example.
There’s No Point In Wearing A Black Hat If There’s No Brain Underneath It
As some of you will know, seeing what black hat marketers do is a bit of a hobby of mine. Guys that try and cut corners in an attempt to “skim money off the top” without providing any value are stupid, but they’re pretty useful if you’re willing to take their shortcuts and use them for good stuff.
For instance, you could go and search Amazon for terrible twelve-page ebooks and then write better ones. You know that there’s a target market there because the black hat marketers have already done the research.
You then corner the market. Black hat types will say, “Put a twist on this super-secret method to making money!” Your twist should be that you actually do it properly.
Anyway, this week a popular bit of automation software called MassPlanner closed its doors. MassPlanner was a software that people used to automate Instagram functions; it posted images, followed and unfollowed people and spammed comments on mass.
It was a very popular method because people could set the system to do the work and then sell shout outs from their pages or even buy and sell the accounts themselves. There was a whole internet economy based around this and it required no work whatsoever.
If you think that sounds awesome, then I’ve got some bad news. Presumably Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) had enough of this sort of behaviour because the guys behind MassPlanner sent out an email to all of their users that basically amounted to, “Sorry guys… the game is over.”
Now, this is entirely expected, but for some people it’s a tragic tale. I know about this because one guy I speak to semi-regularly runs a whole business operation around this. He has over 40 Instagram accounts and hires some virtual assistant team to do all the work.
Overnight, that “awesome” business set up is about to sink like a lead balloon. Thousands of black hatters have spent the week crying and you’ll see some crazy forum threads about how people’s houses are going to get raided if they’ve ever bought followers and all sorts of other stupid stuff.
Inevitably, there are also the “Is Making Money Still Possible?” threads.
Which brings me onto my point.
“Is Such A Thing Even Possible?”
I don’t use Instagram and I certainly don’t do any Instagram marketing. (That said, I might hop into it small-scale because this MassPlanner bloodbath means that all the corner-cutters will be moving out of it.)
Hundreds of people say, “SURELY IT’S OVER THE END IS HERE?!?!” and then proceed to go and ask people who are in exactly the same boat as them about what’s possible.
It doesn’t matter what subject you’re talking about, it’s a stupid idea and here’s why.
You’re overweight. You want to change that. Therefore, you think the best thing to do is to go on a bodybuilding forum and ask about the best way to do things. It sounds good in theory, but in reality you’re socialising with a bunch of other people that are fat and came to the site for the same reasons you did. They proceed to give you bad advice because they’re fat and still learning themselves.
You buy a bit of black hat software that allows you to spam Instagram. You use it to follow a thousand people a day and send out hundreds of spam messages, because some guy told you that that was the way to make money. The software gets banned… and your first port of call is to go back to the guy who told you how to do those things that got you in this mess in the first place.
The smart thing to do in the above situations is also sadly the hardest. Find out yourself.
It means a bit of Googling and some pen-on-paper note taking, but it has two distinct benefits:
- You’ll know what you’re talking about
- You’ll have built an actual system that you know inside-out and that system will work independently of outside input
For instance, if you were trying to lose weight, you could go on Google Scholar (seriously underrated resource) and get the basics of a diet/exercise system down. Then you could test the system over the course of six weeks.
If you lose weight, it works. It also confirms the academic learning you put in at the start.
If it doesn’t work, then you try something similar yet different. Find out what went wrong. (Most stuff is common sense.)
Whatever happens in this scenario, two things are true:
- You are not relying on anybody else – especially people who don’t know what they’re talking about
- Your findings, data and results are yours and irrefutable (to you) – it doesn’t matter what the above people think or say anyway
Most people never get to this stage about anything.
Bonus: How I’d Build An Instagram Business
As a bit of an experiment, I thought I’d run through the “What would I do if I’d spent $20 a month on a bit of software and it was now useless… leaving my entire business model in tatters?” game.
MassPlanner used to cost $20 a month (what a racket) and performed all of the functions that a user can do on Instagram. It had massive centralised servers that presumably caused a massive footprint which Facebook noticed and threw their blood-sucking lawyers at.
So, could you design a system that did all of the above, did it better and could go virtually undetected (preferably for less money?)?
Yes, of course you could. With the power of Google search, I created this dangerous method for making money in the Instagram-Apocalypse of 2017. (Please note; I haven’t tested it yet… but seeing as that’s the whole point of this article, do it yourself.)
What Is Typical Instagram All About?
If you want to succeed where the spammers and scammers fail, look at what Instagram is all about.
It’s about people sharing their photos and life stories like Facebook just with pictures and very few words.
Hashtags are used to denote a topic and that’s how people find you – as well as by your liking and following their profiles too. You might want to comment on relevant posts as well because there you build a sense of community and all that.
So, the above is what we have to replicate.
Do you need a piece of software to do that?
No… you can do it manually, but let’s be honest, that’s hard work.
Instead, think like a media company.
If you think that Kim Kardashian wakes up and thinks, “Hey, I know… this shampoo is really great. Better take a picture of it and make sure to get my breasts in the background too because it’ll enhance the aesthetic of the image!” then I’ve got some really useless stuff to sell you at a high price.
Big companies use all kinds of sneaky marketing tricks and automation. They don’t get banned like the spammers do.
Because they’re smart about it. They’re professional and they act like it.
In other words, they don’t spam the hell out of every one of the millions of users, follow ten thousand people a day with a brand new account or have stupid account names like “Getloadsof Freestuffhere.”
Also… stock images and images scraped from the first page of reddit. If you don’t think there’s an algorithm to detect blatant things like that, then I’ve got more useless stuff to sell you.
The upshot of this section: Whatever your core business proposal is, don’t automate that part.
Automation is used to deal with the boring secondary stuff… like a business does.
For Instagram, this basically amounts to:
- Unique content
- Not spamming with stupid comments (Examples: “Great photos! Check out X for free shoes” or “Nice this is really great post follow me plz”)
A ton of this sort of advice comes under the “Don’t be stupid” category. All of my readers have basic common sense, so we’ll move on.
The Technical Component
Most black hat marketing software is not very tricky to emulate. If you think MassPlanner was some magical software that couldn’t be replicated, then you’re naïve.
Within about an hour of simple Google searches, I found:
- How to create your own private proxies… practically for free
- iMacros scripts that work from your browser that follow/unfollow/like etc. everything you can do on Instagram
- free software that emulates mobile devices so that you can post to Instagram
- pre-written code from GitHub that mimics pretty much every related function you could think of
In short, everything you’d need to create your own personal, private and custom piece of software is available for free and within a few clicks and keyboard taps.
The only other thing you need to do is some social engineering to get your parameters. This is simple: Monitor your social media use. If you’re an antisocial weirdo like I am, then this might be tough. Ask one of your more socially able friends to help you with this. Preferably the target market you’re aiming for.
Let’s say you’re creating a fashion Instagram. Find an eighteen year old girl and make a note of how, when and what she uses Instagram for. The average spammer and scammer reads, “You can follow a thousand people a day!” and does that.
Then his bot follows a person a minute all day and sends out three comments per minute. 24/7.
Obviously no real human being does this. Your 18 year old test dummy probably follows a lot less than that, spends an hour or less liking pictures and uploads images in batches on Saturday’s when they’re doing something interesting (and not at 6am on Thursday morning when they’re obviously in bed.)
If you need to use a bot to mimic natural behaviours, then make it do that. Not some unnatural and obvious pattern.
Or you know, you could try something more valuable… but whatever. The point is that some people have been staking six-figure businesses on a bit of software that’s $20 a month when they could build their own private system for absolutely nothing and it’d be private, custom and undetectable.
All it takes is asking smart questions and putting the work in.
This article isn’t really about black hat marketing or Instagram or whatever. It’s about choices and answering your own questions.
Making good decisions is a skill that you can develop. Getting the personal awareness and courage to try out stuff, fail and improve is also a skill that you can develop. Self-reliance is important and pays more benefits than you could account for.
People say, “There are no stupid questions” but they’re wrong. If you can quickly discover the answer yourself but instead you ask someone else and then wait around for their answer, then that’s a waste of everyone’s time. In other words, it’s stupid.
Most answers are easily attainable without much pain. A simple Google search will answer most questions. Reverse engineering complex processes isn’t impossible.
Finally, finding your own answers is more beneficial than having them fed to you. Part of answering a question is learning the answer, and tangible real-world experience carries a certainty with it that you’ll never get from asking the countless opinions of others.