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Why This Bot’s Crappy Photos Got Way More Likes, Favorites and Comments than Your Good Ones

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It seems the secret to having an enthusiastic following on a major photo sharing site has very little to do with the quality of your pictures. Sure, you can’t just post terrible snapshots of nothing, but as one Redditor found out, engaging with the community is actually far more important.

We ran across Redditor rorrr’s experiment a couple of days ago when he commented on the video below about how to compete with cat photos. It’s a great video on self-promotion and well worth the watch, but rorrr‘s experiment proves just how useful one of the pieces of advice they give in the video really is.

Here is his explanation, republished in full with permission:

I have a fun story regarding the whole “go comment, make friends, and you will receive comments in return”.

So I had been using this photo community site (name not disclosed, but it’s a big one) for a couple of years, and my photos were decent, a few good ones. Whenever I posted a new one, I would get maybe 5 comments and a few upvotes/downvotes. A dozen people added me the their favorites over the years. Nothing major.

At the same time there were a few dozen posters there with absolutely shit photos and they always got a hundred comments and nearly perfect ratings on every single photo.

So I looked at what they did and, as a programmer, I thought, “I could write a bot that did all of that.” So I did.

It did a very simple set of actions on every new photo posted:

  • Give it 5 stars.
  • Write a randomly generated comment made up of chunks like “absolutely amazing”, “so beautiful”, “you’re talented”, “adding you to my favorites”, “A+++”, etc.
  • Added the author to the favorites.
  • Gave the author +rep or something along the lines

Before I launched it I posted a few very average photos under the bot’s account, who also had some random girl’s pic in the profile. Then one evening I launched, watched it for a few minutes, and went to sleep.

When I woke up, HOLY S**T.

Every single photo of mine had perfect 5 star ratings with dozens and dozens of votes, tons of comments from the happy noobs who got “discovered” by me, almost all of them added me to their favorites, I had like 50 friends overnight.

During the day when the site hit peak traffic, it went even more insane, everything quadrupled, my latest photo became the photo of the day on the front page.

By then a few people figured out WTF was going on, because I was too lazy with writing randomized comments, they didn’t have much variety. By the end of the day the bot got banned. But the damage was done. I posted on their forum explaining the whole thing. Many people were angry, because it exposed how full of s**t the photo critique communities are, many were laughing and laughing. A few regulars quit. And so did I.

That’s why I only ask for the negative feedback to my work. Getting positive feedback is just too easy.

Obviously creating a bot that likes everybody’s photos, favorites everyone and leaves cheesy “this is awesome” comments isn’t the way to go, but there’s a lesson in here about how important engaging with the community at hand is.

Well, that and only ever asking for negative feedback… apparently getting people to tell you you’re great is pretty easy.

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