It’s foolish to think of yourself as merely a customer when subscribing to a service, especially when that service is meant to grow your business or influence. You’re not just a customer buying a product, but an investor.
You’re putting your money into that service with the expectation they’ll remain a long-term partner of yours, providing their service indefinitely and maintaining their quality consistently as you grow together.
Businesses in the modern world rely on many of these types of services. You’re likely paying a company annually for web hosting and a domain name. Some of you may have also hired a web marketing firm to handle site and content management, if you can afford one that is.
These types of annually-paid services can have a major, lasting impact on the success of your business. That is, if the services themselves are lasting, too.
Many businesses and influencers rely on these sorts of annual services for managing or automating their social media accounts. It’s difficult today to build a stable, sizable Instagram following without them, really.
Services like SocialSteeze, LikeSocial, and Follow Adder not only take the grunt work out of Instagram account management, but can help bring positive attention to your business and grow your customer base. For influencers, they expand your reach and empower your voice. Their impact is unquestionably massive.
Not all Instagram automation and boosting services are made equally. Some services are downright scams. Others try to operate more legitimately, but are met by an untimely end nevertheless.
And when one of those services you place your trust in and rely on go belly-up, it can have a negative — perhaps even catastrophic — impact on your business or influencer status.
Red Flags vs. Ugly Butterflies
At face value, it seems risky investing in a business relationship with any company that provides services the platform itself isn’t keen on.
Instagram is infamous for chucking armloads of lawyers toward anyone and everyone who violates their terms of service, or shares a name similar to theirs, or attempts to automate through the use of bots; they’re very quick to get litigious when they feel their brand or their platform is threatened.
Services like SocialSteeze and LikeSocial are careful to avoid those pitfalls. They provide genuine, beneficial services and work tirelessly to defend their status as legitimate operators. But not all companies working in this space are as noble as others. Some of them use questionable tactics. Others provide dubiously substandard services. Some are outright scams.
It’s rare for companies to check all three of those aforementioned boxes. And when someone pulls off this feat, it leaves some of us scratching our heads trying to figure out how the heck anyone fell for it to begin with. I mean, the writing was on the wall, wasn’t it? Didn’t these services scream “I am a huge scam, avoid me!” at the top of their lungs?
But that’s just it. The hallmark of a successful scam is that you can’t always tell if it’s untrustworthy, at least not at first glace. And when a company presents itself in a flashy, professional-looking way — as any good scam will — it often masks the red flags to the point where you think they’re little more than ugly butterflies.
Boomul was, until the summer of 2018, a service that checked all of those boxes. They were shady, shoddy, scammy, and slimy … the only words beginning with the letter “S” I can use to describe a company like Boomul without offending anyone.
A Service in Sheep’s Clothing
A lot of consumers are wowed pretty easily by a fancy logo and a flashy, modern, professional-looking website. And hey, we can’t blame them. A company that presents itself in an aesthetically pleasing way is likely a company that can afford the best. And you can’t afford the best without being successful, which in turn means lots of people must’ve given that company their money over the years, right?
That’s what consumers thought when they first encountered Boomul. Their website was clean, professional and sleek, with a fancy polished logo that screamed “Look out world! We just paid for this logo with our series-C funding!” At first glance Boomul looked as legitimate as they come. The real deal. They were a company you could trust, because only a successful company would present themselves that nicely.
For many consumers, that’s all Boomul really needed to earn their business. But these hapless individuals entered into their business relationship with Boomul under-prepared, and under false pretenses. They didn’t know the warning signs or how to spot trouble on the horizon. And adding insult to injury, they only needed to scratch a fingernail across the surface to see the real Boomul. The Boomul lurking beneath their fragile upscale veneer.
So what was Boomul really, you ask? Well … they were a scam.
Some of you who are in the know might say “But wait! Boomul did, in fact, deliver on some of their promises with some customers!” And that’s true, they did. Sometimes. Just often enough, it would seem, to keep the scam going. And that made them all the more diabolical in the end.
Nothing but Trouble
Boomul’s primary service was selling consumers Instagram bots — artificially intelligent bits of computer software used to automate various elements of managing your account. They can like and comment on your posts, or automatically follow or unfollow others, or handle other little bits of grunt work for your Instagram account.
Bots are highly controversial on the web, and not just on Instagram. All of the big social media platforms proactively attempt to block the usage of bots, and Instagram, more than Facebook and Twitter even, is particularly touchy about them. Using bots can sometimes be harmless. But Instagram can suspended or even ban accounts for using them.
It was only a matter of time before Instagram caught on and used their legal muscle to shut down Boomul. And that was for the best, really. Their use of bots wasn’t remotely the worst thing Boomul was up to.
Boomul made their pricing difficult to find. They tried to hide their reviews, too, and with good reason: those reviews were pretty awful all around. And all of this comes before the really troublesome elements of Boomul’s operation.
Be Mindful of Security
The biggest red flags Boomul waved around were their lack of a secure link and their lack of a secure payment method. And those are two pretty massive, unfathomably important things to have.
Websites earn security certificates from organizations trusted by your browser. See that little padlock icon up in your address bar? That indicates whether a site is secure or not. If it’s not secure, you’re entering information on that site at your own risk. You should get into the habit of looking for that little padlock everywhere you go on the web. If a site doesn’t have one, you’re endangering whatever information you choose to share with that site.
Likewise, you should always seek out secure payment methods on any website you choose to spend money on. The last thing you want to do is hand your credit card information to a criminal. And if you’re putting that information into a website that lacks that sort of credential, that is very possibly what you’re doing.
A Tent Made Out of Red Flags
And then came the ugliest bit of the Boomul operation … their affiliate marketing program. The idea was simple on paper: users could register on the affiliate end of their website to get an immediate refund of their first month’s subscription fee, and earn commissions from each friend who signed up and paid a subscription fee of their own. You’d get a cut of whatever profit Boomul made. But I haven’t found a single confirmed Boomul customer who signed up for the affiliate program and actually got paid. Many former customers were ripped off in the end.
With a cursory inspection, the red flags at Boomul were, in hindsight anyway, pretty obvious. And when you dug deep enough to learn more — reading reviews from trusted sources, taking in a big swath of customer reviews, and generally examining the company further — you found that Boomul wasn’t just a scam waving a few red flags. They were a scam monster living inside a big red tent stitched entirely out of red flags.
… And Boomul Goes the Dynamite
Shoddy business practices, questionable affiliate marketing scams, an utter lack of web security, and a substandard product highly targeted for litigation by Instagram’s legal teams. The writing was on the wall for Boomul from day one.And given the questionable nature of their work, it’s really a good thing Instagram stepped in and shut them down, before even more people were caught off-guard and scammed like so many less fortunate Boomul clients.The shuttering of Boomul undoubtedly saved untold numbers from succumbing to scams.But there are unsung victims who lost out big when Boomul went down, and they’re not a group you’re likely expecting: their remaining customers, who purchased packages promising them services well past the company’s own expiration date.They’re the ones who took a gamble on investing in Boomul’s future. And they’re the ones left holding the bag now that the company is officially defunct.
Avoid the Boomul Nightmare. Do Your Homework
Try to imagine it. You’re someone who just found Boomul. You’re not particularly tech savvy — heck, that’s part of why you want to hire them in the first place, because Instagram is outside your scope — but the company looks pretty reliable. You find some positive reviews, which may or may not have been paid for, and that’s good enough for you.
You buy a subscription lasting a few months. And the very next day, the Boomul website no longer exists.
When you’re paying for services, it’s critical that you take the time to research who they are, what they really do, and how they do it.
You need to take the time to find reviews written by actual users, shared on trustworthy sites, and find reputable review sites that will tell you the good and the bad so you’re making an informed opinion. That’s when you should be willing to make a purchase … and not one second earlier.
You can throw a rock and hit a dozen services just as questionable as Boomul. Heck, some are even worse than Boomul.
But let their story serve as a cautionary tale for you. Know the companies you choose to get involved with. Understand the risks and the consequences. Do your homework. And with a little preparation and patience, you’ll have a much easier time avoiding the Boomuls of this world.
I’m a full-time social media research specialist. Actually you could say I’m a bit obsessed. I seek out the latest information and hacks for our How-to Guides. As well as that, I put companies under the microscope for reviews. Yes I’m hyper-critical when reviewing services, and most can’t handle the harsh truth – can you?