Being an online influencer seems like a great gig. You get to score free products and get paid to advertise them too, whether it be makeup products, electronics, clothing, or food. This was something that developer Chris Buetti wanted to achieve, but yet he was lacking some of the soft skills required to be an influencer, such as the ability to take nice photos and “creating content people enjoy”.

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However he did have a set of skills that he could use as a result of being a data scientist, and he decided to put that to good use. According to a report from BuzzFeed, he created a program that would automate an Instagram account on his behalf. The program would follow thousands of users in hopes that they would follow him back.

The program would also take photos of food taken by photographers and repost them (and giving them due credit, of course). As a result his reputation grew and he reached out to restaurants offering a review in exchange for a free meal.

It might come across a bit unethical, but Buetti feels like it’s a fair trade. He credits photographers for their images, restaurants also benefit from his recommendations, and according to Buetti,“I spent a lot of time and effort writing this script and I’m offering them a service and they’re offering me a free meal.”

At least one restaurant doesn’t seem to mind that it was an AI-powered account because at the end of the day, it still helped them generate awareness of their restaurant, which for a $25 meal voucher seems like quite a steal.

Unsurprisingly actual human influencers aren’t too thrilled by this, such as Skyler Bouchard who said, “To be honest, seeing someone create such a large following through automation and AI is pretty discouraging for me, and for anyone else who has put blood, sweat, and tears into building their online brands, but it’s also kind of fascinating.”

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