When a member of the Kardashian family posts on Instagram, the world pays attention.
But, venture into the comments section, and you won’t find countless declarations of admiration from devotees, you’ll see endless streams of words that you might not be familiar with.
Scroll through the comments on Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kylie or Kendall’s Instagram posts, and you’ll find a never-ending stream of”lb,” “cb,” “row,” and “first” comments, punctuated occasionally by the odd “?” or “?”. So, what the hell do these words mean?
These esoteric words are actually being used by Instagrammers to advertise themselves via the popularity of the Kardashian family’s posts in order to gain Instagram fame. The Instagram lexicon of personal gain, if you will.
According to Instagram user @ccubazlokiito305 — a frequent commenter on Kendall Jenner’s posts — lb means “like back” and cb stands for “comment back”. He says he’s not asking Kendall to like his posts, he wants other people lurking in the comments section to go to his account and comment on his posts. This term has been heavily used on the Kardashians’ Instagram comments for the past five years, and it’s not showing any signs of going away anytime soon.
Instagram influencer Beckii Cruel — who works for influencer marketing agency Social Circle — says those commenting “row” are asking others to “like the first row of pictures on their Instagram profile page”. “This is to boost overall likes a person appears to be getting,” she says.
People commenting “first” aren’t claiming to be the first people to comment on the post. The term is an abbreviation of “first for first,” a request for people to like their latest post in exchange for a like on their most recent post.
To get a sense of just how prolific these commenters are, you need look no further than Kendall Jenner’s most recent Instagram post. The comments are nigh-on completely dominated by lb, row, first and cb comments.
So, what exactly are these commenters trying to achieve?
“The commenters are aiming to increase their own popularity,” says Cruel. “The idea is that if a user looks at them, they’ll get the impression of a really popular Instagrammer with loads of likes and followers.”
Cruel says that she works with influencers who’ve spent years building up a following, and it’s “frustrating” for them to see people attempting to manufacture it. “This method of building influence and follower numbers doesn’t usually work, because if you unfollow the people you gained this way, they’ll often unfollow back,” says Cruel. She says that it’s easy to spot an “inauthentic influencer” as the comments look “unnatural”.
Kylie Jenner is not happy that commenters are using her Instagram photos for their own personal gain in an effort to build engagement on their Insta pages.
STOP WRITING LB ON ALL MY INSTAGRAM PHOTOS AND USING ME AS A WAY TO ADVERTISE YOURSELF.
— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) November 30, 2012
“This annoys a lot of Instagram users, including Kylie Jenner, as it is an inauthentic way to try and create the image of influence. It damages actual, organically built, influencers and Instagram stars,” says Cruel.
But, lately Kylie seems to have made a small effort to embrace the “lb” concept for her own personal gain; to promote her new TV show Life of Kylie.
Don’t be fooled: Kylie’s recent volte-face doesn’t suggest she’s in any hurry to embrace the relentless commenters in search of Instagram fame. She’s likely exploiting this phenomenon in the interests of promoting her show. And, who can blame her.
For those seeking to build influence and follower numbers, however, these words might not help you achieve the great heights your looking for. It’s time, perhaps, to find another route to Instagram fame.