The only sure things in life are death, taxes and internet spammers. It may take a while, but once a social media platform is popular enough, the spammers roll in. We’re talking fake accounts, not your great aunt who uses toaster filters and uploads a picture of every meal. You’ve heard marketers say time and time again that fan size is not an accurate metric and should not be measured in isolation. Due to the recent events on Instagram, with some accounts dropping by hundreds of thousands of followers, you can see why.
It’s been hailed the #instapurge. Instagram’s effort to rid the platform of spammy accounts or those that violate their community guidelines. Instagram announced the purge in one of their blog posts (here) and for some time, users have been seeing a message in their notifications warning of the clean-up and to be prepared for a slight decrease in followers. It’s not the first time they have deactivated these fake accounts but previous efforts had nothing on this overnight massacre.
The infographic, #Instapurge 2014// Top 100 Accounts (view here) provides a snapshot of the instapurge impact on some of the biggest accounts. The results varied with the account chiragchirag78 crowned the “biggest loser” dropping 3,660,460 followers leaving the total number of followers at just 8. That’s a staggering 99.9998% decrease.
Celebrity accounts were hit hard with famous favourites such as Justin Bieber (-14.9%), Rihanna (-8%), Channing Tatum (-7.4%), Kim Kardashion (-5.5%), Miley Cyrus (-5%), Zac Efron (-3.8%) and Beyonce (-3.7%) seeing a significant decline. The average loss for these big accounts was around 7%. For the average user, a 7% loss wouldn’t be anything drastic, but in this case, 7% looks like an average of just over 671,000 followers. Top brands Nike, GoPro and Adidas also felt the hit with a combined loss of over 450,000 between the three accounts.
The instapurge caused a stir on social media with some users expressing their negative feelings towards their drop in followers. Others have laughed at the results and the subsequently damaged egos.
It’s not the first time the issue of fake accounts has been in the spotlight. Among others, the Virtual Bagel experiment (view here) showed the effects of fake Facebook accounts on paid Facebook advertising. It would be naïve to think that these likefarms and spambots wouldn’t make their way to Instagram with the amount of money being made in the fake follower trade. Five dollars can boost your account by 100 to 500 followers depending on which site you choose. Considering Facebook’s acquisition of the platform, their recent efforts may slow down the infiltration of spammy and fake accounts.
The good news is that account users, especially brands, should not be worried about losing their fake followers. Although the fluffy numbers increase perceived popularity and might stroke the ego, users will see an increased and more accurate engagement rate. Until Instagram insights are released to all users, this will be evident by glancing at the likes and comments vs the amount of followers.