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A number of Instagram influencers were in for a rude awakening last week when they noticed a sudden drop in follower counts overnight. The great “Instagram Rapture” or “Instapurge” of 2014 hit some of the biggest influencers and brands. Justin Bieber took the biggest blow of losing 3.5 million followers while user chiragchirag78 and rapper Ma$e deleted their accounts after losing 99% of their followers, over 3 million and 1 million, respectively. Since April 2014, Instagram has been identifying and deactivating spam accounts and accounts that violated its community guidelines. Instagram proceeded to delete those accounts in a continued effort to separate real users from computer-generated spambots. However, more recent studies suggest that bots continue to plague Instagrammers (WSJ).
Despite the distraught ego-deflated users begging Instagram to restore their previously inflated follower numbers, the purge was a necessary action for the company. Since it integrated advertising into the consumer experience last year, Instagram needs to legitimize its metrics and data assets in order to confidently market and expand its advertising service. “Purging fake followers is the best thing to happen to social media since promoted tweets. It shows brands that reach is not enough and just a number,” stated Eric Brown, head of communications for social media influence measurement tool Klout.
The purge also impacted a number of fashion and style Instagram influencers. Fohr Card, a digital platform that provides statistics and background information on bloggers, reported that of the 1,300 bloggers it followers, only about 40 accounts saw a drop in more than half of their followers. Yet, top style bloggers who have monetized their blogs into profitable brands and businesses could be more sensitive to the purge. These influencers with hundreds of thousands to millions of followers are paid. Typically, the largest influencers are paid in the thousands for their total reach. Chiara Ferragni of The Blond Salad with over 8 million followers on the social platform has more followers than any fashion magazine and reportedly will make $8 million a year, 30% of which comes from her blog. Brands need to ascertain that each Instagrammer selected as part of an influencer marketing campaign has legitimate followers and engagement. For more information on how brands can spot fake followers on Instagram, see our post here.