Yesterday has been dubbed the Instagram Rapture. Instagram deleted millions of inactive and spam accounts from their system. The carnage was across the board. The official Instagram, Instagram account lost a whopping 18,880,211 followers!
One account (chiragchirag78) went from 3,660,468 followers to………8! Yes, a 99.9998% drop in followers. (Don’t bother looking for the account now. It has been deleted.)
Mainstream celebrities lost followers in the seven figures as well: Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) lost 3,538,228 (14.8555%), Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) lost 367,924 (7.3475%), and Kim Kardashian lost 1,300,963 (5.5315%). Data from 64px.com
I lost 3,332 followers, which honestly seems about right. About 2 years ago I had a sudden spike of several thousand Instagram followers with no corresponding increase in engagement. About 3,500 seems right. That was about 9% of my total followers.
The reason I couldn’t be happier is because those 3,500 “followers” weren’t really followers at all. I’m guessing they followed me as camouflage, to make their accounts look more legit.
My engagement levels, of course, weren’t touched. I’m still averaging over 2,200 likes per image in December. The only difference is that now I have a better idea what my true engagement ratio is, because now I have a more accurate denominator.
Social media networks are an ecosystem. Like a forest, occasionally you have to get rid of the underbrush and dead wood.
Twitter is probably the worst offender. I’ve seen estimates that up to 80% of all Twitter accounts are bots, spam accounts or inactive. Were Twitter to do the same thing as Instagram (and I hope they do) I’d bet my follower count would drop by and even larger percentage than Instagram.
Since my Twitter account got verified, I’ve been a magnet for bots and other accounts that have no tweets, profile images or followers; the textbook sort of accounts that are bogus. I see them follow me every day.
I don’t think the problem is as big on Facebook, but the fake accounts damage the ecosystem there even more, because of how their algorithm works. Fake accounts on Facebook also have been known to like ads, which hurt advertisers and engagement rates.
The only reason I can think as to why this hasn’t happened before is that each platform needs to show some big number to their shareholders. If Twitter or Facebook were to eliminate a significant percentage of their accounts, it wouldn’t look good.
In the long run, however, creating a healthy social ecosystem is a huge benefit and will pay off.
I hope this becomes an annual event for Instagram and I hope the other major platforms join in throwing out the dead wood with the new year.