How Instagram's Spam Account Purge Affected Style Bloggers

"The Great Purge of 2014" turned out to be not that great, actually.
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Tyler McCall
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"The Great Purge of 2014" turned out to be not that great, actually.
Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images

When Instagram announced it would be purging spam accounts, watchers of the style blogger industry salivated over what would surely be a reaping of sorts: Who would be revealed guilty of buying their followers?

Well, the "Instagram Rapture" happened Thursday, and while there were certainly huge losses — @instagram itself lost 18.9 million followers, some 29 percent of its followership — it didn't uncover any major scammers in the fashion blog sphere.

Fohr Card, which connects influential bloggers with brands, pulled the numbers on its top 1,300 users and found that only a handful suffered catastrophic losses. Forty accounts (about 1 percent of Fohr Card's userbase) lost more than half their followers, and another 380 lost more than 10 percent. On average, the bloggers they track lost 9.1 percent of their followers — 3.7 million in aggregate.

While Fohr Card declined to name specific accounts with major losses, Bryanboy tweeted that he lost over 200,000 followers (he denies ever buying any). Fohr Card co-founder James Nord said that the accounts with significant losses will now be monitored by the company to ensure they aren't purchasing followers. "If it looks like they are buying followers (we can tell) to restore their numbers we will make them ineligible for client campaigns," he wrote in an email to Fashionista.

Nord theorizes that the reason some bloggers (like Bryanboy) faced major losses is because companies that sell followers also tend to auto-follow major profiles — which would explain why celebrities like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift took such big hits in the purge — to make their accounts look more legit. This means that those influencers were being followed by paid-for accounts without actually doing anything "nefarious," which is why Fohr Card relies on other forms of data to determine who is buying numbers.

"Because we track not only follower counts but also engagement, if we see an over 10 percent rise in following that coincides with a drop in engagement, we can safely assume those followers are not real, due to the fact that new followers are generally at their most engaged when they start following someone new," he explained.

So, sorry everyone, but the Great Reaping of 2014 we were waiting for didn't really happen. Nord estimates that only about 1 to 2 percent of influencers bought a "substantial portion" of their followers.

"We certainly had some cases that I can clearly identify as people losing bought followers and they will be flagged for future campaign work, but I think most of this was just a cleaning of spam accounts, which exist on every major platform," Nord says. "I for one am very happy Instagram did this."