During the last few weeks, Instagram has teased in your news feeds that they were removing and deactivating spam accounts. Their message mentioned it would ultimately result in a loss in the follower count on your profiles, as shown above. This had many people running for the hills, imagining their tens of thousands of followers would turn to dust, and the loss of that clout they have built over the years will be all but nothing. The results have been widespread, but here are a few accounts to check in on as I give my thoughts on the whole thing.
My Beginnings and Building a Following
I have built my entire career around the fact that I am a creative person, and at the most basic level I simply love to create. That brought me to design as a profession and ultimately brought me to photography, which I am finding myself doing more and more as my career grows. I have to thank Instagram for the latter because that is really where I started honing my skill of photography. Paired with using any and all resources I could online, including Fstoppers Originals, I learned much about the craft. I'm very new to it all, but it was quite the rush to build over 25,000 followers on Instagram almost overnight thanks to being featured on the suggested user list by Instagram themselves. It's helped me build somewhat of a niche category working with brands like GE, Lens Baby, Waldorf Astoria and many more with usually nothing more than my iPhone.
With a solid base of about 3,000 followers from local and various friends before the feature, it was interesting and ultimately the usual question of who the hell are these people? Almost a hundred followers came through per hour for a couple weeks, leaving me regularly flipping through and viewing who they were. The thing you have to understand about the suggested user list is that it's mainly new users that have just downloaded the app and have been force-fed this list of names that are suggested to follow. Finding people from all across the world jump to the recently followed list with no profile image, no pictures and a generic profile description was nothing special, it was the weeks and months to follow that got me intrigued. They began to use the app!
How the Change Affected Big and Small Influencers
Now if we look at various accounts over the years that have built followings, whether organically or via the suggested user list, or a mix of both like I did, the new update to drop spam followers added a new dynamic. We are able to see some of the biggest accounts on Instagram being affected in a way we had never seen before, losing followers rather than gaining. Below we have a mix of big name mobile photographers mixed with brands and celebrities to see how the "Insta-Purge" affected their accounts, some losing over 100,000 followers!
Andrew Griswold (@the_gris)
Benjamin Heath (@benjaminheath)
Alice Gao (@alice_gao)
Ryan Caven (@ryancaven)
Kim Kardashian (@kimkardashian)
I am starting to spot more accounts as the day goes on with losses of more than 70 percent. It seems unreal! Accounts that I am finding were nothing but bought followers from companies that feed you fake followers. Instagram's choice to delete these accounts is essentially leveling the playing field for us little guys just trying to shoot and build our own name for ourselves, and at the same time revealing the truth behind real engagement.
How to Track Follower Engagement on Instagram
The way I find if I have fake followers is by using sites like Iconosquare, previously Statigram, along with Totems, previously Nitrogram. Both are incredible pieces of software to track engagement, lost and gained followers, along with trends you might not have seen in your photos such as which are getting the most likes or comments. This is how I have watched my follower base grow and shrink along with seeing how many of my followers are spam or not. Another great way to track your lost/gained followers on the go is a fairly new mobile app called Followers+ (iOS|Android), which you can see below has a slick UI and the quick overview of your account overall.
This gives you a solid look into the real follower base some of you might have and it's great to see Instagram pushing to remove these spam accounts. To me, losing 2,000 followers was nothing, just like it won't be anything to the incredibly talented photographers above. They will continue to have these relationships with brands and keep building as they did organically. Sure, the follower base helped me kick-start more campaign work, but it was knowledge of Instagram and how you can use it to your advantage that keeps people coming back to me to shoot for them and share stories.
What do you think? Has your follower base on Instagram dropped since the "Insta-Purge"? Do you think some of these big influencers will really see a dent in their relationship when working with brands with less followers, or can we hopefully assume they are after their talents paired with a decent following?