In November 2018, Instagram announced the great crackdown on fake followers and took the users of popular social media tool by storm. An official statement from Instagram read, “We’re taking a number of steps to limit this kind of unwelcome behavior. Accounts we identify will receive an in-app message alerting them that we’ve removed the inauthentic activity given to their account from others. We will also ask them to secure their account by changing their password. Accounts that use these types of apps share their username and password, which is sometimes used to give inauthentic likes, follows and comments to others.”

Today, the stories and tweets were abuzz with updates on influencers and celebrities losing millions of followers due to this move by the Facebook-owned company. While the users have been confused about what exactly happened and how many more users will have to face the wrath of this, we take stock of the good and bad of this initiative.

What led to Instagram purge?

Ever since the photo-sharing app was launched on 6th October 2010, it became an instant hit with the social media users attracting millions of users in just a couple of years. The social status of people was measured by the number of followers they had on Instagram which led to the birth of multiple platforms providing Instagram followers, likes and comments at a certain cost. Even after stringent guidelines and algorithms to prevent this, many individuals saw this as an opportunity to make a buck the easy way. While there was a huge debate among upcoming influencers on who is followed by just bots and who are really loved by real audiences, Instagram decided to curb the accounts with fake followers and users with an unusual activity of following and unfollowing profiles to gain more followers. The doomsday for accounts with fake followers arrived today and reports poured in with users losing hundreds and thousands of followers overnight. Not only the average users experienced this but even celebrities with millions of followers did as well. Instagram used artificial intelligence to detect boosted engagements and followers and eventually removed auto likes, comments, and followers from Instagram.

Which accounts lost the most followers?

Nike (@nike)-The footwear and apparel giant saw a reduction of 1.1 million followers dropping their current number of followers to 83,00,000

Katy Perry (@katyperry)-The popular American singer and songwriter 9,00,000 followers but soon gained another 1,00,000 new followers to take the tally to 74.1 million followers

Ellen Degeneres (@theellenshow)-One of the most loved comedians and the host of the long-running The Ellen DeGeneres Show also lost 1 million followers from the official Instagram account

Selena Gomez (@selenagomez)-The third-most-followed user on Instagram Selena Gomez lost 2.3 million followers and stands at 143.2 million followers now.

How social media reacted to this?

Marketing and Digital agencies that handle Instagram campaigns for a lot of major brands have applauded this initiative. Delhi based Digital Marketer Sarang Desai in a telephonic conversation with us mentioned how bigger it was a task to filter each and every Instagram handle they received to be a part of campaigns for his clients. “Whenever we designed a campaign to be promoted on Instagram for our clients especially in the Food and Fashion space, we were always flooded with hundreds of Influencer profiles boasting a massive fan following of hundreds and thousands of followers. We had to put in multiple days of hard work to vet each and every profile because of this clutter in the industry. I feel the Instagram purge will definitely be a big boon and will reduce the major part of the verification process for us”. Akshay, a motorcycling enthusiast from Mumbai popularly known as Wander_Artist says, “Influencer marketing has come a long way with brands looking it as a serious business and allocating big budgets. Brands are now looking at building long term relationship with influencers which is a wonderful move. For this to happen, authenticity was always a big question! Using a third-party app to gain fake followers and interactions are already against Instagram’s Community Guidelines and Terms of Use — what’s changing is that Instagram now has the ability to recognize which accounts are using the third party apps and which followers and interactions were generated from that app. People now can enjoy a real experience with genuine interactions. Genuine influencers who were shadowed at times by big accounts with fake followers have a chance to be noticed by brands”.

Kavita (the_green_bonneville), another female rider from Pune loved by many across the country for her frequent travel stories reverberates this thought. “Influencers can influence only real and genuine Instagram users who look upto them. On an individual level, this will not just help brands to make informed decisions but also keep public figures motivated with a surety of real audiences”.

A lot of users around the world are unhappy with this activity and suspect it is just a temporary technical glitch and the lost followers will be restored if found to be genuine.“The so-called Purge is good, as long its not one of instagram’s all-time failing algorithm (Every algorithm they have introduced has some or the other bug). If it actually removes Bots and inactive accounts from the system… then good! We will have authenticity all the way, and influencers who are actually true will benefit. All this is possible IF and ONLY IF the algorithm that Insta claims is Fool Proof!!” says Robin (Beardorob) from Mumbai. Nikhil Joshi, known as Doomzday_Official also feels the same. “It is true that there are a lot of Instagram handles which use paid services to gain more followers. But in the real sense, the bot followers have little to no value at all. This will give a huge boost to the spirits of the people who really work hard day and night to make quality content for their fans”, says Joshi.

At the time of the filing of this story, there was no official announcement from Instagram regarding this and an official statement is expected soon.

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