While most of us were enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday last week, Instagram pulled a major purge of fake followers eliminating tens of thousands of followers from some influencer accounts. However, it's very likely that the influencers who lost followers were the ones who should lose followers because they were purchased. So, what's next?
History Repeats Itself
First off, I want to point out how this event reminds me of what happened with Search Engine Optimization back in the 2000s. People people would try different tricks to boost their SEO and then Google would shut them down, and then they would try new tricks and then Google would shut them down. This pattern appears to be reemerging in a new way now with the social networks. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, they're all going to continue to clamp down on the fake follower issue, and as machine learning and artificial intelligence gets better, the purges are going to be quicker and more frequent.
It's also important to note that Instagram has sent warning to influencers who were guilty of suspicious activity, telling them that their Instagram experiences may be impacted... AKA "If you continue to do this we're going to limit the features you can use on our platform." That can cost influencers lots of money, so it would be wise to pivot your strategy.
How Brands and Influencers Should Move Forward
If you're an influencer, please stop buying followers and engagements. This is not a good long-term strategy and you're just wasting your money because agencies like us are going to blacklist you. We already have removed influencers that we know are buying followers from our system and no longer communicate with them.
If you're a brand marketer, please stop asking how many followers an influencer has as your first question. It is A question, it is not THE question. Influencers who can create inspirational, aspirational content should be very valuable, almost regardless of following size. Because once you get content that's proven to work, getting it in front of people with a propensity to buy is not that difficult. By prioritizing follow size, you're creating the situation that's compelling influencers to buy followers. At the end of the day, it's an antiquated strategy.