Instagram Scrubs Spam, Prepares for Bigger and Better Things

The #InstagramPurge was actually a good thing.

Facebook stock reached a high point the other day — $81.45 a share, the most expensive since its botched 2012 IPO. The social media site made marketing gains in mobile and, just as importantly, in Instagram, the photo and video sharing site that has 300 million monthly active users, surpassing Twitter. (Twitter had 284 million in October, according to Bloomberg.)

Now the site is preparing for the future, introducing new filters and offering verified badges.

“As Instagram gets bigger, we’re focused on helping you discover photos and videos from people who you care about, whether it’s a friend or your favorite musician,” Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram said in a recent press statement.

“…Today, we’re excited to announce verified badges for celebrities, athletes and brands, making it easier for you to connect with the authentic accounts you’re looking for,” he continued. “…Finally, as more people join, keeping Instagram authentic is critical—it’s a place where real people share real moments. We’re committed to doing everything possible to keep Instagram free from the fake and spammy accounts that plague much of the web, and that’s why we’re finishing up some important work that began earlier this year.”

In doing away with “spammy” accounts, there was what the internet dubbed an #InstagramPurge, in which some celebs lost millions of fake followers. No sad selfies folks. This is a good thing.


If there’s one thing PRs have learned in working with social media, it’s that having real people — real advocates, real “ambassadors” — is better than simply having a high number of followers. If you follow Rihanna on IG, for instance, a chunk of the comments on any one of her posts are people asking for followers or self-promoting. How does that help Rih Rih’s brand? It doesn’t.

As advertising and promotions becomes a bigger part of IG’s (and Facebook’s) business success, it’s going to become increasingly important to emphasize the quality of a fan base as much as quantity.

But back to this big purge. People were losing their minds as they saw their follower numbers dwindle, cursing Instagram and begging for the bleed to stop.

Among celebs, the decrease in followers was, in some cases, astonishing: Justin Bieber lost 3.5 million fans. Kim Kardashian lost 1.3 million, but became the top celeb on the platform, overtaking the Biebs. Rihanna lost 1.2 million. And JWoww of Jersey Shore fame went from 2.6 million to 116,000.

This is actually good PR though, for the celebs and for the industry itself. Bieber has 20.5 million followers. Look at that number! It’s incredible. And this is after losing millions of bots and the respect of many because of his ridiculous antics. We can more confidently say that 20 million people are tracking Justin online because they want to see what he’s up to. (See above.)

Moreover, PR has gotten a nasty rep for buying followers to boost numbers. “If you’ve ever wondered why cheesy reality show stars seem to amass millions of followers overnight, it’s likely because some PR agency is doling out hard cash to make it look like millions of people can’t get enough of said celeb’s Twitter or Instagram feed,” writes Jezebel. This move erases a stain on the work that PRs do.

So let’s all take a moment to be thankful for the #InstagramPurge. We’re going into the new year with a little more social media realness.