Dec.24Instagram Purge

Lessons Learned from the Great Instagram Purge: Track Engagement, Not Just Followers

Instagram PurgeInstagram decided to give users an early Christmas present this year, or at least that was their intention – they removed spam and inactive accounts from the service to improve the integrity of the platform. There were some mixed reactions and a number of lessons learned from what happened next.

Notifications about the Instagram Purge

Leading up to the #InstagramPurge, users were notified that their numbers of followers could change during the cleanup process.

Instagram Purge Notification Warning
Most people didn’t pay much attention because few realized the actual volume of spam and inactive accounts that existed on the platform.

Then, people started losing followers. Some faster than others.

The Bigger You Are, the Harder You Fall

As expected, Celebrities and public figures were hit the hardest.

Justin Bieber went from 23.8M to 20.3M followers (a loss of 3.5M), Kim Kardashian went form 23.5M to 22.2M (a loss of 1.3M) and Beyonce went from 22.2M to 21.4M (a loss of 800K).

Interestingly, the biggest loser was Instagram’s own account, going from 64.1M to 45.2M, which represents a whopping loss of 18.9M followers!

You can see the breakdown of how the top 100 Instagram profiles were affected by the Instagram purgeย here.

Mixed reactions from anger to relief to confusion to embarrassment






User @chiragchirag78 went from 3.6M followers to 8. Yes, just 8 followers! This represents a drop of 99.9998%.
Instagram Purge chiragchirag78 Followers Lost
In response, the person behind @chiragchirag78 deleted the account immediately after the Instagram purge.



Rapper Ma$e lost so many followers in the Instagram Purge that he deleted his account! Clearly a sign that he had purchased fake followers in the past.


Lessons Learned

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. As marketers, itโ€™s reckless and lazy to look at only the number of followers.

You could have millions of followers, but if none of these followers engage or interact with you, then the number of followers is meaningless.

Start by measuring Engagement.

For example, Nike lost a quarter of a million followers during the Instagram Purge. Here’s their number of followers and change in followers from December 17 to 20.
Nike Instagram Purge Followers Lost

However, their Engagement Rate from December 17 to 20 stayed fairly consistent.
Nike Instagram Purge Followers Lost

The Instagram Purge brought to light how silly it can be to fixate only on follower numbers. Followers are still valuable to measure, but must be used in combination with other metrics to have any value.

At the end of the day, more relevant followers means that you have the potential to engage, reach and convert more people.