After announcing that it had passed 300 million active users earlier this month, Instagram warned that it would be cracking down on spam accounts and that users may see their follower counts drop as a result. It has come to pass.
If your follower counts just dropped noticeably, you’re seeing the effects of the Great Instagram Purge, which has wiped out millions upon millions of accounts.
High profile users saw huge drops in their follower counts. Instagram’s official account lost a whopping 18.9 million followers, or 29% of its total. Justin Bieber lost 3.5 million, or 14%. Barack Obama lost 200,000. or nearly 6%.
The 97th most popular user on Instagram was a user named @chiragchirag78 who appears to have been some kind of research honeypot (or some other strange experiment). That account dropped from 3,660,468 followers to 8 before disappearing completely.
Software developer Zach Allia has set up an interesting graphic and chart that shows what happened to the accounts of the 100 most popular Instagram users, which lost an average of 671,789 followers representing 7.67% percent of their totals.
The New York Times notes that this isn’t just a dent in celebrity egos, but could represent a real loss of income. Photo sharing is becoming quite lucrative for some:
Social media users with big fan bases can snag lucrative promotional deals from companies eager for them to send out an endorsement to their fans. As my colleague Nick Bilton wrote earlier this year, there is a thriving black market in social media friendship, with a million Instagram followers going for the bargain price of $3,700 in April.
Instagram made it clear in its announcement that its tally of 300 million users excludes the large number of accounts that just vanished.