Are marketers responsible for the ‘Instagram Rapture?’

January 13, 2015
January 13, 2015 Rachel Poor

In case you missed it in the holiday hullabaloo, Instagram recently cracked down on the epidemic of spam-inflated account followings. The crackdown resulted in some prominent accounts losing hundreds of thousands (and, in some cases, millions) of followers. While celebrities like Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian were the most publicized hits, some high-profile brands were also affected by the Instagram Rapture, as it’s since become known.


According to Marketing Land, Nike saw a 256k-follower (2.8%) drop, leaving it with 8.7 million followers. Forever21 saw its followers decrease by 245k (4.3%). It now has 5.3 million. Lastly, GoPro’s following was reduced by 93K (2.5%) leaving it with 3.6 million followers.

And, of course, what would a social upheaval such as this be without an awesome infographic? Developer Zach Allia visualized the top 100 Instagram accounts with the biggest hits.

How did these accounts become so inflated? There are a number of companies promising users and brands alike the opportunity to buy followers across social networks, like Twitter and Instagram, in order to appear more popular.

For many marketers, influence is measured by follower size. One of the most attractive aspects of working with a celebrity or high-profile individual is his or her recognition and reach. Surely, a social following is a big part of that. From authors to athletes, those boasting high numbers of followers have been considered more influential. And this isn’t exclusive to celebrities; brand marketers also seem to have an obsession with their owned social followings.

This got me thinking: Are marketers partly responsible for this obsession with followers? If we continue to measure the worth of “influencers” by their social followings then we’re at least contributing to the problem. When thinking about engaging influencers – celebrity or not – it is important to look beyond numbers and perhaps follow the “quality over quantity” rule. What good is your reach if the message falls on unengaged eyes?

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