What the Instagram Account Cleanup Did to the Influencer Industry

December must have been ‘fun’ for plenty of influencers – bloggers, photographers, artists, etc. – on Instagram. The massive social platform cracked down on fake accounts and rid itself of millions of these ‘bots’, causing both uproar and relieved reactions.

The Philippines, touted as “the social media capital of the world”, is no stranger to Instagram. Celebrities (from A-list superstars to run-of-the-mill bloggers) rack up followers in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands, making their accounts hugely attractive to the advertising and digital marketing industries. This has, in turn, inflated influencer partnership costs with no real measurable or tangible value for brands and businesses. The Instagram account cleanup undeniably did some harm to the lucrative influencer industry in the country.

Consider the following things:

Authority of High Clout Influencers

Obviously, the biggest accounts suffered the most and this isn’t completely their fault. Big accounts attract spam- and fake accounts (especially autofollow bot accounts). What is more worrying is how many followers have been culled from medium to large accounts (10,000 > X > 100,000+), especially from communities of bloggers and digital PR talents. This is important especially for brands and businesses as influencers often peg the price of their services based on their audience sizes. When this goes out the window…

Credibility Goes Down the Drain

Let’s say that many influencers worked hard to grow their Instagram followers. Let’s say they didn’t know many of their followers were fake accounts. This, while blissfully ignorant, doesn’t take away the fact that almost every influencer of note on Instagram in the Philippines is paid a premium to share visual materials of brand campaigns, or to host promos on their accounts. They made money off of brands and businesses with fake accounts – and in the case of one influencer, 30,000 fake accounts – and after this cleanup, I’m afraid that the reputation of many digital PR influencers in the country are going to be tainted for a long time.

Broken Relationships

It doesn’t take a huge leap in thinking that in 2015, brands and businesses are going to be ultra-wary of building relationships (that cost money, brains, and time) with Instagram “influencers”, who in turn will have little to offer in terms of measurable business impact as the metric of “follower count” will be little more than a dirty phrase going forward.

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