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The Twitter Purge: A Thanos Snap Hits Fake And Shady Accounts

Thanos Snap - Twitter Purge

A long overdue culling of bogus and suspicious Twitter accounts leave some people’s followers count worse off than others. How did you fare?

A quick glance at our Faze Twitter account this evening led to a double take. We have a decent following by Canadian standards, nicely targeted to the millennial audience we serve. We were running a giveaway for a client and checking how many retweets/likes our latest post had. They were hundreds of interactions so far, that was great, but suddenly we noticed our follower count had dipped, not drastically, but by about 1%. For years our follower count has been steadily been going up, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot but never down. What was going on?

Our first concern was that our giveaway offering a summery new collection of gum had spooked a few followers wary of all things sugary sweet. Or was it the #FlashbackFriday post of Avril Lavigne on the cover of Faze Magazine from 14 summers ago! Was anti-Avril sentiment so strong in 2018?

The Great Twitter Purge of summer 2018

Sad girl - Twitter Purge

We went into a competitive analysis spreadsheet and checked some other accounts and lo and behold, it clearly wasn’t about us, gum or Avril: this was happening to everyone! While we lost about 150 followers or 1%, some others had lost huge numbers. And often the bigger they were, the bigger the damage. We mainly track youth and millennial media brands, and most of the large, established magazine and online media brands lost 3-6% of their followers, e.g MuchMusic, Teen Vogue and Seventeen.

Other smaller youth, and especially teen, magazine/sites generally saw losses of 2-4%, e.g., Girls Life. But then we checked some of the “influencers” and “media personalities” we follow and things got scary. While many were unscathed a few lovely ladies we know had lost 20-30% of their following and one, who we won’t name, lost a whopping 60% in one day (after already losing 15% in the preceding few months). Ouch. Talk about an unlucky Friday the 13th.

Twitter, like Instagram, has been plagued by fake accounts for years now, and has been long overdue for a cleaning. Instagram had its so-called Instagram Rapture a few years back that exposed celebrities and others who had clearly bought their following (e.g. rapper Akon lost about 60%, others had it even worse). Now it was Twitter’s turn to punish the fraudsters.

We definitely applaud the attempt by Twitter to clean up their ecosystem, we had been seeing far too many annoying “bot” accounts over the last few months, liking some of posts that apparently had benign keywords they were programmed to hit to make themselves appear active and real. That has slowed down recently, as Twitter had been locking many fake, suspicious and spammy accounts, but they likely remained as “followers” for many real people and brands.

Then on July 12, according to Twitter boss Jack Dorsey, those offending accounts were being purged and would no longer show in people’s “followers” count. For some nothing happened, but for many the drops were precipitous.

Who’s feeling a little less popular today?

Mad at computer - Twitter Purge

Here are some of the celebrities hardest hit by the latest Twitter purge, remembering that the best measure is a percentage drop not the absolute number lost.

Nicki Minaj – lost 1.2 million or -5.7%
Eminem – lost 1.2 million or -5.2
Mariah Carey – lost 916K or -4.3%
P!nk – lost 1.3 million or -3.8
Alicia Keys, Britney Spears and even Oprah Winfrey lost around 3.5% and while Katy Perry lost the most, 3 million it only was a drop of 2.7%, similar to losses seen by Kanye, Taylor Swift, Ellen DeGeneres, JLo, Pitbull, and even the NBA.

The bottom line is, most of these fake accounts, to look legit, follow the most popular accounts out there so the fact that big celebrities are losing a million or more followers in no way suggests they ever needed to buy fake followers. Even Twitter itself lost 12.33%, or 7.7 million of its followers.

Anti-Trump news channels, like CNN and the Daily Mail, gleefully reported that Donald Trump lost a sizeable 300K, although deeping a little deeper it was actually a neglible drop of just 0.3%, compared with  CNN‘s own loss of 1.8 million followers between it’s two main accounts, a loss of 1.9%, and Barak Obama‘s even bigger loss of 2.3 million followers or -2.3%.

At the extreme end of the scale, and pretty much a clear indicator that they (or their agents, social media managers) were buying most of their followers…

Kathy Ireland, model – lost 76.5%
Fandom, entertainment site – lost 74.0%
Clay Aiken, singer – lost 63.3%
Amazing Arabella, influencer – lost 57.5%
Ray Lewis, football player – lost 49.1%
Michael Dell, CEO Dell – lost 43.1%

This is good medicine and we need more!

The Internet is a wonderful thing, as are the social media networks that have grown up on it. But recently the pollution of 1) ads of all kinds (especially video) and 2) bots and fake followers, have been making web time more difficult to enjoy. And less honest and trustworthy.

Kudos to Twitter for trying to fix a little of what’s broken, and put the shady operators out of business. And it’s definitely time for another Instagram rapture too! As for the advertisement scourge, with Google and Facebook marketing and sales teams needing to endlessly boost quarterly earnings to please their investors and boost stock prices, don’t expect that to get any better before it gets worse.


Sources: Twitter, The NY Times: Twitter Purge, Faze Media Group

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