Real talk: Verified authentic followers on Instagram

If you’re on Instagram and following a lot of style bloggers, you may have seen a slew of IG stories last week of folks posting about their “Verified authentic followings”. The topic of authentic followers is such a fascinating one from multiple perspectives. As a blogger with a smaller – but very loyal and engaged (thank you!!) – following, I’m always fascinated by accounts that can grow 10K+ followers in short periods of time. I know there are a lot of ways to grow a following (I wrote about buying Instagram followers earlier this year), but it’s sometimes hard to tell whether or not the followers are real. I’m going to be digging into this realness in today’s post!

instastory-fohrcard-thedemuremuse

Before we dive in on the “verified following” cards (above) that all the bloggers were posting in their stories last week, let’s bring some context to this story. These IG story “cards” that everyone posted were created by a company named Fohr Card. Fohr is a platform that connects brands to creative storytellers (aka bloggers) for collaborations by aggregating all of the blogger’s stats across platforms (IG, Pinterest, Twitter, etc), stack ranking them against other bloggers in their categories, and giving access to this list to brands to determine who to select for a campaign.

To be clear, I have never received a sponsorship deal through Fohr, so I don’t have first hand experience on how campaign matching works. However, I do have an account on the Fohr platform because I like their simplified dashboard for showing stats. Fohr is also one of the first companies to try to break down a blogger’s following by engagement level, which, as a stats and data geek, I am really drawn to!

Earlier this year, Fohr released a tool that claimed to analyze a blogger’s Instagram following. If you have a Fohr account, you can connect your IG account to see your own stats. It took about 2 weeks to “analyze the following”, but this is the graph I got:

Fohr_IG_analyzer

Super fascinating, eh? It was really interesting for me to see that I’m below average on bots and lurker accounts (woo!) and skewed much higher on the active followers (yippee!). What I’m stumped on is how this information was calculated and if all of my followers were analyzed to produce this info. Or was only a subset of my followers analyzed and then extrapolated? Is this the same data set that was used to decide which bloggers did (or did not) receive those “Authentic following” cards posted on IG stories?

Naturally, when something like this is flooding the blogosphere, bloggers talk about it. In the particular community that I’m connected in, we were starting to see a mixed opinion on whether or not to post these Fohr “Verified followers” cards. Some people thought it was cool because a lot of larger bloggers were posting them. Others said they felt like the bloggers who they saw posting the card were ones that had been accused of buying followers previously– like this card was a way to justify their aggressive follower growth.

Because you know I like data and like to backup my arguments… this post is about to get real juicy with a real example use case of someone who posted and what their “authentic following” really looks like!

Before we dig in, I have to give a big shoutout to my fellow bloggers who helped me with this post. They’ve asked to remain anonymous, but we all basically spent last week jotting down the names of bloggers who posted this card to their IG stories so that I could look up their following on Socialblade for some quick data analysis.

If you’re looking to get knee-deep into the topic of buying followers, this post is for you! I won’t go into details about whose stats were dug into, but I will disclose that of the 7 users I looked into who posted this “verified followers” card, 5 of them exhibited tell tale signs of buying Instagram followers. Here’s one example:

instagram_buying_followers

There is nothing authentic about buying followers, bleeding followers, and then re-buying more followers!! You can tell this particular blogger is buying followers because there is no regular pattern in their growth of followers (there’s usually a correlation of gaining followers on days that new media is posted), they’re bleeding of followers like crazy (an exhibited pattern with folks who have purchased many fake followers and are desperately trying to keep up with continued “growth”), and all followers are purchased in bulk amounts. Yet, through some miracle math in the background, this blogger still received a “verified followers” card from Fohr. If you’re raising an eyebrow right now, I don’t blame you. The ironic thing about this particular user is that on the same day she posted the Fohr card to her IG stories, she also bought 3,000+ followers! Hrm… authenticity at its best? *sarcasm*

What is the Fohr algorithm for “verified followers”?

Beats me! To avoid linking directly to the Fohr blog post that talks about what this “verified followers” card represents – but does not break down how the verification is calculated – I can only speculate how this was calculated. My guess is that a sample size of data is used to break down a user’s following and extrapolated. The sample size is assumed to be small (compared to the 100K+ followers that most “big name” bloggers have), which means that it is hit or miss if you get the right set to extrapolate from.

Why is Forh Card making these “verified followers” cards?”

This is when I really started to think about the purpose of the card. Thinking back to Fohr Card’s whole MO, they’re a platform that connects brands to bloggers. If Fohr is anything like a traditional agency, they would be getting some sort of cut (or maybe brands pay to look at stats on the platform? Not sure of their monetization strategy here… just speculating) to see this data. The bigger the blogger, the bigger the campaign and payout. It would most likely be in Fohr’s best interest to have their highest ranked bloggers also have “verified followings”. Do you get the line of thinking I’m starting to string together? Again, this is all speculation. As a blogger who is invested in wanting to continue to grow in an honest community, I can’t help but wonder what the ulterior motives are for such a blatantly off-kilter algorithm are and then encouraging bloggers to share the “verified followers” card to prove their innocence after buying followers. What in the what?!?! It all just doesn’t add up!

What does this mean for other bloggers?

Personally, I decided against posting this Fohr card to my IG stories. I have a relatively humble following compared to my peers, so even if I were trying to buy followers, this would be a sad justification for such small numbers. Since I don’t intend to grow the number of sponsorships (fun fact: I dialed collaborations back a ton earlier this year!), the sheer number of followers I have is not something that I count as a success metric for myself. Instead, I’m excited to keep conversations like this going with the blogging community. We need to stand together and call BS when we see it. It will not only help us better define the work that we do, but it will also help to grow the true authenticity of bloggers in the future.

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  • Giulia Dugo

    This was honestly one of my favorite articles you’ve written! Such a good overview – I was a little confused when I saw bloggers that I was 99% sure were buying followers post these cards I was like “what issss this?” Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for reading, Giulia! It’s definitely a grey space. Feels odd to have a for profit platform being the ones to determine the “realness” of followers in their direct line of business.

  • Emma Cortes

    I didn’t even know what a Fohr card was until I read this post! I must have missed that wave of bloggers posting this on their stories… Anyways your post was informative so great job again Katrina! Debunking blogging trends could definitely be a segment on your blog!

    xo,emma
    http://www.emmasedition.com

    • Thanks Emma! While I am still iffy on the algorithm used to “verify followers”, I do think that Fohr does a good job of aggregating stats across platforms. They also provide free services to bloggers for making media kits that aggregate all this info. I stay on the platform to keep up with what’s trending in the “bigger blogger” communities, and would recommend checking it out if you have time.

  • I totally missed this trend. My numbers are small, especially on Instagram, so I don’t think it matters whether I’ve got verified followers or not- either way, I’m mostly posting for the grandparents anymore, lol. Still, incredibly useful post, Katrina! Thanks for sharing it.

  • Really not sure what to make of these! I’ve noticed a couple of bloggers posting theirs and they started blogging / Insta accounts a year ago and have grown to 70,000+ followers and sometimes have daily / weekly increases of 5,000+ and have managed to receive an authentication card. So… I agree with you… where’s the logic in that?! And to be honest I’m still more vested in my blog than Instagram, with blogging I feel like it’s a platform I have full control over & own, plus honestly, Instagram could be gone tomorrow! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Katrina such a great read!!! xo

    http://www.girlandcloset.com

    • Thanks for reading, Veronika. I totally agree with you on the focus on the blog vs Instagram. There was a period of time when I shifted focus to be more on IG, but with all the constant algorithm changes and now being disheartened by watching other bloggers buy followers, likes, comments, etc, I’d rather invest in a platform that I can own end to end.

  • I was wondering about this! Thanks for all the info – I appreciate these posts, Katrina!!

  • Preach! I want to call BS on sooo many people hahah. The other day I even typed out, “Thanks for following me just to unfollow me a day later! Cheers!” On this girl’s Instagram photo but then I decided it was too mean and didn’t end up posting it. But I think it’s so weird/annoying how bloggers do this.

  • This is super interesting! I’m now thinking about what the motivation behind Forh (which I’ve never heard of, but I’m super behind on stats platforms) making these cards is. I’ve had no thoughts of buying followers before, and so it’s funny to see how between my two accounts, the growth is so different, and a targeted focus is a bigger draw to followers than anything. It makes me wonder how my growth rates look, even if I know they are entirely based around how highly ranked in the tags a post is. Thanks for sharing this info!

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