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:
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:
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.