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!


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!


Buying Instagram Followers: Is it really worth it?

Buying Instagram Followers: Is it really worth it?

I’m going to start this post out by saying that while I have never personally paid for followers, I can empathize for why people do it. In an ever-evolving industry where the sheer number of followers can make or break a sponsorship deal, I can see the appeal (and temptation) of buying followers. My goal of today’s post is to shed some light on the topic of buying Instagram followers and generate a discussion on whether or not it’s really worth doing. While I’m personally very strongly opinionated about the side that I sit on (don’t do it!) I’m curious to know how others feel about this topic.

Let’s dig into the good, the bad, and the really ugly of buying Instagram followers, shall we?

The good: Spoilers, there’s not much…

I’m probably stating the obvious here, but the only good I can see in buying Instagram followers is the bump in sheer numbers for a following. And, of course, the potential sponsorship deal(s) that come with a large following. While having a huge following count is impressive, more than just the number of followers are now being considered for sponsorship deals.

Brands who do their homework will know to look for other criteria like engagement, trajectory of growth, and dig into the percentage of real followers. Let’s explore how to dig into these other criteria, what they look like after buying Instagram followers, and the tools used to do this research.

The bad: It’s pretty obvious to spot if you’ve purchased followers

I want to introduce you to a tool called Socialblade. This site allows anyone (no account necessary) to dig into the analytics of any user on any social media platform (IG, YouTube, Twitter, etc). I’m specifically focusing on Instagram because that’s my personal favourite social media platform and the one that I have the most experience researching.

The examples that I’m going to show you in this post have been stripped of any identifying username info… know that this information is easily accessible to anyone (aka potential brand sponsors, other bloggers, your followers, etc)!

Case #1: How to tell if someone has purchased Instagram followers


In this specific example, it’s really obvious that followers were purchased. This particular user only had 700 followers on March 22, and by April 11 hovered just under 10,500 followers! That’s an increase of almost 10,000 followers in ~3 weeks! Not to mention, the numbers of followers “delivered” is extremely unnatural where it fluctuates from 600 to almost 1,500 per day. A true following of real users would be amassed in a steady growth, where the daily average count would be similarly reflected in the daily reported counts of new followers. In this specific case, we see that at the bottom of the report that the daily average value is +433, even though this particular user was barely scraping a +30 daily average prior to March 27. The numbers tell everything! No one’s being bamboozled into thinking this is natural growth here!

Case #2: What happens when you decide to stop buying Instagram followers?
This is another tell tale sign of whether or not someone is buying Instagram followers: the period of time right after all of the purchased followers has been delivered. This is what I call “the bleeding period” because it’s when they start to bleed followers.

Using the same user from Case #1, we can see that all of their purchased followers were delivered by April 11, and they began to bleed followers on April 12:


The “bleeding” is caused by a combination of the fact that no new followers are being delivered and the fact that Instagram discovers spam accounts. The spam accounts make up the majority – if not all – of the purchased followers. Since fake spam accounts are being banned and the user who purchased followers does not have the steady, natural momentum of gaining followers, the net following is negative. This is such a fascinating period of time to witness as a third party observer…
If you want to see what this use case looks like for a blogger with a much larger following, here you go!

From this use case, we learn that the only way to sustain the net positive growth after buying Instagram followers is to continue to buy followers. It’s a really ugly (and potentially expensive) cycle to fall into.

We’re now going to go into “The Really Ugly” part of buying Instagram followers.

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