In July, Twitter turned the social media world upside down when it purged millions of fraudulent accounts.
Huge Twitter influencers like Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey lost hundreds of thousands (or more) of followers overnight. The small guys weren't immune either—even the Social Report Twitter account lost almost a thousand followers.
Twitter's purge means more than lost followers though. It has a serious impact on the future of the social network and how it's seen by advertisers and influencers.
In this article, we'll take a look at how the Twitter purge affected advertisers and influencers on the platform. We'll start with looking at why Twitter purged these users, and then move on to the winners and losers.
Let's get started!
Why did Twitter need the follower purge in the first place?
It's no secret Twitter hasn't been performing as well as it has in the past.
We've seen the company go from doubling its user base every year to adding just a few million (or less) users every quarter. A large part of this stagnation is because of concerns around abuse and spam.
And these are very valid concerns for marketers, advertisers, and everyday social media users. Many influencer's follower counts were padded with paid and fraudulent followers, and tweets often got replies from malicious bot accounts that linked to adult websites or viruses.
This made advertisers weary to use Twitter ads and create influencer marketing campaigns on the network. Even worse, it deterred new users from making Twitter accounts in the first place.
In the end, this caused Twitter's growth to slow and forced the company to slash the price of its ads by over 50% per impression.
With that in mind, Twitter had to do something.
How did the Twitter purge play out?
Twitter's response to the ongoing spam crisis was to go on a spam account purge in July 2018.
In the purge, locked accounts (or, accounts accused of being fake) were removed from Twitter follower counts. These accounts had to go through a verification process to be reinstated, and in turn reappear in follower counts.
Additionally, locked accounts were banned from sending new tweets and viewing advertisements. This renders a locked account completely worthless for spam or paid follower purposes.
So, how did the follower purge fare for Twitter?
Twitter is the biggest loser in the purge (in the short-term)
Before looking at how the great Twitter purge of 2018 affected advertisers, it's important to remember this: Twitter is the biggest short-term loser here.
In the short term, Twitter lost valuable user numbers and created bad press; the microblogging platform locked a huge 70 million accounts and was even accused of censorship by some political groups.
But rest assured, the account removals were completely automated.
The company keeps certain behaviors in mind when determining if an account is fraudulent too. For example, accounts are locked when Twitter sees an account tweeting lots of unsolicited mentions or is blocked by a large number of users.
What about the long-term?
The long-term effects of the Twitter purge are much brighter. The temporary wave of bad press is already blowing over and the number of active users will increase with time when there's less concern about spam and fraud.
Twitter is hoping that this short setback will yield big successes in the future. And when Twitter succeeds, so do its users and advertisers. Here's how we see these groups faring in the long-term on Twitter.
In the long run, genuine influencers will shine brighter
There's a reason influencer marketing is so popular on Instagram and Pinterest. These networks have great spam control and actively watch for fraud, so brands are comfortable writing a check to influencers with a large following and engagement numbers.
But that wasn't the case on Twitter.
Twitter took a leanient stance on spam, so brands couldn't trust its follower counts and engagement numbers. The fear of "influencer fraud" made brands less likely to hire an influencer to promote its products on Twitter, even if the influencer did nothing wrong.
But with fake accounts gone, advertisers and marketers will start to trust the follower count again.
Since Twitter is stepping up its spam monitoring game, brands will know that an influencer is legit if he or she has a high follower after the purge. Because of this, we expect Twitter influencers to close more partnerships in 2019.
Twitter ads will be more attractive to advertisers
2017 wasn't a good year for Twitter ads either.
For example, in Q3 2017, Twitter told shareholders that it cut ad prices by over 50% per impression.
Lower prices look great on paper, but the cut is a direct result of Twitter advertisers being unhappy with the return on investment of their ads. Don't believe us? In 2016 just 63.5% of advertisers said they were happy with their Twitter ads ROI. Yikes.
And it's easy to see why Twitter ad ROI was so low.
Bots and fake accounts can't buy your software or visit your new restaurant, making a good portion of ad impressions meaningless. So like influencer marketing, advertisers were better off going to Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest to run their ads to more legitimate audiences.
That won't be the case for long though.
After the purge, we expect that more real people will see people will see Twitter ads. This will boost Twitter ads ROI and encourage advertisers to give the microblogging service another shot.
This is good for advertisers as they have another way to promote their products, and good for Twitter as it can steadily raise its ad prices and generate revenue.
So, who are the losers of the Twitter purge?
If you're a legitimate Twitter user or influencer, you have nothing to worry about.
Even if you lost followers in the short-term (and you probably did), your account will recover as the network improves its image and regains trust with its users and the general public.
The only losers of the purge are people employing fake accounts to pad follower counts, fake their engagement numbers, and spread spam. In other words: the purge sends a strong message that fraudulent practices are not tolerated on Twitter.
Our advice? Embrace Twitter in 2019
With all this in mind, we predict a good future for Twitter and its advertisers, marketers, and users. The purge will drive follower counts down in the short-term, but create a brighter future with more accurate follower counts and more comfortable users and advertisers.
Stay ahead of the curve and consider how your brand will use an improved Twitter to its advantage in 2019. After all, Twitter can only get better from here.
What are your thoughts on the 2018 Twitter follower purge? Let us know on Twitter.
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