Commentary

Follower Counts May Plunge As Twitter Purges Accounts

Mobile and social media managers and influencers might be in for a surprise the next time they check their Twitter stats.

That’s because the company has started purging its platform of tens of millions of “locked” accounts, many of which boost the follower counts of tweeters large and small.

Although it previously stopped short of scrubbing them from its service, Twitter has long had a policy of locking accounts after detecting sudden changes in their “behavior,” and other odd activity.

Such activity can reveal accounts to be bots, although Twitter insists that most blocked accounts were originally created by living, breathing people. The bigger problem with blocked accounts is that it’s hard for Twitter to confirm that they’re still under the control of their original creators.

Vijaya Gadde, who heads up Twitter’s legal, policy and trust & safety efforts, thinks everyone -- including marketers and influencers -- should welcome the change. “We want everyone to have confidence that the numbers are meaningful and accurate,” Gadde explains in a new blog post.

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Additionally -- because blocked accounts are already prohibited from actively participating on Twitter’s platform -- the change will not impact accounts’ active user metrics.

Yet, as Gadde conceded, “The number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down.”

Twitter already endeavors to block purveyors of spam, among other bad actors.

Exactly how many accounts Twitter is removing from its platform is not quite clear.

Late last week, The Washington Post reported that the company suspended more than 70 million “fake” accounts in May and June of this year.

In response, Twitter CFO Ned Segal tweeted: “If we removed 70M accounts from our reported metrics, you would hear directly from us.”

While Segal didn’t directly contradict The Post’s report, he promised to provide a clearer picture of Twitter’s clean-up effort on the company’s next earnings call, later this month.

In the meantime, brands and influencers should be bracing themselves for drops in their precious follower counts.

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