This Big Instagram Mistake Cost Me 3,000 Instagram Followers

Dana NicoleSocial MediaLeave a Comment

Girl with painted nails holding cellphone while looking at Instagram
Last updated on December 25th, 2019

Instagram is the most popular social media app currently. It’s great for small businesses and bloggers to connect with their followers and to promote their content, products and services!

So it makes sense that you’d want to grow your account and try to get as many followers as possible, right?

So when I went from 5,000 followers to 2,000 followers, I started getting lots of messages asking what had happened to my account!

To be fair, most people thought that my followers had just disappeared and they were worried that maybe I had got hacked! But when I told them that I had purposely deleted them, they couldn’t understand why…until I explained the big mistake that I made.

But first, why on Earth would I want to delete those followers?

More Followers Doesn’t Mean More Likes

When my account had 5,000 followers, I was getting the lowest amount of likes and engagement I had ever received.

I know a lot of people complain about this, but I made one mistake in particular that I lead me to accumulate followers who just weren’t interested in my type of content.

Thus, they didn’t actually interact with anything I posted, and my content got pushed further and further down everyone’s feed until it felt like the same 50 people were seeing my stuff over and over again.

What did I do that lead me to get so many off-niche followers to my account?

Well, I did a loop giveaway that gave me tons of followers but they were not the type of followers that would want to see my content!

If you don’t know what a loop giveaway is, it is when you team up with a bunch of other bloggers and in order for the contestants to win the prize you are giving away, they need to follow every Instagram account.

I got a couple of thousand followers from doing this and I can tell you: the lack of research I put into this loop giveaway was such a big mistake and ruined my engagement.

I can’t remember what the product was that the giveaway was for, but I think it was a laptop or something generic that ANYBODY would want to have.

And I don’t want just anybody following me, because not everybody will enjoy my content. 🙂

So, the million-dollar question: Are all loop giveaways bad? Absolutely not! If you are a mom blogger and you do a loop giveaway for a baby basket, you’re likely going to get tons of followers that are fellow moms! (By the way, you should also check out my post on Instagram loop giveaways so that you can learn from my mistakes and make sure you are taking part in good giveaways!)

After my loop giveaway, my followers were overrun with people who didn’t care to see my content so they never liked or interacted with anything I posted. Instagram’s algorithm started to take note that the majority of my followers weren’t interacting with my content, and in turn, it stopped showing my content to as many people…ugh.

Let’s quickly review how Instagram’s algorithm works to understand why it was such a bad thing that my followers weren’t interacting with my content. Instagram relies on three main criteria to determine where to place your content in someone’s feed:

  • Interest: Does Instagram think the other user will be interested in your content?
  • Recency: How recent is your post?
  • Relationship: What is your relationship with the other user? Are either of you interacting with one another often?

Essentially, if your followers do not show interest in your content (i.e., they don’t interact with it) Instagram won’t show your content to them very often.

More Followers Doesn’t Mean More Traffic

At the time, I was getting a measly 10 people to my blog each month from Instagram. To put that into perspective, I get over 30,000 visitors from other places on the web but Instagram was failing me – BIG time!

Like I mentioned earlier, my content was not being seen or interacted with by the majority of my followers.

This truly hurt my chance of being able to drive any type of traffic to my website because of it!

I knew this wasn’t Instagram’s fault, and I knew I was going to need to give my account a huge makeover if I wanted to keep it part of my marketing strategy.

I thought about starting fresh and deleting my account altogether, but I knew that there was an easier (although tedious) fix.

So I spent the next couple of weeks removing thousands of my followers so that my content could actually have a chance at being seen by those who wanted to see it.

How I Deleted So Many Accounts

In order to remove a follower, you need to block them. I decided that I also wanted to unblock them afterward because if they ever found my account later down the line and truly did want to follow me, I wanted them to be able to do so!

You don’t want to just start blocking accounts though – you need to remove followers who actually don’t interact with your content (aka ghost followers).

I found an app that told me who my ghost followers were.

I was first able to filter out all my followers who had never interacted with my content.

I did a scan of the list the app generated to make sure I didn’t recognize any of the usernames, and that this app was accurate.

I was also able to find accounts that had 0 followers, 0 posts, and were following 0 people (aka bots and inactive accounts). Bots are inevitable regardless if you buy followers or not. I had never bought followers, yet my account did attract some bots!

They are annoying, but I felt this was a good time to get rid of any bots my account might have attracted.

It took me a couple weeks to go through and delete the followers who I felt were not interested in my account.

This method isn’t foolproof! As we know, Instagram doesn’t show your content to everyone so there’s a good chance some of those people who I may have removed probably did want to see my content, but they just never did because of the algorithm.

Related readings: (clicking these links will open a new tab, so feel free to click on what you want to read next without losing your spot on this post!):

What Happened Next?

My account didn’t recover overnight, but it did recover. Which is why I’m writing about my experience several months after the fact.

Since I filtered out many of the followers who weren’t interested in my content, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in my reach and my likes on each photo.

My reach has since doubled and my likes have tripled in some cases. I’ve also finally started to notice small, but steady growth!

It is now November and I believe I deleted my ghost-followers in June, so it took a few months before I was able to start seeing the benefits.

Was It Beneficial to Delete Ghost-Followers?

I found it highly beneficial to clean up my account and I’m confident that I deleted the majority of accounts I acquired through the loop-giveaway I did, who turned into ghost-followers.

My advice?

Don’t try to grow your account through any methods that wouldn’t attract your ideal follower! It’s better to focus less on the numbers and more on genuine interaction.

If you notice that your account engagement is suffering, should your first step be to delete lots of your followers?

No! This decision took weeks for me to come upon and I did a lot of testing to make sure that this would be the right decision. Before you decide to delete followers ask yourself these questions:

  1. have I done anything that would have attracted a large number of off-niche followers? (if you answer yes, you might want to consider deleting them).
  2. have I purchased followers? (Buying followers is not a good idea! If you bought followers at some point, I recommend going through and deleting your bot followers).
  3. have I participated in lots of “follow-for-follow” trains? (Again, follow-for-follow is going to land you a bunch of off-niche followers. If you built your following off of this strategy and your engagement is terribly low, I would recommend you consider deleting some accounts).
  4. have I done my best to get targetted followers, but am still lacking engagement? (If you answered yes, then deleting your followers isn’t going to help. It sounds like you need to re-evaluate other parts of your strategy).

Remember: quality over quantity! It’s better to have less followers who are interested in seeing your content rather than thousands of followers who aren’t going to interact with a single thing you post.


If you think you’d like to follow along with my journey and you’re interested in my content, feel free to give me a follow @dananicoledesigns!

My Instagram, where I post about my freelance life as an expat in Europe.



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About the Author

Dana Nicole

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Dana Nicole is a freelance content marketer. She has a Bachelor of Business with a major in marketing and has over 10 years of experience in marketing. She's passionate about Instagram marketing, blogging and SEO. Dana currently works with B2B and SaaS clients and uses her blog to help small businesses and bloggers learn online marketing!

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