Everything You Need to Know About Ghost Followers on Instagram

Dana NicoleSocial MediaLeave a Comment

flowers beside a cup of coffee and green envelope
Last updated on May 22nd, 2020

Ghost followers can bring down your Instagram engagement rate and hurt your overall account. If you think you might have ghost followers on Instagram, there are some things you can do to get rid of them and bring your account back up to a healthy engagement rate!

There’s lots of misinformation on the web concerning ghost followers. When most people think they have ghost followers, their instinct is to remove them immediately, but that isn’t always the best approach.

Today, I am going to be diving deep into the topic of ghost followers on Instagram and teaching you everything you need to know, including what to do if you have a high number of ghost followers (hint: your first step isn’t to delete them, but I’ll explain more on that later).

What Are Ghost Followers?

First, let’s clear up what ghost followers really are. Ghost followers aren’t inactive followers on Instagram. An inactive user is someone that has stopped using Instagram and doesn’t open the app anymore.

While ghost followers can undoubtedly fall into that category, ghost followers are people who follow you but don’t engage with your content. This could be for multiple reasons including:

  • the person simply isn’t interested in your content
  • your content doesn’t show in their feed anymore
  • the user is a spam account and therefore, doesn’t engage with any content

Since the quality of our followers trumps the quantity of them, you might be wondering how ghost followers can affect your account.

Are Ghost Followers Bad?

As we learned above, ghost followers are followers who don’t interact with your content. Having a large following with a small reach is less than ideal!

It doesn’t look normal if someone has thousands of followers but only gets a few likes on their posts.

Now, in a perfect world, all of your followers would see each and every post and interact with it (and share it and love it). But that just isn’t the case! However, we can do things to ensure that our posts are getting the maximum reach possible.

How do Ghost Followers Affect Your Account?

Ghost followers lower your overall engagement rate. If you are an influencer, this could make your account less appealing to brands.

Instagram accounts with incredibly low engagement rates also often struggle to get their content seen in the home feed and on the explore page.

How to Get Ghost Followers on Instagram

If you think you might have ghost followers on Instagram, you might be wondering how you got them. There are many different ways that a brand can acquire ghost followers, but here are some of the most likely means.

Buying Followers

If you have ever bought followers, you definitely have acquired ghost followers. There’s no way to buy real and engaged followers, so the followers that you end up purchasing end up being accounts that will never engage with any of your content.

You Were Sent Spam Accounts

It’s not uncommon for users to send spammy followers to other accounts. If you notice one that you are suddenly gaining lots and lots of new followers (who don’t happen to look like your usual target market), then you have likely been targeted.

This is a message I got from an account saying they could guarantee 500 followers to me by reposting my photo on their page.

A quick Google search tells me that 500 followers cost a couple of dollars. This account is asking for $12 a post, meaning they’ll use the money that I’ve paid them to send me 500 fake followers, but make it look like the reason I’m getting followers is from their “shoutout.”

If you’ve ever participated in something like this, you’ve probably acquired ghost followers.

Untargeted Giveaways

Giveaways are notorious for bringing in hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of followers within a short time.

Running a giveaway might seem like it’s a great way to get more followers (and it can be), however, if your giveaway isn’t aligned with your brand, you will be receiving followers that don’t care about your content and will likely never engage with anything you post.

You can read my personal experience with loop giveaways and why I had to delete 3,000 followers after taking part in one.

Changing Direction

Another reason why you might have ghost followers on Instagram is if you’ve ever switched niches or shifted the direction of your account.

If you started posting travel content but then became a mom and began posting parenting tips, your followers might stop interacting with your content as they followed you to see travel photos initially, but you stopped posting those.

Instagram’s Algorithm

Instagram’s algorithm is pretty good at knowing what we want to see in our feeds, but it isn’t perfect.

Instagram’s algorithm 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?

So sometimes, even though someone really enjoys your content, Instagram’s algorithm might not think they want to see it and will stop showing it to them in their feed.

With that being said, your “ghost follower” might only be a ghost follower because they merely aren’t seeing your content anymore. You can’t engage with content that you aren’t seeing!

Posting the Wrong Content

The last reason why you might have acquired ghost followers is that the content you are posting isn’t what your audience wants to see, and therefore, they don’t engage with it.

You Went Viral

If you went viral on Instagram and had your content re-posted by an account that isn’t in your niche, you might have gotten a number of followers that followed you simply from the additional exposure, and not because they are interested in your account.

How to Find Ghost Followers on Instagram for Free

Over time, we are all going to get a small number of ghost followers. It’s unavoidable and impossible to have an account with zero ghost followers. Having a small handful of ghost followers isn’t a problem, however. It becomes a problem when you have a significant number of them.

Spotting ghost followers on any Instagram account is relatively simple.

An account with a high number of followers but a low engagement rate typically has a large number of ghost followers.

A standard engagement rate on Instagram is anywhere from 1%-3% but varies from niche to niche. You should look at your own engagement rate as well as your competition’s to see how you compare. Triberr’s Engagement Rate Calculator is the fastest way to figure out the engagement rate of your own account, as well as your competitors.

If you feel that your engagement rate is lower, it could be from having too many ghost followers.

How to Delete Ghost Followers on Instagram With an App

Luckily, deleting ghost followers on Instagram with an app is super easy! There are many apps to help you identify who your ghost followers are, but the one I’ve used is called “Cleaner”.

To find your ghost followers, open Cleaner and log in with your Instagram account.

Next, select the  “followers” along the bottom.

Cleaner doesn’t load all of your followers at once. You can see this by looking at the number of loaded followers.

Next, click on “Quick Select” and then click “Advanced quick select”. This will bring up several different ways that you can segment your following by. Choose “Select ghost followers” to bring up your ghost followers.

Keep in mind that since the app only loaded a percentage of your followers, you will only be selecting the ghost followers from the ones that were loaded. If you scroll down, you can load more followers; however, you don’t want to be selecting all your ghost followers at once anyways.

Removing a large number of followers all at once can get your account flagged for suspicious activity. So if you do plan to remove all your ghost followers, it may take you a couple of weeks.

If you plan to get rid of your ghost followers, your next step is to block and unblock them. Click on “Actions” and then select “Block and unblock.”

I don’t recommend removing your ghost followers right away, which brings us to our next point.

Should You Delete Your Ghost Followers?

Remember, we mentioned that ghost followers are a result of:

  • Buying followers
  • Being sent fake followers
  • Changing direction
  • Untargeted giveaways
  • Posting the wrong content
  • Instagram’s algorithm

There are several cases where you should delete your ghost followers. If you’ve bought followers or have been sent fake followers, you should be removing them from your account.

Alternatively, if you’ve drastically changed your niche, clearing out old followers who aren’t interacting with your content is a good idea.

Lastly, if you recently did some untargeted giveaways, you likely acquired a lot of followers who justs aren’t interested in your content. Feel free to remove them from your following.

However, if none of the above points apply to you, deleting isn’t a good idea!

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 reading spot on this post!):

What to do Instead of Deleting Ghost Followers

Determine What Your Audience Wants to See

If you’re posting the wrong content, the simplest way to fix that is to start posting what your audience wants to see. An indication that you are posting the wrong content for your audience is if some of your posts have a good engagement rate.

If you scroll through your feed and notice that you have posts here and there with high engagement, it’s likely that your other posts just aren’t quite what your audience is looking for!

This is an excellent thing as it’s an easy fix.

Posting content that appeals to your audience will definitely improve your engagement rate and help turn those ghost followers into engaged fans of your account.

Understanding what your audience wants to see can be done in a variety of different ways! You can ask them directly what they want to see more of, you can create a poll on your Instagram story or you can go back and evaluate what type of content performed well in the past and replicate it.

Interact With Your Audience

Next, if you suspect the algorithm is to blame for your ghost followers, then it’s time to put an engagement plan into place.

Instead of deleting your ghost followers, start interacting with your followers. Go and like their content and leave meaningful comments on their posts. Above, we discussed how the algorithm takes into account “relationship” when determining what to place in someone’s home feed.

You are going to want to begin to repair the relationships with your ghost followers, so they begin to see your posts in their feed again!

You will also want to make sure your content is as engaging as possible. Aside from posting photos, you should also try to post more content that your audience can start to interact with! Host an Instagram live, post Instagram stories or even try out Instagram TV. Bringing up your overall engagement will help decrease the chances that your content starts to get lost within the home feed again.

Instagram user @zuneraserena took nearly a year off from Instagram which ultimately turned a lot of their followers into ghost followers. The account’s engagement rate was hovering around 2.1%, and now after five weeks of posting content and interacting with their audience, the engagement rate for the account has gone up by 1.1%.

As you can see, it’s not a short-term “quick fix”, but you’ll be able to see results if you put in the time and the effort.

How Instagram Deals with Ghost Followers

Instagram occasionally purges spam and fake accounts. When this happens, you will notice that your account loses some followers. You are better off without these followers as they will always be ghost followers and will never actually interact with your content.

In Conclusion

The next time you suspect you might have ghost followers, dig a bit deeper to try and understand the reason behind why your followers aren’t engaging with your posts.

It’s better to try and repair the relationship with your followers than to remove them as followers. After all, they might not be seeing your content in the first place, therefore, are not able to interact with it.

If you are 100% sure that the followers you have are real ghost followers who will never interact with the content you are posting, you can go ahead and remove them from your follower list. To remove a follow, you must block them and then unblock them.

Be careful with doing this as your account will be flagged if you block and unblock too many users at a time.

Pin me:



This article may include affiliate links. www.dananicoledesigns.com is a participant of Amazon.com Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchase. www.dananicoledesigns.com participates in other affiliate programs, and recieves commissions when purchases are made through the links. This is at no extra cost to you.

Share this Article

About the Author

Dana Nicole

Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest

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!

Leave a Reply