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Instagram 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’m diving deep into the topic of ghost followers on Instagram.
I’m teaching you everything there is 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 is a Ghost Follower on Instagram? 👻
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 they can undoubtedly fall into that category, ghost followers are people who follow you but don’t engage with your content. While most inactive followers also count as ghost followers, you could also have tons of active followers who are also considered ghost followers.
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?
In short, yes.
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 isn’t realistic.
Your goal, however, is to get as many of your followers seeing your content as possible. And I’m going to show you different ways you can do that.
How Do Ghost Followers Affect Your Account?
Simply put, they lower your overall engagement rate. If you are an influencer trying to make money on Instagram, this could make your account less appealing to brands, and hurt your bottomline.
Instagram accounts with incredibly low engagement rates also often struggle to get their content seen in the home feed and on the explore page, making it near impossible to grow over time.
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.
If you have ever bought followers, you definitely have acquired inactive 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 that you are suddenly gaining lots and lots of new followers (who don’t happen to look like your usual target market), then someone has probably targeted you.
You Hired Sketchy Services
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.
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 an Instagram loop giveaway and why I had to delete 3,000 followers after taking part in one.
Another reason why you might have Instagram ghost followers 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 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?
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!
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.
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.
How to Remove Ghost Followers
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 them isn’t a problem, however. It becomes a problem when you have many.
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.
The average engagement rate on Instagram is roughly 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 With an App
Luckily, deleting spammy ghost followers with an app is super easy. But there’s a catch.
None of the apps you use to remove them are approved by Instagram.
Connecting these to your account can run you the risk of getting your account banned.
Feel free to proceed, but do so at your own risk! I’ve tested one app and had no issues, but as I said, proceed with caution.
The app 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 result from:
- Buying followers
- Being sent fake followers
- Changing direction
- Untargeted giveaways
- Posting the wrong content
- Instagram’s algorithm
- Going viral
- Hiring sketchy services
There are several cases where you should delete spammy ghost followers. If you’ve bought followers or have been sent fake followers, you should be removing them from your account.
These are mostly spam bots and your account does not need them.
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 just 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! Keep reading and we’ll discuss what you should do instead…
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.
Ghost Accounts on Social Media
The next time you suspect you might have ghost followers on your Instagram account, 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.
This article may include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Dana Nicole is an award-winning freelance writer for MarTech/SaaS who was rated one of the best SaaS writers by Software World. She specializes in writing engaging content that ranks high in search engines and has been featured in publications like Social Media Examiner, ConvertKit, and Hotjar. Dana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and has over 15 years of experience working in marketing for national brands.