I may earn a small commission from purchases made through product links in this article at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I use now, have used in the past, or would use if there was a business need.
Last updated: November 1, 2022
Do you have a reasonable number of Instagram followers but not all that much engagement? You may be suffering from the damage caused by so-called Instagram ghost followers.
Let’s find out what ghost followers on Instagram are, how to detect and remove them, and how to recover from the damage they’ve done to your account.
You can try Tailwind out for free. And, if you like it, you can go for a paid plan for only $12.99 per month. Cancel anytime; nothing to lose.
What Are Instagram Ghost Followers?
Before we dive into the concept of ghost followers, let me explain a bit more about Instagram followers counts and engagement stats, and how they are both very important.
Most Instagram users are continuously trying to increase their followers count. The idea behind this is that the more followers you have, the more valuable your Instagram account becomes. At least, on the surface.
Let’s be honest; when we check out an Instagram account, one of the first things we do is see how many followers they have. That magic number says something about the importance or influence of that account.
A high followers count also helps in scoring lucrative marketing collaborations with brands. There’s no benefit for a brand to work with an Instagram influencer with very few followers, as the reach would be minimal.
But there’s been a shift in recent years in determining how influential an Instagram account really is. While having many followers is still important, what is much more important is how strong the engagement in a particular Instagram account is.
For example, if an account has 50K followers, but on average only gets 100 likes per post and very few comments, then the engagement rate is considered very low. And that makes the account as a whole pretty much worthless.
On the other hand, an Instagram account with a modest 5K followers that gets tons of organic likes and lots of real comments can be extremely valuable to brands.
So what causes these huge differences in engagement levels?
Introducing… Ghost Followers
There are many reasons why an Instagram account’s engagement stats are low, but in this article, we’re having a closer look at one specific bottleneck: ghost followers.
One prerequisite of high engagement is that your followers are of good quality. This sounds strange, but if the majority of your followers don’t care about what you’re posting or if they’re not very active on Instagram, then your engagement stats will suffer.
In other words, the quality of your followers is so much more important than the quantity.
“When it comes to engagement, the quality of your Instagram followers is so much more important than the quantity.”Click to Tweet
Ghost followers are essentially inactive Instagram accounts. They were either created by bots, or they were created by individuals who have abandoned their accounts.
These are the accounts that can bring your engagement stats down significantly. Having a few of these is fine, but too many and you’re in trouble.
Other Instagram users and brands will notice that your account may have many followers but lacks engagement. It puts your credibility at risk, and brands won’t want to work with you.
Where Do Ghost Followers Come From?
There are a few ways to get a large number of ghost followers.
1. Buying Followers
Back in the day, buying followers was a popular thing to do. You go to Fiverr, or any other similar site, purchase a package, and a week later, you have a whole bunch of new followers. Awesome!
Well, not really, because these new followers would typically be Instagram ghost followers. They boost your follower count but don’t do anything good to your engagement rate. They’re useless followers that do more harm than good.
These services are often 100% automated to make them as efficient and profitable as possible. But Instagram has been cracking down on these types of automated services in recent years, as it’s against Instagram’s terms and conditions.
Remember Instagress? A once very popular service that promised to get you real Instagram followers without having to do much. Well, they had to shut down in 2017 because Instagram wasn’t taking it.
So, while it may be tempting to buy followers, it’s always better to increase your Instagram followers count organically.
2. Purchasing an Instagram Account
It’s okay to buy an Instagram account, but you must do your due diligence. Just like with buying a website, there could be all sorts of red flags that you need to identify before investing in an old Instagram account.
It’s happened many times that Instagram accounts were deliberately boosted with ghost followers to make them look more attractive to potential buyers. Simply look at all their posts and see how much engagement they get.
If that engagement is low and doesn’t match the followers count, walk away.
Ghost followers often have huge amounts of accounts they follow and only very few followers themselves. That’s because most Instagram users understand when an account is a bit shady and not worthy of following.
Everyone gets some random Instagram ghost followers every now and then, some more than others.
Annoying Instagram habits you should break.
The Instagram follow unfollow method exposed.
How to Get Rid of Ghost Followers?
Should you remove ghost followers on Instagram? The short answer to this question is, yes.
As mentioned, ghost followers have a negative impact on your engagement numbers. And strong engagement really is much more important than a high followers count.
Having lots of followers may brush your social media ego, but your credibility is at risk if the engagement isn’t there. Not a good thing.
The other thing you need to be aware of is that the Instagram algorithm considers engagement stats when showing content in people’s feeds. So that’s another reason to be very wary of ghost followers.
It’s worth pointing out that just because a specific Instagram account has never engaged with your content, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a ghost follower.
They could still be active users who consume your content; they are just not as engaging as others. I wouldn’t recommend removing these less-active accounts.
Steps to Remove
The first step is to understand how to recognize Instagram ghost followers. Here are a few red flags:
- Weird handle names, often with a number
- Low-quality content, or no content at all
- High following count, but very few followers
- Profile image missing
If your Instagram account is still relatively fresh and has a low follower count, you can do all this manually. In your followers list, next to that follower’s profile name, you will see a remove button.
Click that button, and you’ll be presented with the option to remove that particular follower. Pretty straightforward.
However, if you’ve already amassed thousands of Instagram followers, this manual process could take forever. Although I’ve never used them myself, there are third-party tools out there that can provide you with engagement stats and follower reports.
You can use one of these tools to get a list of ghost followers. But as mentioned above, you need to make sure they really are ghost followers before getting rid of them.