What You Should Know About Ghost Followers on Instagram

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Lynn Corbitt

Last Updated: Jul 7, 2023

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It’s undebatable that in the social media world, having a lot of Instagram followers is associated with a certain level of success. However, ghost followers on Instagram are a growing problem for the platform that is seldom discussed.

For a long time, simply having a high number of follower on Instagram gained your account instant authority and appeal.

It’s true that a large following on Instagram can create social credibility, increase online sales, and open the door to influencer marketing collaborations.

However, not all followers are of equal value and a poor quality following can greatly affect your bottom line.

As more business is conducted by both brands and influencers on Instagram, professionals are now looking for quality over quantity when it comes to Instagram followers.

So, What Are Ghost Followers?

Simply put, ghost followers are fake or inactive users on Instagram (or other social media platforms) who don’t engage with your content.

These types of accounts rarely have any content on their profiles and are often created by bots.

If you notice any of your followers who are following a high volume of accounts but only have a few followers themselves – there is a good chance they are not real and therefore won’t engage with your Instagram account. 

what ghost followers look like

A couple of random followers is nothing to worry about, but too many ghost followers can have a major impact on your Instagram engagement.

In this guide, we’ll examine the phenomenon of ghost followers on Instagram and how to make sure the quality of your brand is not affected by them.

Why Are Ghost Followers Bad for Your Instagram?

The biggest consequence of ghost followers, for any account, is the loss of credibility.

For example, if an account has 20,000 followers, but only 20-50 likes per photo, users will easily spot the inconsistency in these two metrics.

As a result, the authenticity of their profile comes into question, which gives way to other problems.

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Ghost Followers & Engagement

Ghost followers can often make it extremely difficult to value your marketing efforts accurately.

Follower count is used to indicate key performance metrics of a profile, but these metrics can be skewed by ghost followers.

Consider two clothing companies marketing on Instagram:

         1. Company A has 10,000 followers and averages a healthy 1,500 likes per pictures and around 50-60 comments.

        2. Company B, on the other hand, has 40,000 followers, but only averages 30-50 likes, and a handful of comments.

Though Company B looks better at first glance because of its astronomical follower count, it realistically is a much less valuable profile, due to its low engagement.

Users with fake Instagram followers have no ability to truly determine their reach on Instagram as they have no idea how many real followers they actually have.

an account that has ghost followers

Today, Instagram is used for more than just sharing photos of your meals, vacations, and music preferences.

Instagram is becoming a mass marketing tool for both brands and influencers.

How Ghost Followers Effect Brands

Companies look to sell products on Instagram to reach any of the 1 billion users. The profit potential behind such reach is enormous.

However, ghost followers on Instagram will never attribute to likes on a post, clicks to a website, or sales.

“Be authentic. Instead of a bot invest the time to truly engage with your followers and comment and like their photos yourself. When you truly connect they know and become more loyal customers.” – Jessi Roberts   www.CheekysBrand.com @cheekyschicks

Especially with the rollout of new features, like shoppable Instagram feeds, Instagram is becoming a platform for customers to not only discover products, but also directly make purchases.

Brands who take shortcuts too boost their followers quickly will never see an increase in their ROI.

How Ghost Followers Effect Influencers

Influencers face a similar threat on Instagram.

At the end of the day, brands partner with influencers to reach an audience that will have a genuine interest in their product and ideally make a purchase.

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Having a lot of followers may draw potential partners in initially. However, credible brands will notice if the engagement rate does not correspond with their follower count.

If an influencers’ numbers seem to be tainted by ghost activity, it can cause them to lose out on partnerships.

Instagram Cracks Down Against Ghost Followers

In April of 2017, Business Insider reported that Instagram was beginning to crack down on ghost followers by closing third party services that offered “real followers instantly” and fabricated engagement.

The reason for this move is that “bot activity” is unhealthy for profiles and the presence of these types of profiles was beginning to negatively affect the user experience.

bot activity in DM's

Additionally, Instagram has begun to take the issue of ghost followers more seriously in recent months. If your account is found to have many fake followers, there is a chance that you might be banned from the platform.

How Do You Prevent Ghost Followers?

The good news is that in most cases, ghost followers are not something that just happens. Users have to engage in activities that increase the likelihood of gaining ghost followers.

There are several methods that can result in ghost followers on Instagram. Here’s what you should avoid:

1. Don’t Buy Followers for Your Account

The most common method used to obtain followers is by purchasing them.

Services such as Gramblast offer deals on followers. For just $2.99, you can by 100 followers. Buzzdays offers a similar deal – $1.89 for 100 followers.

Though these services offer to make your account more eye-catching by boosting your follower count, you’re paying solely for a number.

These followers will likely never like or comment on your content. And, when you are caught with fake followers, your credibility is severely damaged.

2. Never Acquire a Pre-existing Instagram Account

Another method to avoid is purchasing a pre-existing Instagram account with followers.

Websites, like fameswap.com, create a marketplace where you can purchase a pre-existing Instagram account that already has hundreds of thousands of followers.

If it sounds too go to be true, its because it is…

Companies like this often do not disclose the full Instagram handle, so you cannot analyze the actual quality of the account until after the sale.

It’s a huge risk if the account you’re looking to purchase is filled with fake followers already.

Also, once you actually buy the account, the likeliness that you’ll post the same content as the original owner is extremely low.

Once you rename the account, there is a high probability that the followers you purchased with the account will be lost. The ones that stick around will not have a genuine interest and thus will negatively affect your engagement.

And if that’s not enough, Instagram commonly bans accounts if they suspect a sale, or suspicious activity because of a name change.

pre-existing account with ghost followers being banned

3. Avoid Purchasing Likes and Comments on Your Posts

If you already have ghost followers, it can be tempting to try and make up for the apparent lack of engagement by purchasing likes and comments.

Applications such as Gramplify, Super Liker, and IG Flash offer to increase the number of likes on your profile by putting your pictures on a newsfeed and having other users like them, in exchange for your likes on their pictures.

Though in the short run, this method offers engagement and a short-term boost in likes, it does not offer lasting engagement in the long term.

These followers are individuals who only liked or commented on your content so that their account would receive increased engagement. This is not sustainable.  

Instead, you should utilize organic tactic to get more likes on Instagram naturally, which is the only long-term solution to maintaining a high engagement rate.

How to Remove Ghost Followers on Instagram

Without a doubt, ghost followers are highly undesirable and can be detrimental to the credibility of your Instagram Account.

Luckily, there are several methods and tools that can be used to eliminate ghost followers from your account.

1. Remove Ghost Followers Manually

Go through your own account and see who follows you. If the account has limited followers of its own and limited content, it is highly likely that the account is a ghost follower.

Instagram allows you to go through your photos and search who liked them. If the follower in question has not engaged with any of your content, then you can even remove them as a follower yourself – much like removing a friend on Facebook.

removing ghost followers

However, this manual tactic can prove to be burdensome and is not practical if your account is one with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Don’t worry! There are several services that offer to streamline the process.

2. Tools to Detect Ghost Followers

Tools such as Sprout offer in-depth analytics of total followers, likes gained, and comments received.

Comparing these metrics offers an opportunity to understand the engagement on your account and gauge if there is bot activity occurring.

Tools like this can help you understand how severe your ghost follower problem is and how much of a deep dive you will need to take to repair your account

3. Tools to Remove Ghost Followers

Simply Measured is another tool that allows you to understand your followers.

It gives an in-depth analysis not only into your engagement metrics, but also how engaged each of your followers are.

Similar tools allow you to see how many times a follower has engaged with your content and offers the option of removing them.

Methods to Get Real Followers for Instagram Organically

Okay, so by now you understand that buying fake follower is seriously the worst move you can make for your brand.

But you still want to expand your social community and gain more authority in your niche, right?

In order to maintain a valuable profile, it’s imperative to have organic followers who will actually engage with your content.

There are several methods and tools to get real followers on Instagram, but here are the top 7 practices you should be implementing into your Instagram marketing to avoid ghost followers.

1. Post High-Quality Content

The tried and true way to get followers is to post high-quality content that other users want to engage with.

Specifically, you’ll want to make sure the 12  most recent pictures that make up your grid have a strong signature style so that new users get an idea of what your brand is all about right from the start.

Take @thedrybar for instance. All of their pictures revolve around their core business of hair and beauty products, while cohesively fitting in their yellow them.

cohesive Instagram feed

2. Include Geo-Locations in Your Post

Be sure to tag popular locations so that you can significantly increase your reach.

By adding a location to your photos you will increase the likelihood of showing up on the Explore page and enter the feed of people in the same location as you.

3. Utilize Hashtags

Hashtags can also drastically increase your Instagram content’s reach, ensuring that you end up on the newsfeed of people who are interested in what you are promoting. After posting a photo, enter a collection of hashtags in a first comment.

Sites such as all-hashtag.com offer the top trending hashtags on Instagram, and generate several hashtags based off of the content you’re posting.

Make sure you do some industry research before starting to ensure you are picking the right hashtags for your brand.

pumpkin painting hashtag

4. Interact on the App

The common theme among any social platform is to engage with active users.

Commenting on other user’s content, liking relevant pictures, or following similar accounts is a great way to slowly build a following.

Go completely organic with the 5-3-1 technique.

While this technique may take a little bit of manual work, you can be very selective in who you are interacting with and, bonus, it’s completely free.

In the Instagram app, search targeted hashtags your ideal customer would use or look at users who are following your direct competitors and similar brands.

target real users to connect with and avoid ghost followers

Once you find an account you like and would want to follow you:

1. “Like” the last 5 photos they posted.
3. Comment on their last 3 photos.
3. Get 1 new follower!

Now before we proceed to the next point, check out this infographic and share with friends and colleagues if you find it useful.

5. Use A Quality Instagram Growth Service

Unlike, some of the “bot” services we mentioned previously, there are some services, like Kicksta, that can help expedite the process of interacting with potential followers in a way that still maintains the integrity of your account.

The first thing to look out for is anyone that is promising a set number of followers per a given time period. This is a huge red flag!

In order for the service to be organic, it needs to be up to the end user whether or follow or not. Therefore there is no way to pre-determine exactly how many followers you will gain.

Also, make sure the service you choose can offer to target followers based on their geographic location, gender, hashtag usage, and other metrics in order to ensure the right audience is being reached.

Because they engage with people with similar interests, not only will you get real followers for Instagram, you’ll also see these followers interacting on your profile long-term.

kicksta features

6. Host Instagram Contests

Instagram contests are a unique way to attract devoted followers.

Contests can be as simple as having users tag a friend in the comments or as complex posting their own picture and tagging you.

7. Utilize Influencer Marketing

You can dramatically expand your reach by partnering with influencers with large quality followings to promote your product. This is a great tactic because it allows you to reach a massive audience through a user that they trust.

Make sure you are partnering with an influencer who has a high engagement rate with this engagement rate calculator from Influencer Marketing Hub.

kim k engagement rate

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  • Louis Huynh says:

    Love this amazing post, looking forwards to be collaborating.

  • Thanks, Mate!
    With this article, I got refresh everything about Ghost Followers. Every detail in this article is helpful to know.
    Looking forward to more articles from your side.

    • Samantha Hackett says:

      We are so glad that you found this article informative and hopefully you will find our other articles helpful as well!

  • Max Gale says:

    Great Article!

    One question i have to ask is if i remove my ghost followers and create good content will my engagement increase or will Instagram continue not to create engagement for me

    Kind regards

    • Samantha Hackett says:

      Unfortunately Instagram cannot create engagement for you, it’s our job to create engagement on our accounts. However, if you remove your ghost followers and focus on creating engaging and high quality content the engagement is sure to follow!

  • Kendal says:

    How are those ghosts you screenshotted following over 7000 people? I thought that was the limit but one screenshot shows like… 71k??

    • Samantha Hackett says:

      While Instagram currently does not allow accounts to follow more than 7500 people, this policy was not always around and if you were following more than 7500 before it was enforced you were allow to continue following the extra accounts. Hope this answers your question!

  • David says:

    Thanks for tis useful update you guys are the best,

    • Christina La says:

      Hi David! We’re so glad that you found this article useful. We have tons of articles on social media that we hope you could check out!

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