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  • R'Minda Russell - Owner of Visualize Creative

Ghost followers: what are they, how to find them and get rid of them.

“Ghost followers” is a hot term that we’ve all been seeing a lot of in the past few months in the social media marketing/management space. I will break down everything you will need to know about them, why they hurt engagement, and what to do to get rid of them.


First things first, a ghost follower is an account that does not interact with your content but does follow you. Many times these are burner/spam accounts, or maybe is a deactivated/old account. These types of accounts drag down our engagement because of how the Instagram algorithm works.

How the algorithm works:

When we post, the algorithm will push our post to about 10% of our followers to see how they interact with it. If most of the 10% does interact with your post (like, comment, share, save, etc.), the algorithm will continue to push out your post to a bigger audience. It does this because the algorithm sees your post as a way to keep people on the app for longer while they engage with your high-quality content. If most of the 10% does not engage with your post then the algorithm will determine that your post is either too low of quality or not bringing enough value to continue to push out your post. Meaning this 10% makes or breaks your reach! By eliminating ghost followers you are shrinking the number of people who could be in that 10%.

The hunt:

Where can I find my ghost followers, you ask? By searching through your following/followers. I recommend going through your following and looking to see if you can find any profiles that fall into the “Ghost Follower” category.

Red flags to look for:

  • Profile Photo: Take note of the profile image. Do they have one? Does it look like a stock image? Does it look like a really old photo? If you get any weird vibes, check out the profile further.

  • Last Post Date: When was the last time they published to their page? Anything over a year old could show you that this is an old account or non - active follower.

  • Timeline of Posts: Accounts with posts that look like they have been rapid-fire posting is usually a telltale sign that the account is a spam or burner account.

  • Following: Although this isn’t the biggest telltale sign of a ghost follower it does help determine what the account is like. If they only have 3 followers and follow over 3k people. That seems spammy.

How to remove ghost followers/any followers: ON A MOBILE DEVICE

  1. Once you determine the profile you wish to remove. Select the three dots in the top right-hand corner.

  2. On the drop-down menu, select remove follower.

  3. Viola - Done.

My experience with ghost followers/case study:

I have a blogging profile that I have consistently been growing for the past two years. I’ve started to notice a drop off in post interactions/engagements but more specifically, likes. I knew what ghost followers were but I never paid too much attention to them as I was happy to just increase the follower count on my profile. THAT’S THE EXACT MOMENT I SHOT MYSELF IN THE FOOT. I let ghost followers fester in my followership for two years. I recently posted a high quality/value post and I only received 120ish likes, when normally I would average anywhere from 300-600 likes per post. I was taken back but I knew what I needed to do. When I finally sat down to go through my followers to remove the ghost followers I was, SHOCKED. It took me 2 hours and I ended up removing over 400 followers! Crazy, right? Ego hit? 100 percent. I watched my precious 2k disintegrate. BUT, there is the light at the end of the next post raked in that 300-600 average likes. Back to normal. I’d take the following count hit over an engagement hit ANY DAY. As should you.

So now you are thinking, “You’re really telling me I have to go

through my thousands of followers just to hand pluck these ghost followers?” The short answer is, YES. Instagram is getting smarter and smarter with each passing second. Meaning, third party apps that track followers, or likes, or any sort of engagement may put your account at risk of flagging the infamous algorithm. Instagram does not like any shortcuts when it comes to authenticity, so doing this by hand is, and will be, the best way to go about it. So put your cozy PJs on, grab a snack and get to it. You got this boss.


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