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).


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:

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


As I mentioned 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, there are things we can do things to ensure that our posts are getting the maximum reach possible.


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.

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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 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.


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.


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.


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 mum 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:

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!


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.


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 have a large number of ghost followers.

NA 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. Ninjalitics Engagement 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.


Unfortunately there is no easy way to identify them, there are apps that will do it for you but using apps like this can really damage your account and even get your account deleted for violating Instagram’s API rules.

So I recommend periodically splitting up your followers into smaller groups and working your way through them this may help you accurately ‘pick up where you left off’.

It is also worth considering implementing what I call ‘the alphabet strategy’ and utilise the handy search bar in your ‘followers’ to go through every follower from A to Z.

What you are looking for is people who haven’t posted in forever (although be careful not to delete accounts that are just viewers and not posters, you should recognise if someone was once a very active account and now has just ghosted the platform.)

You are also looking for accounts that just look like spam like the one below for example. They often follow lots more accounts than they are followed by. They will have lots of numbers in their name and their content and profile picture will just look odd.


Remember, I said that ghost followers are often 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 Posts: 

(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!)

How to Use Instagram Stories to Drastically Improve your Engagement

The Follow/Unfollow Method: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

How to Host a Successful Giveaway


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.


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. Try and block accounts that seem less that genuine as and when they follow you to make it easier.

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. Take your time and do it gradually.

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