Ghost Followers: The Ultimate Instagram Engagement Killer

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Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | May 30, 2024

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You did everything right. You posted aesthetically pleasing content, published it when your followers were online and had an awesome hashtag strategy in the caption. You even shared your post to your Instagram Story. But still, your post isn’t getting enough likes and comments.

Don’t beat yourself up too much. When posts don’t get enough engagement, it might not be you. Sometimes, it’s because of pesky little things called ghost followers.

It’s easy to rejoice when you get a new follower. Maybe you’re finally getting your big break, and people are starting to discover you on Instagram, right? But an uptick in your follower count isn’t always good, especially when your new fans turn out to be fake followers.

Today, we’ll explain why fake followers are detrimental to your growth and engagement on Instagram. Keep reading to learn why you don’t want them in your follower base and why you must get rid of them ASAP.

Having too many ghost followers can lower your likes and comments by a lot.

What Is a Ghost Follower: A Quick Definition

Simply put, ghost followers on Instagram are accounts that are either fake or inactive. These followers never interact with your content, whether it’s to view Stories or like feed posts. They’re basically invisible—like ghosts. The only thing they do is make your follower base look big.

These followers aren’t always harmful. For the most part, they just add numbers to your follower count. Keeping these followers should be fine if your goal is to look like you have a huge fanbase and tons of clout.

However, it’s important to remember that your number of followers is just a vanity metric. The real measure of your performance on the platform is how much engagement you drive. And because fake followers don’t engage with your content, they pull down your engagement rates in the long run (more on that later!).

The most common reason for having too many ghost followers is that you bought fake followers from ghost follower apps. These apps usually give you low-quality bot accounts to increase followers instead of helping you reach people organically.

Now, you’re probably thinking, what is a ghost follower even doing in your follower base? You never bought any fake followers from third-party apps, so why are they following you?

There are many reasons why a ghost follower has found its way to your profile. If you have a public profile and promote your content a lot, they may have stumbled upon your page. You’re an easy target if you use popular hashtags or regularly comment on celebrities’ posts.

Thankfully, Instagram does its part by detecting and deleting bot accounts. Unfortunately, they don’t find every single one. So, you still need to check on your followers to know they’re real people.

Fake followers won’t like your posts, resulting in low engagement rates.

The Three Types of Ghost Followers

All ghost followers have the same effect on your page. They make your follower count look good but don’t engage with your content. However, there are different types of ghost followers. Here are the three most common ones:

Real But Inactive Accounts Are Ghost Followers, Too

The first type of ghost follower isn’t fake or automated—just inactive. They’re real people, probably people you used to know. But now, they no longer use their Instagram account and just abandoned it.

Perhaps the profile is of an old high school friend’s or a family member’s page for a business that went under. Maybe it’s someone who forgot their password and never gained back access to their account. None are harmful, but none are active on the app either.

Inactive accounts are probably the tamest kind of ghost follower. You know they came from real people. However, they add zero value to your page and engagement rates because they don’t like, comment or view your posts.

People who delete their Instagram app and abandon their profile are ghost followers, too.

Fake Instagram Accounts That Try To Scam You

Next, we have fake Instagram accounts that send you phishing links or chat you up in an attempt to scam you. These ghost followers are ruthless. They’ll follow you, refuse to engage with your content and wait for the moment to try and scam you.

This happens in a lot of ways. Sometimes, they’ll message you directly and try to sell you something or get you into a moneymaking scheme. Other times, they’ll simply send you a phishing link that can steal your information. This is the deadliest type of fake follower, so always be wary of sketchy messages.

Some fake followers will also try to steal not your money but your content. They’ll disguise themselves as followers just to access your private account. Then, they’ll steal your photos and impersonate you on another account, probably to scam others.

Fake followers can sometimes attempt to scam you, so stay vigilant.

Bot Accounts With Zero Activity

Lastly, we have bot accounts. This is a type of fake account created by companies to sell to people purchasing ghost followers. So, there’s literally no human being behind it. It’s not even being opened or used at all by a person.

Sometimes, ghost-follower apps use automation to create thousands of fake accounts simultaneously. They sell fake followers to people willing to pay money for them. But none are actual people—just numbers on a screen to make you look and feel good. All they do is create the illusion that you are Instagram-famous.

Why You Should Remove Ghost Followers From Your Follower Count

Many people who want a high follower count don’t care about having ghost followers in their fanbase. Some people even love the boost in following. None can technically harm you if you’re extra vigilant about scams and sketchy DMs.

But keeping fake followers out is pertinent if you care about your engagement rates and career as an Instagram influencer. They could destroy the image you’ve worked hard on in the long run.

Here are three reasons to remove ghost followers from your follower base as soon as you can:

1. They Kill Your Engagement Rates

The biggest reason bot accounts and fake followers are a bad idea is that they lower your posts’ engagement rates. Because they’re not authentic people on Instagram for genuine reasons, they won’t bother to like and comment on your posts. This will hurt your overall engagement and bump you down on the feed later.

Let’s say that half your follower base is real followers, while the other half are ghost followers. You post a beautiful photo on your feed. Half the people who see it tap “like” because they’re genuinely interested in it. The other half are inactive followers who don’t engage with it.

That’s automatically 50% of your audience that signals to Instagram that your content isn’t interesting or high-quality. This tells the algorithm to deprioritize it.

As a result, fewer people will see your content. Some of your real followers won’t engage with your content. And it’s not because they don’t like it, but because it doesn’t even show up on their feed. It’s a direct result of fake followers killing your engagement rate as soon as you publish your post. Removing these followers can increase your engagement in the long run.

Real followers hit “like” on your posts. Ghost followers don’t.

2. They Can Damage Your Credibility as a Creator

You may think that brands and marketing agencies look at only someone’s follower count when scouting for influencers. But while a significant follower base is always important, it’s not the only thing they watch out for. Content creators should also have good engagement rates. Otherwise, it shows that people don’t even like your content.

Brands are aware that influencers can simply buy ghost followers from third-party apps. It doesn’t make them influential or effective for marketing products. It just gives you a higher number of followers slapped onto your profile.

Genuine engagement through likes and comments is a better trust signal to get you hired for partnerships. But if most of your followers are fake and pull down your engagement, it will look very bad for you.

The lower your engagement rates, the fewer brands will think you’re credible. It will hurt your chances of booking deals and jobs as an aspiring influencer. So, it’s best to trim your follower base and eliminate fake followers that hurt your engagement.

3. Buying Ghost Followers Could Get You Shadowbanned

Instagram says you shouldn’t rely on third-party apps to get likes and followers. Buying from ghost follower apps is unsafe and makes you vulnerable to vendors stealing your personal information. And more than that, they also miss the point of the platform.

Instagram is for sharing visual content with genuine people who might be interested in it. Buying ghost followers goes against this.

If Instagram detects that you’re going against the community guidelines by buying fake followers, it could result in a shadowban. When you’re shadowbanned, Instagram won’t push your content to people’s feeds and Explore pages. They do this to curb inauthentic activity and other serious violations of the app.

Being shadowbanned can hurt your account immensely. It will lower visibility and engagement for your posts. In immensely suspicious cases of buying tons of fake followers, Instagram could even suspend your account.

Buying fake followers online can lead to consequences on the Instagram app.

How To Identify Fake Instagram Followers

You can easily identify fake Instagram followers if you know how they present themselves online. You need to be extra vigilant when verifying a follower’s identity and authenticity.

Keep your eyes peeled for things that make followers look suspicious. Here are the four most telling signs that someone is a fake follower:

Ghost Followers With Sketchy Profile Details

People and companies behind ghost followers don’t usually “dress up” their profiles, so most of them will look empty. Users with no profile picture and a nonsensical username that looks like someone did a keyboard smash should raise suspicions. Their Instagram bio might also be empty. Some scammers might leave a phishing link there, too.

Ghost Followers Have No Activity on Their Profile

Another thing fake followers have in common is that they will likely have no activity on their page. They’ll have zero posts or Story Highlights—maybe not even a bio. This is a tell-tale sign that the profile is a bot account or a fake account someone uses to lurk through the platform.

Ghost Followers Use Sketchy or Stolen Profile Photos

In an attempt to look like real followers, ghost followers will sometimes steal photos and use them on their profiles. Some will use photos of celebrities on their profile picture, many of them low-quality and pixelated. They might also populate their feed with stolen photos to make it look like they’re authentic followers (spoiler: they’re not).

Ghost Followers Have an Inflated Following Count

Lastly, you can tell someone is a fake follower if they have a strange follower-to-following ratio. Bots and fake accounts will follow too many people but only a few that follow them.

They follow as many people as possible, hoping these users will follow them back. It usually never works and gives them an inflated following count with so few followers.

Starting Fresh: How to Remove Ghost Followers

The best way to eliminate ghost followers from your community is by assessing each one and deleting them manually. It can be quite a hassle for people with a huge follower base. However, the results will be worth it when your engagement picks up again in future posts.

We don’t recommend third-party apps that “clean up” your follower base for you. These apps are automated and might end up deleting real followers and leaving some fake ones in. It’s better to judge each follower yourself and remove the fakes and the bots.

Here’s how to remove ghost followers, step by step:

1. Go to your Instagram profile and click on your Followers.

2. Scroll through your follower base until you spot a sketchy account that could be a fake follower.

3. Visit their profile and look for the signs of a ghost follower.

4. Hit the back arrow that brings you back to your list of followers.

5. To delete what you suspect is a ghost follower, click the gray Remove button to the right of their name.

6. Confirm that you want to remove them from your follower base. You could also block them if you wish so they never follow you again.

7. Repeat the process until you’ve weeded out the fake followers from your community.

Keeping Ghost Followers Out Moving Forward

Protect your account from ghost followers by going through the process of removing sketchy profiles now and then. Consistently weeding out suspicious followers can help maintain good engagement rates and keep you safe on the platform.

Never fall into the temptation of buying fake followers as well. This will only lead to detrimental consequences, like low engagement and deprioritization of your posts on the feed. You’ll also be stressed by manually removing them when you realize they’re bad for your follower base.

You also have the option to put your Instagram account on private to keep fake followers at bay. That way, no one can just freely follow you. You can screen them and look through their profile to verify authenticity before allowing them to follow you. This doesn’t seem viable for influencers and brands, but it’s a good idea for personal accounts.

Get Real Followers Over Ghost Followers Any Day With Path Social

Having plenty of ghost followers doesn’t just kill your engagement rates. It puts your safety and well-being at risk, too. So, it’s time to ditch those fake followers and bot accounts and focus on reeling in real followers. That way, they will actually like and comment on your content and boost your engagement.One of the best ways to get followers is by working with us at Path Social. Here, we strive to push people’s content to real, authentic people who engage with their posts. As a result, you’ll see a genuine uptick in your follower count. And no, none of them will be ghost followers. Start growing your Instagram community with us today!