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Why removing ghost followers will actually hurt your account

  • October 1, 2018
  • By MaggieLovesOrbit
Why removing ghost followers will actually hurt your account


There seems to be a new false believe that removing ghost followers will help your engagement on Instagram. 

This practice requires you to use an app to see who hasn’t liked or commented on your photos.  After you have that list, you’re supposed to block them which forces them off as a follower.   

The problem with this practice is you’re only looking at one side of that account’s analytics.  The other side you cannot see is if they have consumed your content.


In the screen shot for the post above …. there is absolutely NO WAY that any third party app will be able to tell you which one of your followers saw the post but look inactive.

Time and time again I have tested these third party apps and found them classifying my family members as ghost users when in fact I know they are looking at every post; they just choose to not engage.



Let’s remember that Facebook owns Instagram and assume they utilize the same metrics and analytics system.  That said -the reporting side is much more advanced on Facebook.

If I look at my Facebook Insights it shows data on engagement (Likes, Comments and Shares)

But it also gives some insight on Consumption (Views and clicks)

Extrapolating this out – most people on Instagram focus on engagement (Likes, comments and saves). 

For those that have the analytics … it also shows us Reach and Impressions.  And the data we don’t see is photo views and shares. 

I think there are more consumers than engaged consumers.  Based on analytics, it’s a trend that you will have more people viewing your photo or story than you will actually clicking a like or comment. 

This is going to increase as the platform gets more crowded. 

I’m going to go back to Facebook and look at National Geographic as an example with 42 million followers.  If you go back an analyze their “engagement” then you will see the percentage of engagement has gone down through the years.

And the typical Facebook consumer scrolls without engaging because the don’t want to show or share what they are looking at with their friends.

As more and more people from Facebook come over to Instagram – that behavior will carry over.

More and more followers stand the risk of being classified incorrectly as a ghost follower when in fact you have no idea or no way of knowing how often they are consuming your content without engaging.


Third party apps that claim to report ghost followers have access to data scraping a limited data set at each time.  So they are taking their best guess but they only have likes and comments.  They don’t know who is viewing your content.


Have you noticed that list of “Facebook friends also on Instagram” growing?  As an early Instagram user I was one of the first among my personal network to use Instagram.

But I’ve noticed that the list of people opening up accounts has increased. 

I have 224 friends that have an Instagram account that I do not follow.  And when I click on their accounts – they may or may not have a posted a photo ever.  They may or may not have a profile photo. 

For those that have started to use it – they are posting once every 45 to 60 days.  It’s just not something they do. 

However, when I talk to them – they regularly use Instagram to “view’ and “read” those they follow.  But if you were to classify them they might look like a ghost follower.  As the Facebook masses come over to Instagram more of this type of behavior will occur.

Contextually you have to know the demographic that acts this way is those that are older. 

I myself have a personal account.  You can look me up as @tinyfoot and you’ll see I’ve posted perhaps 6 photos in 2018.   From all intensive purposes I look like a ghost follower however I can assure you I’m in my personal account almost daily and I love the luxury of being able to consume content without actually engaging.

I can name more than 20 of my personal friends who use Instagram this way.  And in this group of 20 I’m the one who I would classify as a “publisher” where post photos on my various accounts.

I invite you to test this out on your own circle of friends and Facebook friends.  If you were to analyze their accounts would they look like engaged users or ghost followers? 


At some point … a human being looked at you on their phone and clicked “Follow”.  Something about your account appealed to them.

Why on earth would you shut the door and remove them from your list of followers?

You have no knowledge if they are viewing your photos and videos or stories.

What if your photos bring them joy and happiness?

Also if for some reason they did in fact stop seeing your content … could it be they have something else going on in their lives?  Maybe they have finals.  Maybe they moved homes?  Maybe they just had a baby.  A third party app has NO way in knowing why they aren’t looking at your posts even if it could tell they were a ghost follower.


Instagram is in its infancy.  The platform is just starting to grow.  If you only have two hours a day to dedicate to your account, wouldn’t you spend your time focusing on:

  • Creating better content
  • Engaging with others
  • Trying to learn how to do more of what is right versus trying to figure out what is wrong


The sole job of the algorithm is to get people to come back to the platform.  When it’s functioning properly our enjoyment with the platform goes up.  The more time we spend on the platform the more Instagram grows. 

The average user spends 35 minutes on the platform signing in for 9 to 10 times a day. 

But the amount of content has increased.  Yet the amount of time to consume it hasn’t increased that much.

I post 6 to 7 photos a week on my gallery and anywhere from 2 to 20 photos/videos to my InstaStories a day. 

The average user then has to decide which feed to look at, and either let the algorithm serve them content or to look people up. 

As the volume of content increases engagement goes down.  It’s what happened on Facebook and it’s what is starting to happen on Instagram.   

Stories in fact have lowered gallery engagement because we’ve created content that competes with our galleries. 


Sure we talk about tactics to grow followers or grow engagement but first and first most …. the foundation is your content. 

Learning how to take the best photographs or capture the videos that represent your story well should always be goal number one.  Growth and engagement happens as a result of that.

I work with brands and when we look at various accounts we don’t look at follower count first.  In fact that’s typically third.  The first thing we look at is the content.  Then we look at “how” an account shows up for their followers.  Do they have a tone that resonates with us?  Do they engage with their own followers?  How do they speak to them?  And after all of these are answered then we’ll look to see how big their account is. 


I think that this is one of those concepts that started off under a well meaning purpose.  It was meant to guide you to weed out scam or spam accounts.  But unless this is obvious to you … I caution in following this as a tactic to increase engagement. 

As more and more people come on to Instagram as “viewers” and “consumers” and not ‘engagers” you won’t easily be able to tell the difference.


If the reason you were doing this was to increase engagement here’s a tip to focus on how to increase what you want. 

  • Engage with 30 people in the morning, at lunchtime and in the evening. 
  • Strategically select people that are your followers, your loyal friends, people on the explore feed, friends of friends.  And do this repeatedly every day – and I guarantee your engagement will go up. 

If this article was useful – you may be interested in:

My Instagram guide: How to make my dog famous on Instagram

We are MaggieLovesOrbit on Instagram and currently have 113,000 followers.

Other articles that I recommend you read:

And if you’re interested in a third party source on Engagement versus Consumption read this article

This post was originally published in November 2017 and updated October 2018.

By MaggieLovesOrbit, October 1, 2018
  • 9
  • Ty.Poodle
    January 9, 2018

    Amazing article, Thank you so much for giving a different look on “Ghost Followers” I was about to remove them, Now that I have a new perspective I will let thigs be ?

  • Chad Torkelsen
    March 13, 2018

    Hey Maggie!
    Great article and I totally agree, one thing however that I would like to point out is, when I see a lot of people using the term “Ghost Follower” what they are actually referring to an inactive user. In this case, it can greatly benefit an account to remove all inactive users from their follower list because although the follower:like ratio may not have a massive impact on total reach, it can, for accounts who purchased or follow/unfollowed in the past filling their followers that are actually fake and/or unused accounts, in this situation I believe it a totally necessary thing to do. I’d love to hear what you think!

    • MaggieLovesOrbit
      March 13, 2018

      Hello Chad – than you for reading the article. There’s a saying in business that it’s harder to find a new customer than to keep an existing one. I look at inactive followers as someone I’d like to re-engage with instead of removing. It’s a different perspective. The problem I have with those apps is that I have a few test accounts that constantly get grouped as “inactive” even though they view the content. Those apps report the data they know. But what they don’t know is if that follower is “viewing” your content. Typically on my posts I will have 20% engagement so that means 80% of those that saw it… are grouped into the “impresion” bucket. In a normal scenario I’d rather figure out how to engage with them then delete them. Now in the case of removing fake followers – I agree. They shouldn’t have purchased fake followers to begin with.

    • MaggieLovesOrbit
      March 13, 2018

      Also to add – here’s an article I read this last weekend on Entrepreneur: where they focus on Re-engagement as a tactic as well. It’s a good read – hope you like it.

  • Cate
    April 7, 2019

    Like Chad said. There is a difference between inactive accounts (fake accounts) and ghost followers. I don’t think it would be wise to try and re-engage with these fake accounts and even if you did, there’s no one behind those accounts and we’d only be wasting our time.

    In the article from Entrepreneur, they are referring to ghost followers. Real accounts from people who just haven’t engaged with you in a while. There is a difference. Though, I agree that re-engagement does help a lot and that these apps aren’t always the best indicators of fake accounts.

  • Maureen
    September 12, 2019

    I like your fresh perspective on ghost followers. I recently went through and deleted all my “eggheads” – the ones that I knew were some sort of fake follower. I was going to do it for the rest of my fakes, but now I will probably leave them all alone.

  • Expertans.Com
    March 17, 2020

    The truth is that they are ghost followers – which means that they aren’t humans and they are not going to engage. 

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