What are Ghost Followers on Instagram & How Can You Avoid?

Social media platforms have dominated the internet world for years now, and it’s no question that having a large following on Instagram can especially bring you a higher level of success and opportunities. With this importance comes a hunger to increase follower count via any means or methods possible, which has led to something called “ghost followers.” 

In the past, a high number of Instagram followers was taken at face value as a credibility marker, making you a more likely target for an increase in sales or potential to become an instagram marketing “influencer.” 

These days? People are more aware of these “ghost followers” and a simple number of Instagram followers doesn’t indicate those followers are of high value or worth investing in. Those making investment decisions or marketing choices are looking for quality, not quantity. They want followers that will engage and interact with content, ones that are likely to bring in a ROI. 

So, you may be asking, what exactly are ghost followers? 

Let’s explore what ghost followers are and how they can impact your Instagram opportunities. 

What are Ghost Followers on Instagram

Defining Ghost Followers 

As the term may imply, ghost followers are those followers that merely represent a number. Simply put, they are inactive or fake accounts that don’t engage with any content– no likes, no comments, nothing. And what matter is real followers, not the fake ones becuase the efforts in fake followers doesn’t worth time and money or anything else.

When looking at the account of a ghost follower, it’s rare to find content of any kind and are typically created by or maintained by bots. They may be following a huge number of accounts, but have only a few followers themselves. These are some of the ways to spot a ghost follower. 

These types of followers are bound to cross your path at one point due to the sheer amount of bots and growth programs out there these days, so not to worry. However, it’s important to note that having a large volume of ghost followers can have a negative impact on your engagement and therefore your credibility. 


What Are the Negative Effects of Ghost Followers on Your Instagram? 

There are a variety of ways that ghost followers can affect your Instagram. Let’s dive into a few key points.

  • Credibility 

I’m sure you’ve all landed on an Instagram profile and been drawn to a large number of followers, numbers like 80k, even into the hundreds of thousands. Lo and behold, upon the first glance at a photo or comment section, there are only a few likes, less than one hundred. For an account with so many followers, much more engagement is to be expected. This inconsistency is very easy to identify, and immediately users will think you have been up to some unsavory things to amass that number of followers. 

One this has happened, they are less likely to take you seriously; your opportunities for marketing opportunities are at risk, sales may be out of the question if they feel you are unreliable, or your content becomes desperate or less desirable.  

  • Engagement and Reach 

It’s really important to keep a close watch on your metrics– which type of content or posts perform the best, how much engagement you are actually receiving, among others. Ghost followers make it virtually impossible to monitor these metrics with accuracy. 

For instance, let’s say there are two travel bloggers with a few differences: 

  • Travel blogger #1 (TB1) averages 3,000 likes per picture, with roughly 100 comments. Total follower count: 20,000.  
  • Travel blogger #2 (TB2) averages 100 likes per picture, and a few comments that may or may not be directly connected to the picture. Total follower count: 80,000. 

So, which one looks more attractive? Without even looking at the follower count, immediately TB1 is much more desirable than TB2. Yes, TB2 has a higher follower count. But TB1 has valuable engagements and profile interactions. Which one is likely to bring in more potential for leads, sales, and active engagement? TB1 without a doubt. 

Not only is TB1 more desirable, they can actually monitor their Instagram performance and know with certainty in which direction to continue developing. If landscape photos typically average 1,000 likes, but photos with food or people average 3,000+, that’s a valuable piece of information that can eventually lead to even more targeted content. 

TB2, however, doesn’t have this possibility; their engagement is scarce and random. They cannot possibly know the true performance of their content, or how much of that engagement is actually real. 

This is a true problem for those looking for business growth opportunities and marketing through the platform, and this type of indicator is not only a huge red flag for potential investors or partners, but also a detriment for account management. 

  • Brands and Sales

At this point, it is clear that ghost followers do nothing more than add a tally to your number of Instagram followers. So what does that mean for brands, companies, and small businesses that are actually looking to expand their reach and increase sales? 

With the number of active instagram users on a monthly basis reaching 1 billion, with daily usage hitting 500 million, there’s no denying that Instagram has beastly potential for profiting and brand expansion. 

Ghost followers will not help to achieve this goal. They will do nothing. Instagram has consistently made its platform even more brand-friendly, adding features such as shoppable Instagram feeds, targeted ads that allow for quick, go-to web shops, as well as “swipe up” features in stories that lead directly to stores. Unfortunately, with ghost followers, none of this will be a beneficial business tool. 

Using these ghost followers to make your profile seem more attractive is ultimately a hit and miss; they will never turn a profit for you in the long-term. 

  • Influencers and Ghost Followers 

So, maybe your brand is yourself! Maybe you are an influencer, and all you need to break into this is a high follower count. These ghost followers couldn’t possibly affect you, right? 

Not so fast. 

Influencers are meant to create brand partnerships that will actually lead to a profitable relationship for the brand. Influencers can be seen as “messengers” that deliver brand content to what is expected to be a wide-reaching audience. This is what they are paid for. 

The brand expects not only to have exposure through this partnership, but they expect to see results. This is shown not only in a surge of followers and engagement with the brand itself, but also through an increase of sales. They need the ROI. 

When influencers have a high number of followers on Instagram, there is an initial draw. However, once brands see that the engagement rate shows inconsistency, it will be an immediate no-go. Partnerships are built through trust and mutual benefit. Without this, forget it. 

Ghost followers will definitely harm your potential to excel as an influencer. 

  • Real Consequences 

Instagram itself is not blind to the get-followers-quick schemes, and in recent years has actively worked to reduce these inauthentic accounts and shut down companies that are promoting follower increase through bot or engagement tactics. 

The reason for this is simple: user experience. If your Instagram is consistently flooded with activity from bots and unknowns, there is a high likelihood that your desire to use the platform will decrease. This doesn’t benefit Instagram, nor anyone who is using it for marketing purposes. 

Not only that, you can actually be blocked or banned from the platform if you are found to have a high level of this type of activity. 

So, How Can You Avoid Ghost Followers? 

Ultimately, you won’t find yourself in a dire situation if you don’t engage in activities that increase the chances of you acquiring ghost followers. As mentioned, you may encounter a few, but if you keep your activity on the straight and narrow, you won’t have a problem. 


Even still, there are a variety of things that you should avoid doing if you want to stay as far away from ghost followers as possible. Let’s take a look. 

1. Don’t Buy a Pre-Owned Instagram Account 

Yes, you read that right. There are sites out there that offer a place to purchase an already created Instagram account that comes with followers, even in the hundreds of thousands. 

What could go wrong? 

Well, these pre-owned accounts come just as cars bought at auction: as is. You have no opportunity to check out the account prior to purchasing, so you have no idea what type of account you’re actually getting. 

If this account is brimming with ghost followers, you’ve just acquired yourself a lemon. 

Furthermore, let’s say there are real followers on this Instagram that happen to be real. Soon enough, they’ll start seeing your content, which probably isn’t the same as the original account that they followed. They’ll be wondering how your content got onto their feed, and perhaps quickly unfollow. The ones that don’t are likely ghost followers and won’t benefit you in any case.  

Lastly, there can be a real problem if Instagram catches on to the purchase– they will ban an account that they suspect of being involved in a sale, such as a name change or content change. 

2. Don’t Buy Likes and Comments 

Having ghost followers is like a vicious cycle; once you have them, you want to try and compensate for the lack of engagement by taking a shortcut like paying for engagement, and there is no shortage of companies who are happy to abide. 

While you may see a short-term quick fix, there is nothing sustainable about this, and you only receive increased engagement. It’s also a tedious process and will only get you further down the rabbit hole. 

A better option is to engage with your followers and use organic tactics to gain engagement naturally, as this is the only way for long-term success in engagement metrics. It pays off in the end. 

3. Don’t Buy Followers 

It seems to go without saying, but believe it or not, people are wild about buying fake Instagram followers even after previous consequences mentioned. This is the most common method for finding yourself with a high level of ghost followers. 

Many services will offer you irresistibly cheap deals for quick followers, and they are often quite attractive; but if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. These are the very ghost followers you are looking to avoid.

Remember, you are only paying for a surge of followers. These followers will not engage with your content in any way. They will only harm your credibility and signal that you took the easy way out. It will devalue your brand, your persona, your account. Don’t give into the temptation. 

Removing Ghost Followers On Instagram

Perhaps you came across this article too late and you’ve already found yourself in a world of trouble with ghost followers. 

Fear not, there is still hope! You can use a variety of methods to remove these ghost followers from your account and restore your credibility. 

1. Manual Removal 

It seems tedious, but it can be a very fruitful method. Since you have a good knowledge of your account already, you can eliminate the followers that you know don’t belong. 

You can also go through your photos and see who’s liked them; if you notice a follower that never engages with any of your account, you can remove them as a follower. 

While this is a viable method for someone with a limited quantity of followers, or someone with a lot of free time on their hands, if you have a very dense follower count it might be a lot less practical. There are some other options that can serve this purpose. 

2. Services to Detect and Remove Ghost Followers 

There are multiple services to help target and remove ghost followers. This is specifically meant for the purpose of cleaning out ghost followers and will make your life a lot easier. 

Also, there are tools that give you analysis based on your followers, helping you to see how often they engage with the content and if you aren’t satisfied, offers you the option to remove them. This is also a good way to not only remove ghost followers but amplify your knowledge of your follower base. 

These types of services can be especially beneficial if you feel that you need to do a real re-assessment of how your followers on Instagram are responding and how much engagement you truly have. Then you can backtrack a bit and begin to analyze your metrics from a more accurate standpoint. 

The Real Question: How to Get Organic Followers on Instagram 

At this point, there are no doubts left in our minds that buying fake followers and acquiring ghost followers is a huge no-no for your brand that leaves lasting consequences. 

That being said, you’re here for a reason, and of course, the goal is to expand your reach and gain more prominence in your sector. This is where organic followers come in– ones that will actually engage with your content. 

There are a variety of ways to get organic followers, but one of the most prominent is that you must be present! Your followers should feel your presence. Comment and like the engagement on your account. Create Instagram stories that ask your followers to reply with their opinions. Offer contests or other engagement strategies. Make sure to utilize hashtags and geotags to widen the likelihood of others finding your photos. Create a scheduler for how often you should posts and analyze your metrics to know which content and posting times draw the most likes. 

There are a wide variety of things you can do in tandem to help truly acquire more followers on Instagram. Don’t let ghost followers and the shortcut get the better of you! 

Do you have any go-to strategies for finding followers on Instagram? Drop us a line in the comments! 

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