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What Happens when You Remove 20,000 Ghost Followers

What Happens when You Remove 20,000 Ghost Followers

Fab Giovanetti

Taking Instagram auditing to the next level means going against the tide. Common sense will tell you that you should gain followers on social media, not remove them. However, something magic happens when you remove ghost followers. This is pretty much the beginning of any discovery call I have with potential clients

yes but, can you help me gain followers?

Sigh. I may be old-school, I may believe in Karma, but whenever you talk to me you’ll hear one thing: quality over quantity.

So, there you go, a little experiment. We started auditing our account 6 months ago, ahead of a rebrand. I picked up the efforts again 3 weeks ago, determined to revive our Instagram account once and for all. I ended up cleaning up and deleting manually 20,000 people. Yup. I’ll let that sink in for a second.

In this piece I talk about the three phases of followers clean up you can also do for yourself.

Analyse your account

Here’s what I discovered. I ran a profile quality audit like I always do when kicking off an audit on Instagram. If it’s your first time giving your followers a once-over, that may be enough.

The basic free audits you can run will tell you as much as the quality of following, engagement rate etc, so I got a more in-depth report. Overall, our engagement levels are good when it comes to us engaging with our following (yay!).

Now, to make a point clear, our engagement rate was 0.1 per cent. That is below poor, why? Well, let me introduce you to ghost followers.

Yet, the number of ghost followers was staggering. 80% of our followers have not interacted with us. The report also gives you a breakdown of your followers quality – most of them are not deemed as fake or suspicious (only 1%), but a big chunk of these people have been inactive for over 4 years.

Our Instagram account is 7 years old. Our business rebranded in 2020. On top of people who just left the platform and did not delete their account is staggering.

How do I know that? Welcome to the implementation phase.

Implement and remove ghost followers

We never, ever bought followers – no shame if you did, but please, do not do it again if you have. I had clients who did, and it’s not worth it. Yet, we changed the content we post on our platform massively in the past 2 years.

As I mentioned above, a lot of people who were on Instagram in 2014 are not there anymore. Plus, some fake followers are just hard to spot, sneaky things. So, overall, it can be hard to spot the good apples from the bad ones.

Unless you go on a follower clean up spree.

In an ideal world, I’d tell you to use an app for this. Yet, Instagram penalises your account if you do so, and you do not have full control over who is deleted and who is not.

So, if you want to do things right and proper you have to do it manually.

So far, in two waves (one six months ago, and a second one started in the last 3 weeks) I managed to clean up around 20,000 people.

I would literally go through our followers’ list and click on anyone who looked suspicious. I would look for potential bots as well as people who have not posted since 2017 or beyond (yup, far too many of our ghost followers have been dormant since 2015).

Pro tip: A great perk of doing this is that I got to re-engage with active followers who have forgotten about us by liking some of their pictures, which also sparked up our engagement.

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This is the most time-consuming part of the process, but so worth it.

Maintaining phase

I asked my colleague, who runs the social side of the business daily, to be on top of checking all new followers every working day. Interact with each new follower, and remove directly anyone suspicious.

This is a smaller step compared to the implementation process, but still essential to prevent us from having to run audits to this extent in the future.

I’ll also keep on cleaning followers every week, making sure I look out for any obvious irrelevant followers I may find, whilst engaging with some old followers.

Why going through all the fuss?

We spend over 4 hours per week engaging on Instagram. To us, it’s a key way to engage with our customers. Especially since Instagram is going to be adding likes, it’s more important than ever to encourage them as a way to engage and keep being on top of their feeds.

Running an audit for your social media accounts is key. Through our work as per Hypeauditor ranking – is increased (as well as our overall engagement, by 1.5%!).

It sounds counterproductive to delete someone who follows you, but you should know what type of audience wants to engage with you – and their accounts can give a clear snapshot of whether they are a good fit.

As this is not a “set it and forget it” job, we’ll keep nurturing the quality of our followers, and I am truly looking forward to seeing the “health” of our account to become stellar once more.

Are you looking for inspiration to run an audit for your account? Check our step-by-step guide.

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