The Public Relations BlogDigital PRSocial Media ManagementHow Ghost Followers Destroy Your Social Accounts

How Ghost Followers Destroy Your Social Accounts

Ghosts don't care about great content.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer


Ghost fol­low­ers are des­troy­ing your social media accounts.

Many are try­ing to out­smart social media algorithms by acquir­ing many inact­ive fol­low­ers. Others don’t have the time to weed out and block bot followers. 

Turns out that allow­ing any­one to fol­low you has a det­ri­ment­al effect.

Here’s why:

How Ghost Followers Destroyed My Twitter Account

A few years ago, I des­troyed one of my Twitter accounts this way. 

I fol­lowed back accounts with high fol­low-back ratios to get them to stay on as fol­low­ers — as opposed to fol­low­ing people I genu­inely wanted to inter­act with, wheth­er they fol­lowed me or not. 

That account now has 16K+ fol­low­ers, but recov­er­ing it back to health has proven almost impossible.

We find ourselves in a situ­ation where thou­sands and thou­sands of influ­en­cer wan­nabes and oth­er types of social media fakers are buy­ing ghost fol­low­ers and deploy­ing fol­low-back soft­ware to boost their numbers. 

Most people under­stand that the fol­low­ers you get won’t engage with their con­tent, as I did, but the actu­al situ­ation is worse. 

Much worse.

I did­n’t buy my fol­low­ers, sure, but I did use a stu­pid fol­low-back tech­nique — and des­troyed my Twitter account as a result.

Social Algorithms Stats in the Trash

While the math­em­at­ic­al aspects of a social media algorithm might be com­plex, the essen­tial func­tion isn’t. Algorithms simply try their best to fig­ure out what users want by pre­dict­ing their behaviours. 

While the algorithmic for­mula is com­plex, the essen­tial social sig­nals are easy to under­stand for any­one — it’s all about engage­ment (what your poten­tial audi­ence does on the plat­form) and author­ity (your track record on the platform).

On a social plat­form, you’re first and fore­most com­pet­ing with yourself.

Let’s do a thought experiment:

Imagine hav­ing pre­cisely 100K fol­low­ers, but for some reas­on, 90K are ghost fol­low­ers, like bot accounts, fake accounts, spam accounts and the like. There might even be some real people who allowed you for the wrong reas­ons; there­fore, they will nev­er ever engage with your content.

Okay, so you still have 10K real fol­low­ers. That’s not too bad, con­sid­er­ing. If you could pub­lish some con­tent and get 10K shares?

But, of course, you don’t get 10K shares. You might not even get five shares.

The reas­on is dev­ast­at­ingly simple: your algorithmic stats are now in the trash. Sure, as long as the social net­work shares your con­tent with only those 10K fol­low­ers, you can main­tain account integ­rity. But it’s an uphill battle.

Ghosts Don’t Care About Great Content

Great con­tent alone will rarely make up for hav­ing a large por­tion of fol­low­ers with low scores on engage­ment and author­ity. Therefore, a massive fol­low­ing of ghosts could be a math­em­at­ic­al pois­on to your attempts to nego­ti­ate the algorithm. 

Yes, the algorithm will col­lect per­form­ance data on everything you pub­lish. Still, con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, this data is mainly used to error-cor­rect the algorith­m’s accur­acy, not to determ­ine your authority. 

The social media algorithm has made most of its pre­dic­tions before you pub­lish your content. 

Posting great con­tent (mean­ing: con­tent that per­forms bet­ter than “your” algorith­m’s ini­tial pre­dic­tion) will only micro-adjust in your favour, but only ever so slightly. Such micro-adjust­ments rarely make up for hav­ing 90% ghosts, not in the long term.

What does this mean?

What To Do About Ghost Followers

What can you do if you have a high ratio of ghost fol­low­ers? What can you do? 

There’s no easy solu­tion, unfor­tu­nately. There’s the hard­core approach, of course. You could go through your list of fol­low­ers and block all those prom­in­ent “ghost fol­low­er” accounts. This will get rid of ghost fol­low­ers quickly, but it comes at a cost:

Frequent block­ing will tell the algorithm that you’re not inter­ested in enga­ging with those who have chosen to fol­low you. Short- to mid-term, this is likely to impact your author­ity negatively. 

The softer approach won’t strike back at you as hard: You simply make sure that you’re at least not fol­low­ing ghost fol­low­ers back, and then you hope that they will unfol­low you, too, over time. This, of course, takes time.

There are two addi­tion­al altern­at­ives, but these aren’t viable options for most people: Either you close your account and start fresh, or you attract so many real fol­low­ers that their num­bers will dwarf your exist­ing num­ber of ghost followers.

Here are a few rules of thumb for keep­ing clear of ghost followers:

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How To Avoid Ghost Followers

Ghost fol­low­ers (inact­ive social media accounts) will des­troy your engage­ment scores and under­mine your social media reach and growth.

Here are a few rules of thumb for keep­ing clear of ghost followers:

  • Grow organ­ic­ally from the start. Having a small but highly engaged com­munity is bet­ter than attract­ing huge bulks of ghost fol­low­ers — espe­cially if you share your author­ity with them by enga­ging with them back.
  • Stay con­sist­ent in one niche. Attracting a homo­gen­ous audi­ence (in terms of what exact con­tent they typ­ic­ally will engage with) is crit­ic­al for long-term suc­cess in social media. 1Silfwer, J. (2016, May 25). The Follower Contract. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​f​o​l​l​o​w​e​r​-​c​o​n​t​r​a​ct/
  • Engage stra­tegic­ally. Who you engage with (fol­low, like, com­ment, share) will send neces­sary sig­nals to the algorithm. Ensure con­sist­ent engage­ment with the par­tic­u­lar audi­ence you want to attract.
  • Remove or unsub­scribe ghosts. When pos­sible, pro­act­ively remove inact­ive fol­low­ers by either elim­in­at­ing or unsub­scrib­ing them. Not all social net­works allow for this, but you should use this tac­tic wherever it’s applicable.

Learn more: How Ghost Followers Destroy Your Social Media Accounts

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1 Silfwer, J. (2016, May 25). The Follower Contract. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​f​o​l​l​o​w​e​r​-​c​o​n​t​r​a​ct/
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations obviously; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that it's good to have hobbies outside work.

The cover photo has



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