Fake Followers on Instagram: How Are They Killing Your Growth?

Have you ever thought about fake followers on Instagram and how they impact your growth? It turns out that they may be killing your growth strategy, and you should immediately take action!

I get it – everyone wants tens of thousands of followers on Instagram. Everyone wants to enjoy the popularity and tap into the opportunities that large numbers of followers can bring.

It seems essential to have a big following to be able to monetize activities on Instagram and become an influencer or a key opinion leader. 

However, this perception that “big numbers of followers” bring success and money leads to businesses, brands, and influencers buying fake followers. These fake followers should supposedly bring credibility to your Instagram page.

One thing is sure – fake followers will kill your Instagram. They won’t make you successful or wealthy. Chances are high, they won’t even add credibility to your Instagram page. 

Today, I saw an ad on Instagram Stories that showed a screenshot of an account with a brief text “before” and “after.” The “before” image had 4.9k followers, while the “after” one had over 15k followers. The call to action was inviting to buy followers.

It made me think – bullshit. Fake followers won’t benefit me in any way!

This is why I decided to write this story, hoping businesses who see similar ads could find out how harmful buying fake followers on Instagram is and that it’s a massive waste of money.

Fake followers on Instagram: Who are they?

Example of fake followers on Instagram

If you’re reading this article, you’re likely looking at ways to increase your Instagram followers. 

You’re possibly considering buying some fake ones that will inflate the number of followers you have and make you seem “better.” 

Whatever the reasons for you to gain new followers, I am going to explain why fake followers on Instagram are going to kill your growth.

But first, what are fake followers on Instagram?

You can see some examples on the left. All of these are existing followers I found while performing an Instagram Audit to a client of mine.

Fake followers are the type of followers that randomly follow you and never interact with your content. They can be genuine, but most frequently, they are bots. 

The main characteristic is that they have no (or very little) content posted, have tons of followers, and follow tons of accounts. On top, be cautious about the accounts with no profile image – it’s a big red flag!

The names that look like computer-generated gibberish can also indicate that the account isn’t real but rather a fake bot trying to damage your profile.

If you notice someone like this following you on Instagram, it’s best to get rid of them immediately. Even though the number of your followers will drop, it will have a much better impact on your overall Instagram growth strategy.

Engagement rate is key to success on Instagram

You may know that Instagram operates on a series of complicated algorithms which determine the value of your posts. The engagement rate on your posts is one of the primary factors looked at by these algorithms.

As a result, your posts that are deemed valuable by the Instagram algorithm receive more likes, are exposed to more people, and lead to more genuine followers, better brand awareness, and even sales.

Imagine that you are someone with 1,000 followers. If, on average, you receive 1,000 likes on your posts, then the Instagram algorithm will consider your content very valuable and will, therefore, expose it to more people. 

In other words, Instagram values engagement rate, which in the above case is 100%. (This is unrealistic, though, but ideal.)

A more accurate engagement rate for someone with 1,000 followers would be 100 likes on average, which brings the engagement rate to 10%, which is a great result!

Below is the Instagram Engagement Rate Benchmark by Hypeauditor that I often use for reference in my Instagram audits.

Average engagement rate on Instagram

Do you remember the ad I mentioned at the beginning of this article? The one that triggered me to write about fake followers on Instagram. To analyze how “successful” the advertised follower-growth strategy was, I wanted to check the health of that account.

I used Instrack, a tool that I often use to measure the success of Instagram accounts. I wanted to see the engagement rate that the account can boast about. Nothing surprising; there was nothing to boast about.

The account had over 15k followers; however, the engagement rate was 0.01%. I looked a bit deeper – each post received 1-2 likes, which is ridiculous for an account with 15k followers. 

Why on Earth would anyone brag about having 15k followers but be satisfied with 1-2 likes? It’s an easy trick to get money from unaware users who fall for such tricks. It’s a shame.

In the end, it just proved my point that whatever service was advertised in that ad, it killed the account, as literally, nobody engaged with its content.

How can you calculate your engagement rate on Instagram?

To calculate your engagement rate, you should divide the average number of likes by the total number of followers and multiply the result by 100%. Here is an example:

You have 1,000 followers
You get 86 likes on average
Your engagement rate is (86/1000) x 100% = 8.6%

If this is too much math, you can also rely on the engagement rate calculators that are available online. My favorite tool to calculate the engagement rate and see a detailed report on my Instagram performance is Instrack.

All you have to do is key in your Instagram handle, and it’ll show all the data within seconds.

Let’s take a look at Kim K’s Instagram account. Below is the Instrack dashboard that shows her major metrics. The results aren’t outstanding, but she’s Kim K, so all is forgiven.

Instrack is a very powerful app that allows you to see a lot of different metrics. I’ve written the whole article about it, and you can check my honest Instrack review to learn more. 

I didn’t receive any remuneration to write the review – I really like the app! It’s super helpful and free (paid versions are available as well – very affordable). 

How are fake followers on Instagram killing your strategy?

You should notice that the engagement rate directly correlates to the number of followers.

I have also mentioned that Instagram algorithms determine whether the post is valuable based on the engagement rate. This means that the lower the follower engagement rate, the less worthy the post is to Instagram.

This is why you may have the most spectacular content but fail to get engagement. It’s simply because Instagram reduces your post’s reach (shows it to fewer people) because it deems it unworthy based on poor engagement.

So, having a lot of fake followers is actually harmful to your Instagram strategy. What’s the point of having thousands of followers who don’t engage with your content and prevent your content from being seen?

Don’t be afraid to have fewer followers; instead, aim to have a better engagement rate on your posts. It will give much more value to your Instagram strategy and lead to more genuine followers who’ll be exposed to your content.

How can you do housekeeping on your Instagram followers?

First things first – don’t fall for tricks that entice you to purchase followers. 

It doesn’t matter how genuine the ads or success stories are – buying fake followers on Instagram is illegal, and these followers will never engage with your content. 

Worst, Instagram will know and may penalize you by shadow-banning (your content won’t be shown to anyone) your account.

However, if you already have followers, it’s also smart to check on them regularly.

 Sometimes it happens that I post a Reels, which generates 5-10 new followers within the first 1-2 hours after posting. It’s important to assess who these followers are. If they raise any red flags, remove them immediately. 

However, you can give them some benefit of the doubt and check if they engage with your content in the next 2 to 3 days. If they don’t – remove them. Keep your followers’ list clean.

You can check on your followers by clicking the “Followers” button on your Instagram profile. Those that raise red flags can be removed by clicking the “Remove” button, as shown in the screenshot above.

Don’t let fake followers kill your Instagram

Although it may be tempting and flattering to have a high number of followers, you should assess them regularly to ensure that they aren’t killing your Instagram. 

Do a regular check-up on people who are following you, and you have to remove those that aren’t engaging with your content. By not engaging with it, they are harming your performance on Instagram and preventing you from reaching more genuine followers.

It may be hard to remove followers, as it gives the impression that your account isn’t growing. However, keep in mind that growth takes time. Consistent posting and sticking to your existing strategy will lead to the growth of good-quality followers. 

If you’re struggling to develop growth strategies, you may consider engaging a third party to perform a complete Instagram Audit of your account. The audit will show the missing gaps and give insights for improvement. 

If you’re looking for an Instagram account audit assessing your current strategy and your followers, you should check out my blog post about Instagram Audits


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