Instagramers get rid of the ghosts


How many brands would be brave enough to cut half of their social media followers, losing the ones who hadn’t engaged with them for months?  That’s exactly what is happening with many core Instagram users at the moment.

One of the many things that fascinates me about Instagram is the way a unique sub-culture and series of communities have grown up around the network in a relatively short (18 months) period of time (see an article I wrote for The Wall on the subject).

Most recently, there has been a trend among core Instagramers to do something interesting around their follower numbers.   Instead of looking at the vanity metric of a large follower total, many are actually shedding followers.   I’m one of those that did this.  I used a 3rd party tool to lose 300+ followers, bringing me down from the psychologically important 1000 follower milestone, back down to 700.

Before moving onto why that is, it is worth outlining a group of services that now exist giving you intelligence on your Instagram account.

Statigram is not only one of the main free web services (along with Webstagram and Ink361) that allow you to view Instagram images online, it also (as the name implies) provides basic metrics around your account.

This includes best time to post per day, most successful filters (assuming you actually use IG filters and not 3rd party apps), a like and comment average, and a list of your most engaged followers.   Useful info if you are running a company Instagram account, as well as a personal one.

Statigram has also started to run ads supporting Instagram competitions, we noticed Ford Fiesta using it to bring their campaign to the attention of Instagramers.


This iPhone application will tell you the minimum number of likes and comments you will probably need to get on the popular page / tab on Instagram.  It compares the least popular image on the popular page with your most recent post in terms of likes, comments and the amount of time the post has been live.

This is an iPhone app that looks at your posts over the last 40 days and gives you a league table of your most engaged and least engaged followers based on comments and likes.   A lot of Instagramers have been using it to get rid of dormant or ‘ghost’ followers.   However, more recently they’ve been turning their attention to a tool that does the job automatically, namely:

IGexorcist (
IGexorcist is a free web-based tool that gets rid of inactive followers.   Give it access to your account and it then shows you how many followers haven’t liked or commented on any of your images for the past 60, 90, 120 and 180 days.   You can then completely purge the total, bringing your follower number down.

On my part, it told me I had 307 inactive followers over 180 days and 368 over 60 days.   As an aside that told me that most IG users in my circles are active, and (given the fact that the 60 and 180 day totals weren’t vastly different) that if you stick with Instagram for a month or so, you are likely to keep going.

IGexorcist is popular because it automates the process of blocking and then unblocking a follower.

Why does it go through these two steps?  Because the block / unblock route is the only real way to let a follower loose.   And most committed Instagramers don’t do the first part of that and just block because of a belief that Instagram still counts a blocked follower as a follower when deciding who gets onto the popular page.

Which brings us onto the concept of ghost followers and ‘popping.’   Many Instagram biographies now include the words ‘no ghost followers.’

A ghost follower is someone who never interacts with you.  That might be someone who has left Instagram.   Or it may be, much like you still see on Twitter, Instagram users who follow huge numbers of other users en masse with the aim of in turn acquiring a big follower number.

Popping is Instagram speak for getting on the popular page.   Doing so generally depends on having a large number of likes and comments in a very short (less than 15 mins) period of time, hence groups exist to deliberately members “pop.”   In addition to having a concentrated number of likes for each post, most Instagramers believe that a smaller follower total gives you an advantage.

As a result,  there is no benefit in having an artificially large follower number that is exactly that – just a number.

Though most brands now do understand the importance of a committed follower, the philosophy of the big number is still alive and well.   By contrast, its interesting to see a group of core users of a social network embrace the concept of (as the IGexorcist site puts it) people over numbers.

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  1. Great post and discussion guys. Dirk – You are becoming the industry expert on Instagram and your pics ARE amazing. Thanks for the juicy information and keep it coming. Cheers! Lisa

  2. Gamification indeed! I think the shouty point is a good one Katie, I’m going to be mindful not to tag my pictures #popularpage when they hit it, as it’s easy to forget that for most people who aren’t part of this it can be irrelevant and also sometimes annoying.

    Give it a go though, my whole Instagram experience is definitely much better thanks to the people who are part of these groups.

  3. All fair points Dirk. Interesting that you say you view it as a game – gamification baby ;) – I hadn’t really thought of it like that. Of course the other thing about social media is that there *are* no rules, everyone can use it however they want. And I agree that some of the pics from the100club are great, at times it just feels a bit ‘shouty’.

  4. Hello Katie,

    Really appreciate the comment. I’ll reply from the perspective of someone who is a member of two of these groups. I think I’d make a few points in response:

    * Personally I don’t see it as a popularity contest, but rather as an online game. I think the same is true for many other members, but for me getting on the popular page (which can be as little as appearing for 30 seconds anyway) is secondary. Rather it is about the challenge to see if it can be done. Quite simply, the sessions are fun.

    * Many groups argue that the popular pager has been devalued anyway. You get a fair few ‘glamour’ shots of teenage girls on there now, and “tweegrams” – one that does the rounds again and again is “double click if you like Jesus”, or to coincide with 14 Feb, I recently spotted “double click if you are single.”

    * Related to that many groups (see the100club for example) say they are actually reclaiming the popular page and insist on a high quality of posts.

    And if you look at the100club and Londonpop, you are talking about committed Instagramers, who really post excellent images – for the most part much better than mine.

    Indeed, some pictures in pop sessions end up with 500 likes, because after the 1st 100, other Instagramers have spotted it and like it because of the quality of the post. However, these images would never have been discovered by the wider community had they not been given an initial push.

    * Getting on the popular page is actually impossible for 99% of Instagram users, it is not something most of us would ever do on our own. As a rule of thumb, you need to get 50-100 likes within 15 minutes.

    As a result, I’d say the problem doesn’t lie with the pop groups but with the way the page operates

    * I think pop groups, or at least the ones I’m part of, are inherently social. They are about helping each other as it only works if everyone participates. They also have an existence outside of the pop sessions.

    My best IG ‘friends’ are from these groups. We still follow each other for the rest of the day, and comment on each other’s posts. It’s been a real side benefit that I’ve got to meet some awesome people. And my images have without a doubt got better since I started participating and learning from them

    Sure, there are other groups and IGers who really do only want to be popular.

    But I guess like all of social media you get various shades of commitment and motivation. In fact, Instagram reminds me a little bit of the early Twitter when you had many really interesting people crop up….and others who would mass follow 1000 at a time with the aim of becoming popular

  5. Interesting post Dirk. re: popping, something that’s been bugging me for a while, I’m not keen on the groups that exist to try and get people on the popular page. To me it encapsulates the worse side of social media: a focus on popularity as the main measurement of success and, in this case, the motivation for posting. Sure anyone who said they didn’t want people to like their photos would be lying but the eco-system of ‘let’s all like each other photos’ (whether you actually do or not), seems really strange to me.

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