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Why I’m Deleting My Instagram Followers to Improve Reach

In the bustling world of Instagram, where follower counts often seem to define success, deciding to delete followers might seem counterintuitive. Yet, that’s exactly what I’ve embarked on – a journey of purging my follower list to cultivate better reach and genuine engagement.


Here’s why I’m getting rid of all the dodgy followers who don’t follow me for the right reasons, are bots, aren’t interested in my content, or are simply inactive.


woman lying on blue sofa with phone

Understanding the Problem: Quality vs. Quantity

At first glance, having nearly 100k followers on Instagram seems like an incredible milestone. It’s a figure that often commands respect and attracts even more followers, collaborations, and opportunities.


However, the reality behind these numbers can be quite different. Not all followers are created equal, and having a large number of followers does not necessarily equate to high engagement or reach.


Instagram’s algorithms prioritise content that receives high engagement. This means that if a large portion of your followers are inactive or uninterested in your content, your posts are less likely to be shown to those who do care. Essentially, a bloated follower count with a low engagement rate can significantly harm your visibility on the platform.


The Rise of Spam and Inactive Followers

With the increase in automation and bots, Instagram has seen a surge in fake followers. These can be, and are not limited to:


Bots:

Automated accounts that are programmed to follow and unfollow to manipulate engagement metrics.


Spam

Accounts: Accounts that follow in hopes of getting followed back but never engage with your content.


Inactive Users:

Real accounts that have been abandoned or are no longer active on the platform.


typical instagram bot fake follower

Having these types of followers skews your engagement rate and reduces the likelihood of your content being prioritised by Instagram’s algorithm. Recognising this problem is the first step towards resolving it.


Instagram’s New Feature of Flagged Followers: A Partial Solution

Instagram has introduced a feature to flag accounts that might be spam. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not sufficient. The platform can identify and remove obvious bots and spam accounts, but it often misses the more subtle cases of inactive or uninterested followers.


While this feature provides some relief, it leaves a significant amount of the heavy lifting to the user. This is where my journey began – manually deleting followers to ensure that my engagement and reach were not being hampered by these unwanted followers.


The Herculean Task of Manual Deletion

Manually removing followers is an arduous task, especially with a following of almost 100k. Initially, I started deleting these accounts myself. Each day, I would spend hours scrolling through my followers list, identifying and removing those who seemed suspicious or inactive.


woman on blue sofa with mini doodle dog

This task quickly became overwhelming. Instagram only allows a limited amount of activity per day before it flags you as a potential bot, adding another layer of complexity to the process. And then tells you to stop, and limits your activity for the day.


instagram activity limit warning

One afternoon, when I was happily scrolling and deleting, my account was suspended. Luckily it was a matter of filling in some details and proving it was me, and I had my account reinstated in a matter of minutes but it still gave me a fright.


For the days after I kept getting messages to change my password as supposedly I had bought likes or followers, which is ridiculous. I was trying to get rid of them, not get more!





From Manual Deletion to Seeking Help

After spending countless hours and deleting around 10k followers manually, I found myself with a sore arm and a sense of frustration. It was clear that I needed a more efficient solution if there was one. I discovered a company that audits your followers and identifies dormant and suspicious accounts.


They audited my followers and revealed that approximately 40% of my public followers were dormant (private accounts could not be analysed, accounting for about half of my follower base), including all the suspicious accounts. This was both enlightening and daunting. The tool also offered software to automatically remove these accounts, presenting a tempting yet challenging decision.


The Dilemma of Instagram Follower Removal Automation

Handing over control to a computer program to remove followers automatically can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it promises to save time and effort, allowing for a more thorough and efficient cleaning process. On the other hand, it involves relinquishing control and trusting an algorithm to make decisions that could impact your account significantly.


After much deliberation and several setbacks, I ultimately decided to continue manually removing followers. Here's why.


The Appeal and Initial Steps

Initially, the idea of automating the process of removing unwanted followers was incredibly appealing. The sheer volume of inactive and spam accounts identified by the auditors (about 40% of my public followers) made the manual removal task seem insurmountable.


The promise of a tool that could handle this tedious job efficiently was a tempting solution to a time-consuming problem.


Trust Issues and Security Concerns

However, my excitement was tempered by a deep-seated wariness of third-party applications. Handing over control of my Instagram account to any external tool felt risky.


Having experienced a major hacking incident in the past, I was particularly cautious. Allowing third-party app access to my account brought back memories of the violation and the painstaking process of recovering my account.


Also read: Learn from my Mistakes: 4 Ways to Avoid Getting Hacked on Instagram


The Hacking Incident: A Cautionary Tale

My Instagram being hacked was a harrowing experience that left me feeling vulnerable and paranoid about my digital security. The hacker gained access through a dodgy link and it took weeks to restore control. And I was one of the lucky ones. Most never get their account back.


This ordeal made me extremely cautious about sharing my login credentials or granting permissions to external applications. The thought of potentially going through that nightmare again made me reconsider the automation route.


Technical Hurdles and Frustrations

Even if I could have overcome my trust issues, the technical challenges posed by the automation tool were significant. From the outset, getting the tool to work seamlessly was fraught with difficulties:


The operating platform required specific configurations that were not compatible with my setup, making navigation confusing and frustrating. Additionally, logging in through the automation tool was not straightforward, often resulting in error messages and failed attempts, which only added to my frustration. Creating an ideal list of followers to be removed proved to be more complex than anticipated, as the tool required detailed input and criteria that I found difficult to specify accurately.


It’s important to note that these difficulties were not due to a lack of customer service. The support team was responsive and tried to assist me at every turn. However, the combination of technical hurdles and my inherent distrust of third-party apps created an insurmountable barrier.


Each step forward seemed to be met with new obstacles, and I gradually lost confidence in the tool's ability to deliver a smooth and secure experience.


Manual Follower Removal: A Time-Consuming but Secure Method

After much contemplation, I decided to continue manually removing followers. This decision was not taken lightly. The prospect of spending countless hours sifting through followers and identifying those to be removed was daunting, but it felt like the safer and more controlled approach.


woman lying on blue sofa in urban jungle interior

Manual removal, while labour-intensive, offers several advantages. It provides complete control, allowing me to decide who stays and who goes. This method also enhances security by avoiding third-party apps, significantly reducing the risk of another hacking incident.


Additionally, manually reviewing followers allows me to understand my audience better and make more informed decisions about who to keep.


The Journey Continues

As I continue to chip away at my follower list (at the time of writing this blog, I have deleted about 12% of my follower base), the task remains monumental. Each day, I allocate time to review and remove a small batch of followers. It’s a slow process, but one that gives me peace of mind. It feels like starting afresh without starting over. As mentioned before, please take care of how many you delete each day, as Instagram does not like it.


I even feel the engagement on my posts has started to improve as I gradually remove inactive and spam accounts, validating my decision to handle this task manually. If anything, the distribution of demographics of my followers is starting to make more sense.


Lessons Learned

This experience has underscored the importance of maintaining control over my social media accounts. While automation tools offer convenience, they also come with risks and challenges that are not always apparent at first glance.


Here are some key takeaways from my journey:


Security First:

Always prioritise the security of your accounts. The convenience of third-party apps is not worth the risk of potential hacking.


Patience Pays Off:

Manual methods, though time-consuming, can yield better long-term results and ensure complete control over the process.


Informed Decisions:

Take the time to understand your followers and make informed decisions about who to keep. This can lead to a more engaged and authentic audience.


Stay Cautious:

Be wary of third-party apps and do thorough research before granting any access to your accounts.


In the end, my decision to forgo automation and stick with manual follower removal was driven by a combination of security concerns and technical difficulties. While it may take longer and require more effort, the peace of mind and control it provides are invaluable.


Maintaining a high level of engagement and authenticity on Instagram is worth the hard work, and I’m committed to continuing this journey with caution and diligence.


The Moral of the Story

This journey has taught me a valuable lesson: it’s crucial to keep track of your followers, even when it’s challenging, especially after a reel goes viral. Viral content often attracts a surge of followers, but not all of them are valuable for long-term engagement.


These new followers can harm your engagement if they’re not genuinely interested in your content. You can build a more engaged and supportive community by keeping a close eye on your follower list and prioritising quality over quantity.


Why Genuine Engagement Matters

The goal of social media should be to build a community of engaged and interested followers. It’s better to have a smaller, active following than many inactive or uninterested followers.


This is because:


Higher Engagement Rates:

Active followers are more likely to like, comment, and share your posts, improving your engagement rate.


Better Reach:

Instagram’s algorithm favours posts with higher engagement, ensuring that your content reaches a broader audience.


Stronger Community:

Genuine followers are more likely to support your endeavours, participate in discussions, and contribute to a vibrant online community.


Practical Tips for Managing Followers


If you’re facing similar issues with inactive or spam followers, here are some practical tips:


Regular Audits:

Conduct regular audits of your followers to identify and remove inactive or suspicious accounts. If you want to get rid of too many followers in one go, you run the risk of your Instagram account getting suspended.


Engagement Tracking:

Keep track of your engagement metrics and identify any sudden drops that could indicate an influx of spam followers.


Quality Over Quantity:

Focus on attracting followers who are genuinely interested in your content rather than aiming for high follower counts.


Manual Checks:

Periodically review your followers list manually, even if you’re using automated tools, to ensure you’re maintaining control over your account.


woman on blue sofa whispering bold

Final Words

Deleting followers to improve reach might seem counterintuitive, but it’s a crucial step towards building an engaged and authentic online community. By removing bots, spam, and inactive accounts, you can improve your engagement rate and ensure that your content reaches those who truly care about it.


In the world of social media, quality always trumps quantity. As I continue this journey, I’m committed to fostering a space where genuine engagement and community thrive. My goal remains the same: to cultivate a follower base that’s active, interested, and supportive.


Remember, the accounts that follow you after a viral reel might not always be worth it. Keep track of your followers, nurture your community, and prioritise genuine engagement for long-term success. I will keep you posted on how this process has affected my account!

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I am Marieke, a Dutch Australian interior designer, business executive, tutor, content creator and social media influencer.

 

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