How To Revive a Dead Instagram Account – Test Results

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on November 12, 2020.

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One of the unfortunate side effects of being a travel blogger that only travels periodically is that I do not generate enough content to have a continual “live” feed from where I am in any given day.

Before going full-time with my blogs to where I could travel more, I used my library of photos from the past to compensate for this problem with various themed photosets. But at times I slacked off in my posting schedule, and at one point only posted about three weeks out of an entire year. 


Over time this added up, and the performance of my account dipped- so much so that at one point I concluded that my account was more or less dead in the water. I had to do something, and my test to revive a dead Instagram account was born.

How I Knew My Instagram Was Dead


I knew there was an issue when my account of 16,000+ followers went from 150-300 likes per update and 5%-15% user reach to a paltry 25-50 likes per update and 1%-2% reach- and that was if we were lucky.

Algorithm changes over time always seem to reduce reach, but this was drastic and much worse than what had been reported over that period of time.

Nothing changed except for posting frequency, and I had a feeling the algorithm didn't like it. How it was in trouble beyond this, well, that was unclear (I did confirm the account was not shadow banned, but that is as far as I got).

Not wanting to put resign myself to having terrible reach, and knowing that high engagement is still somewhat possible for Instagram (our local blog continually gets 40%+ reach and up to 5% engaged), I put together a test to see if I could bring the account back to an acceptable level versus the alternatives of giving up or starting over.

In this one, I wanted to share the results and what I did to get there.

Reviving a Dead Instagram Account Steps


I took a multi-step process to revive this dead Instagram account, which adhered to the following plan:

  • Curate a set of 200+ epic photos known as my #BestOfSet (a unique hashtag created for this test).
    • These were my best and most engaging photos out of 200,000+ in my collection. Some shared on Instagram before, some not.
  • Post up to three times per day with the Best of Set such that the entire test took 2-3 months to post.
  • Including the hashtag #BestOfSet in every photo with periodic prompts to encourage people to look at more there.
  • Tagging relevant accounts and tourist boards who would be interested in the set (official accounts only, three max).
  • Adding relevant travel and destination specific hashtags and location tags onto every update.
  • Periodically go through and like recent updates on the location specific tags and destination feeds comparable to recent shares.
    • When commenteds are concerned, it was real comments. No generic, bot generated comments like ‘great shot', ‘100', or the fire emoji. This was a lot of effort, and did not get done as much as I would've liked.
  • Boosting the posts with $1/day, for up to five days, to users in the US who like travel and travel photography to encourage profile visits.
    • I did not boost every post but tried to hit most of them to at least get to 150+ engaged per update.
  • Unfollowed everyone except those accounts we personally know (and like) to curate my feed and make it easier to engage in real accounts in good standing on Instagram.

Now, before I get into the results, I want to take some time to explain the logic for the steps above as there are a few important things about the Instagram algorithm that needs to be highlighted.

To me, the Instagram algorithm is all about engaging content being seen more, and unpopular content being seen less. The more an individual user likes your photos, the more they're going to see them in the future. The more people (in general) see and engage with your photos, the more others who follow you will see them as well.

This is, to me, why popular accounts maintain a huge run of likes and account growth whereas smaller users (and dead accounts) get stuck. Instagram is built on momentum, and when you lose it you're in a tough spot to turn it around.

That's life in an algorithmic world.

So the entire design of the above test was to continually produce engaging content in my feed (best photos), target users who would likely engage (via destination tags, hashtags, and advertising), and create an environment to encourage them to do this over and over again (#BestOfSet tag in every update with periodic prompts to go look at the photos there).

In a way, this is not different than the current Instagram best practicesI just did it on overdrive with an account that lost the momentum.

The ultimate goal of this was to re-engage followers, find new followers, purge those that are also dead weight, and build the organic engagement of the account back up to levels that are acceptable for a profile with that fan count.

Results of the Test to Revive a Dead Account


The starting point of this study was 1%-2% reach per update (150-300) and 25-50 engaged per update.

By the end, I had increased the account's average organic reach to 500-1,000 and 75-150 engaged per update before promotion. This is baseline organic performance. So more or less a 300% increase.

Not significantly better, but a notable uptick all the same.

With including boosting the updates to the target above, with about $5 spend per photo, there was a jump to 2,000-4,000 reach and 200-600 engaged per update- plus new followers trickling in that was not see before. So for a few dollars in advertising spend it was fairly easy to increase account performance another 200%-800%- or upwards of 10x from the starting point.

A lot better, but unfortunately requiring ad spend!

What these numbers don't tell, however, is that most of the new organic engagements that we saw were also from new followers picked up during the test (which were, of course, mostly through the paid boosts)

No matter what was tried, re-engaging existing followers did not happen. Short of going through each account individually and commenting on their content hoping they'd do the same in return, the people who had followed the account before this test, but were not actively engaging, never seemed to be able to be reached. 

Whether this is because they were not using Instagram anymore or the algorithm just doesn't show it to them since they haven't engaged in ages (also possible) is unclear. In looking through my followers list, it seemed like many were picked up years ago and hadn't updated in ages, which would also coincide with the fact that my follower account had been in decline over time as well.

What I do know is that those who consistently liked and commented on updates organically seemed to be the people I picked up from boosting posts within this test, and no matter what we did, new follower growth is what triggered an increase in organic performance.

So, sad to say, the best result I had in reviving my Instagram account was boosting content, slowly picking up new followers, and getting them to engage with good content moving forward. I have to admit, this is a lot like simply starting over but with your backlog catalog still remaining.

As such, if you have a dead Instagram account your quest will likely be getting new followers at all costs. Boosting, following active users in your niche, and reaching people with tags are still among the popular methods and may be your only course of action short of starting over (since this test I've started new accounts for other blogs which do just as well, if not better, than the best results achieved here on a fraction of the follower size).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, once you do start seeing growth don't take long pauses in between updates. It'll likey put you back at square one if you let it sit long enough- if you care, at least.

Is Reviving an Instagram Account Worth It?

I personally believe Instagram's glory days are behind it and it is quickly becoming a money sink to gain as much advertising revenue as possible (quite evident by reach and engagement spikes when boosting great photos). My local account still rocks the network, partly because of the momentum, and I'll take the free organic reach as long as I can. Heck, I'll even pay for boosting when the time warrants it, but it is no longer my main priority.

When it comes down to it, I'm not certain if the effort to revive a dead Instagram account is worth it as social updates are only a vanity part of my business and not an income earner. But as with all things, your mileage may vary. 

So before doing anything to work on your account, the first question you have to ask yourself is simply this: why do you want to do this?

If you can't answer that you're going to simply be throwing money away to look popular, and that is simply not worth it at all.

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