How Negative Follower Growth Rates Impact Your Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Knowing and understanding the essential metrics for influencer marketing can make or break an influencer marketing campaign. This applies to negative metrics in particular. After we discussed why follower growth is key, interpreted different growth rates and pointed out the reasons for follower growth stagnation, we will now focus on the causes and impacts of negative follower growth rates.

What does a negative follower growth rate implicate?

Negative growth is expressed by negative percentage rates and indicates that the follower number of an account decreases over a certain period of time. In other words: Users unfollow the account.

Daily follower variations on a low level are usual as accounts gain and loose a certain amount of followers every day. Usually, small follower losses on one day are compensated by follower gain in the following days and no negative growth rate is caused.

A constant negative growth rate, in contrast, is caused by either a constant or a sudden follower loss that is not compensated by gaining new followers in this time period.
Below, you can see the daily follower changes of an influencer in September 2016. In the right column, you see the follower gain (green) and the follower loss (red) right next to the daily follower number.

daily follower changes

Example of daily follower changes © InfluencerDB

This drastic follower drop cannot be compensated and caused a negative growth rate for the influencer, as the graphic below displays.


negative growth rate

Example of a sudden negative growth rate © InfluencerDB


The influencer suddenly loses more than 17k followers within a week in September 2016, gains about the same amount of followers during the next week and loses about 6k followers again. After the second drop, the influencer gains around 19k follower again at the end of September 2016.

Observing the growth rate over a longer period of time, it is conspicuous when an influencer is losing and gaining followers of this dimension all of a sudden. These follower drops are unusual and likely not caused by organic follower changes.

We will discuss the difference between organic and fake growth in an upcoming blog post. The follower changes mentioned above are likely a cause of the Insta Purge of September 2016.

Follower loss does not necessarily have to come suddenly, though. Growth rates can decrease slowly but constantly as well. In the graphic below, you can see a sudden follower drop in September 2016 which is followed by a constantly decreasing growth starting in October 2016.

constant follower drop

Example of a constant negative growth rate © InfluencerDB

With the sudden follower loss, the influencer lost more than 28k followers in one fell swoop and gained another 12k of followers before his follower numbers started to decrease again. His growth rate from October 2016 to April 2017 averages -23.42%, causing the influencer a loss of approximately 1/4 of his followers within a time period of six months.


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What are the reasons for a constant negative growth rate?

A negative growth rate indicates a decreasing number of followers that is not compensated by new followers. The reasons for such follower losses are manifold. As a study shows, users are mainly following accounts out of sympathy for the influencer or the brand and the desire of staying up to date with the latest news of the channel.

Even though the study sets a focus on Twitter, it is likely that the same reasons matter for other social networks, too. Therefore, reasons to unfollow an account are:

  • disliking the account/ influencer/ brand due to certain actions that caused unpopularity
  • low content quality or unprofessional content
  • unsteady and seldom share of content
  • the fact that the person is not of public interest any longer

A different study points out that an overload of promotions, irrelevant, too much or not enough content and lack of engagement on the part of the brand are possible reasons for users to unfollow brands on social media.

Reasons for unfollowing a channel

Reason for users to unfollow a brand channel © Sprout Social

Regarding the case mentioned before, the influencer is a public person. His consistent follower drop is probably the result of low content quality.

Instagram feed

Instagram feed of an influencer with negative follower growth

When reaching a certain level of fame, users tend to expect high and professional content quality which this influencer is obviously not able to deliver. Thus, his content is considered rather irrelevant, which might be an explanation for former followers quitting their subscriptions.

Partnering with Influencers

Should you even consider cooperating with influencers with negative follower growth rates? Due to the fact that an influencer has a negative growth rate, the follower number drops, meaning a cooperation with that influencer will result in a lower reach. Can a cooperation still be beneficial? It can be under certain circumstances.

For a campaign that focuses on reach or for long-term collaborations, it is not advisable to work with influencers who show negative growth rates. But for a collaboration based on content creation only, this metric is rather secondary. The quality of the influencer’s content plays the lead. Even though the influencer’s reach decreases, you will still be able to use the created content for your own social media pages.

The Takeaway

Daily follower changes are normal but follower loss that cannot be compensated by gaining followers results in negative follower growth rates. When cooperating with an influencer, always consider whether the influencer’s growth rate is negative and why it is the case. Is the influencer in the doghouse for recent actions that you do not want to be linked with? Or is his negative growth rate just the result of less media attention? Negative follower growth rates are not beneficial for the influencer, but they do not automatically exclude him as a good content creator. So be aware of this metric and its meaning and do not forget to consider the factors which affect it.


This article is part of our current series which concerns follower growth on social media. This series revolves around the following topics: