It seems that lately, the oh so mysterious Instagram Shadowban has been spreading waves among Instagram socialites, bloggers, and influencers alike. Those affected may notice a drop in engagement, a declining follower count, and photos that don’t appear in hashtag searches. This post will explain what an Instagram Shadowban is, how you can avoid it, and how to get rid of it (if you’re a victim)!
What is an Instagram Shadowban?
As explained by Alex Tooby, an Instagram Shadowban limits your ability to reach new people by hiding your Instagram posts from users who are not following you, which impacts the rate and speed at which your account can grow. In specific, any hashtags that you use in your posts can only be seen by your current followers when they do a hashtag search. To anyone else who doesn’t follow you, your posts do not appear and are rendered invisible. This severely impacts the whole point of strategic hashtag use as a way to grow your Instagram following. For those with newer, smaller accounts, it will be even more difficult to establish your presence and build your following on the platform.
Because hashtags are such a significant aspect of discovery on Instagram, shadowbanned accounts can be a major problem. The Shadowban essentially means that you won’t be able to reach new people who don’t already follow your account.
What Causes an Instagram Shadowban?
Although Instagram has not explicitly acknowledged the existence of a shadow ban or the causes of it, it is a common belief that shadow bans exist to limit spammy, inappropriate, or abusive behaviour on the platform.
Interestingly enough, behaviours that are typically considered “non-spammy”, such as using the same hashtag set repeatedly, has been categorized as a way to get shadow banned.
In fact, Instagram actually released a statement about these changes in February 2017:
While Instagram acknowledges and confirms that an issue involving hashtag search exists, it is interesting that they describe it as “improvements to our system” as opposed to admitting or acknowledging the development of a shadow ban.
So now that we know what an Instagram Shadowban is and the causes of it, how do you avoid it?
How Do I Avoid the Instagram Shadowban?
Although no one knows the exact reasons behind getting shadow banned, it is safe to say that not complying with Instagram’s Terms and Conditions can “earn” you one. With the rise of bots and spammers that threaten Instagram’s community from being safe, fun, and authentic, Instagram is forced to tighten their rules around user activity. In Alex’s blog, she outlines a variety of ways to avoid getting shadow banned. Here are 4 of them:
1. Don’t use banned or broken Instagram hashtags
With hundreds of millions of active Instagram monthly users, it makes it difficult to control how users categorize, organize, and share their content. Sometimes, otherwise completely innocent hashtags can get overrun with spam or inappropriate content. When Instagram notices, they will either block the hashtag completely, which does not allow it to be searchable on Instagram, or will limit its usage. With the Instagram Shadowban, the use of even one banned or broken hashtag on your photo will prevent the rest of your hashtags from ranking or appearing.
Your best bet is to check all your hashtags before you post to ensure it is not blocked, banned, or broken. An example of how a blocked hashtag will appear when searched can be seen below:
2. Don’t use automated bots or software that violate Instagram’s Terms of Service
Behaviour that catches the attention of Instagram’s internal spam and algorithm filters, such as the use of apps or software that automatically “like” and comment on posts, follows accounts, or bots that grow your follower count can increase your chance of getting shadow banned. To avoid this, keep your activity authentic, keep it real, and keep it 💯 !
3. Limit large increases in your Instagram activity
If you don’t already know, there are limits to the amount of actions and activity you can take everyday on Instagram. This includes the amount of people you follow/unfollow and the amount of photos you can like and comment on. Instagram has these measures in place as a way to minimize and eliminate bot usage. Although your limit will differ depending on the age of your account, we recommend limiting your activity to a maximum of 150 likes, 60 comments, and 60 follows/unfollows per hour just to be safe.
4. Don’t get continuously reported
Reporting accounts is one of the fastest ways to grab Instagram’s attention to warn them of a user who may be violating community guidelines. If Instagram does find that a violation occurred after investigation, they may fully disable the account or will Shadowban them.
How do I know if I got shadow banned?
Instagram does not explicitly tell you if your account has been shadow banned. If you notice that you aren’t receiving as much engagement on your content, or that your follower count has plateaued, you can confirm whether or not you’ve been shadow banned by doing the following:
Check if your posts appear in hashtag searches. Do this by creating a new post and including 2-3 unpopular hashtags in the caption (this will make it easier to complete the subsequent steps).
Then, get a friend to unfollow your account and check if the hashtags you used appear in the “Recent Posts” (if you used a generic hashtag such as #love, it will be difficult to locate!). If it appears, then your account is in the clear and you may just be experiencing a drop in engagement. If not, then it’s likely that you have been shadow banned.
How do I get rid of an Instagram Shadowban?
Fortunately, Instagram Shadowbans seem to be temporary and there are a number of actions that you can take, as suggested by Alex, to lift your ban within a few weeks.
1. Don’t use blocked or banned hashtags!
When you make your Instagram post, be sure to check each and every hashtag you use in your hashtag “set” to ensure they are not blocked or banned by Instagram. You can do this very easily by searching the hashtag. If you see only the “Top Posts” section and nothing else, it’s likely blocked by Instagram. Additionally, Instagram may also leave a message on a hashtag page that states how posts have been hidden due to a violation of community guidelines.
When you do this check through and you find that a hashtag has been banned or blocked, make sure to discontinue its usage since it may hinder new users from finding your content and account!
2. Stop using bots or automated software
The use of bots that grow your following is one of the fastest ways to get Instagram shadow banned. It’s not an authentic way to build your online presence or business and there are more and more tools that allow these bots to be detected, which can put you at a disadvantage instead.
If you’ve used a bot before, make sure to disconnect it from your Instagram account. These are the steps for how to do so:
3. Take a short Instagram hiatus
Users have reported that a short Instagram hiatus of 2-3 days “resets” the account and lifts the Shadowban. During this break, avoid posting, liking, commenting, or even logging in. Once you’re back on the platform, make sure that you engage manually to ensure that you stay clear of the Instagram Shadowban. While it does take more time and effort, you will develop long-term, long-lasting relationships with your audience and these actions will also help maintain Instagram’s integrity.
4. Report the Shadowban to Instagram
While it’s almost impossible to get in contact with both Instagram and Facebook, it’s worth the shot to report the issue. You can do this from the Instagram application on your phone. Here’s how to do it:
Briefly explain what the issue is (it’s recommended that you explain that your posts are not being categorized in their hashtags, not that your engagement has dropped).
And there you have it! Hopefully this blog helped you better understand what an Instagram Shadowban is, how you can avoid it, and how to get rid of it (if you’re a victim). While the existence of a Shadowban has yet to be confirmed (or denied) by Instagram, the best way to avoid being penalized is to be aware of your actions when using the social platform.