Experiencing a sudden drop in engagement or losing followers overnight is every Instagram marketer’s worst nightmare. Or imagine what would happen if your photos were not showing up in hashtag search results. Sounds scary, right?
In the past few months, many users were baffled by these changes. They struggled to understand what happened to their Instagram accounts. One of the explanations for these bizarre changes is that the users are affected by an Instagram shadowban.
Not sure what a shadowban is? In this post we’ll explore it’s meaning, purpose, and the best ways to avoid getting hit by it.
Instagram Shadowbans: Everything You Need to Know
- What is an Instagram Shadowban?
- Why Are Instagram Shadowbans Needed?
- How to Know If You Have Been Hit By Instagram Shadowban
- Hashtag Search
- Use Tools to Test for a Shadowban
- Use Instagram Analytics
- How to Check Status of Shadowban
- Step-by-Step Process on How to Remove Shadowban
- Best Ways to Avoid an Instagram Shadowban
What is an Instagram Shadowban?
In general, shadowbanning refers to blocking a user’s social media content in such a way that they are unaware that it’s happening.
So, if you get shadowbanned on Instagram, chances are you won’t even know you’ve been hit. Your content will not appear in anyone’s Instagram feeds unless they follow your profile. If your followers re-gram your posts, those images will also come under the shadowban.
If you are hit by a shadowban, your visibility will be reduced dramatically. This, in turn, can lower your engagement rate. Overall, it can lead to a stagnation of your Instagram growth. In some cases, it can even cause your growth rate to be negative.
You can think of a shadowban as a secret ban. Even Instagram refutes claims of shadowbanning. So, even if Instagram blocks your content, you won’t be notified about it.
Why Are Instagram Shadowbans Needed?
Instagram shadowbans can be messy. They can leave marketers feeling confused and helpless. But if you look at it from Instagram’s perspective, shadowbans make a lot of sense. It allows them to weed out accounts that don’t adhere to their terms and conditions.
Many marketers use bots on Instagram to inflate their follower counts and to boost their visibility and engagement. It’s a direct violation of their terms, yet some marketers still use such unfair means to grow their Instagram accounts.
By shadowbanning such accounts, Instagram can ensure that the platform doesn’t lose its credibility.
Using too many hashtags is a big red flag for Instagram. If you are using irrelevant hashtags just to gain more visibility, you risk getting shadowbanned. Or if you are using the same hashtags in all of your posts, you come across as spammy. That can put you on Instagram’s shadowban radar.
Furthermore, if people click on the “Don’t Show For This Hashtag” option on your post, it can affect your reputation. That can also affect whether or not your post is visible in search results for that hashtag.
However, Instagram has always denied the existence of shadowbans on the platform. In 2018, they told a group of reporters in San Francisco that shadowbanning wasn’t a real thing.
Furthermore, representatives from Instagram added that the platform doesn’t hide user’s content if they have used too many hashtags.
While Instagram may have dismissed the existence of shadowbans, many users complain that their posts are banned repeatedly. There are several forums where users have discussed this phenomenon.
So, are Instagram shadowbans a myth or reality? It’s a grey area.
While Instagram may not have directly admitted to using the term, “shadowban,” they have indirectly acknowledged its significance.
Facebook has uses a strategy called “remove, reduce, and inform” to take care of problematic content across all of its apps, including Instagram.
This strategy involves reducing the spread of posts that may be inappropriate or the ones that violate their Community Guidelines. Such posts won’t be recommended on their Explore pages or on their hashtag search pages.
On their Newsroom page, Facebook has also clarified that such posts will appear in a user’s Feed only if they follow the accounts that post it. Their explanation and statements are quite similar to what shadowbanning is all about.
In addition to this, Instagram has also accepted to having issues with their hashtag search. But they’ve only addresses that issue as a bug that needs to be fixed.
Here is what they said on their Facebook page:
One thing is clear — Instagram wants to promote authentic content on their platform. So, if you are relying on bots or too many hashtags to grow your account, it’s a bad idea.
How to Know If You Have Been Hit By Instagram Shadowban
If you witnessed a dramatic decline in your engagement recently, it could be an indicator that you have been affected by an Instagram shadowban. But it’s not always the only explanation.
Instagram changes their algorithm often. So, those alterations can also be the reason why you’re not getting enough engagement.
But if you suspect that a shadowban has a role to play, there are a few ways to verify it. Here is what you can do to find out if your Instagram account has been a victim of shadowban:
This is the most basic way to check for a shadowban on instagram. First, you need to post an image on Instagram. Use a hashtag in your post. One that isn’t commonly used. If you use hashtags that have thousands of photos in the search results, you’ll have a tough time looking for your own post.
After posting the photo, ask five of your friends (who don’t follow the account from which it is posted) to search for that hashtag. If your post doesn’t appear in their search results, it’s likely that you account has been shadowbanned.
Use Tools to Test for a Shadowban
Tools like Triberr and The Heist can analyse your posts and help you figure out if you need to worry about a shadowban. Using these tools, you can even find out which hashtags your account has been shadowbanned for.
As you can see in the screenshot below, the hashtags that have led to a shadowban are marked in red.
Use Instagram Analytics
Another way of looking for a shadowban is through Instagram analytics. You can analyse the number of profile visits, impressions, and other metrics to see if your engagement rate is suddenly declining.
While it may not be a telltale sign, it can definitely give an idea that something is off.
How to Check Status of Shadowban
Since Instagram does not officially impose shadowbans, you can’t go directly to customer support to check the status of such a ban. You won’t find any self-help instructions on the platform’s database either. What you can do is to follow the same steps you took to determine if your account was placed on shadowban.
The first thing you should do is check your account status. Go to Settings → Account → Account Status. If you have posted anything that has been taken down, you’ll find it listed here. If everything is good, you’ll also find a simple note thanking you for following the community guidelines.
Ask that friend of yours who still doesn’t follow your Instagram account if a recently published hashtag post appears on their hashtag feed. Check again if the post does not appear the first time. If your posts are still not showing up on their hashtag feeds, you’re likely to still be under shadowban.
For a more quantitative check, monitor your Instagram Insights every day and watch out for sustained drops in the number of followers and interactions you are getting. If your numbers are continually declining even after enhancing the quality of your posts, your account is still suffering from the effects of a shadowban.
If you have previously sent a report on Instagram about your posts not showing up on feeds, you can check the status of your support request through your account page. Go to Settings → Help → Support Requests → Reports.
Step-by-Step Process on How to Remove Shadowban
Often, restrictions set due to shadowban are imposed for a limited time only. Even without taking any action, these restrictions are eventually lifted after a few weeks. However, not removing them might cause your engagement to decrease. So, it’s best to identify how the ban has affected your account and take steps to address the issues.
Depending on what caused your account to be shadowbanned, here are some of the steps you can take to remove it.
1. Report the problem on Instagram
If your posts are not appearing on feeds and you’re absolutely sure that you are not violating community guidelines, you can report the problem through your account page or through the Instagram support page.
Log into your Instagram account. Go to Settings → Account → Account Status. If your post has been taken down, request a review directly from the account page.
Alternatively, you can go to the support page. Go to Settings → Help → Report a Problem. Describe what’s not working on your account. When you write your message, do not mention anything about shadowban. Explain that your posts are not showing up on feeds and that it is affecting your brand or business.
2. Remove automation apps that do not meet Instagram guidelines.
Using automation tools or an autoboot will not necessarily lead to shadowbanning. Only those that are not well run or use servers that put accounts at risk get flagged by the platform. However, automated actions that surpass the implicit threshold also increase the risk of getting shadowbanned.
So, check the apps you link to your Instagram account. Remove those that are not official Instagram partners or those that do not come from reputable providers. Go to Settings → Security → Apps and Websites. You’ll see a list of active apps along with expired and removed ones. Check the ones that are active and remove potentially dangerous or questionable apps that were granted access to your Instagram account.
3. Take a few days off from Instagram.
Shadowbans are often caused by too much activity that gets mistaken for bots. Taking a break from Instagram can help lift the ban faster. Log out of your account and take several days off. Don’t post, comment, like, or send DM’s. Better yet, resist the urge to log into the app.
Once you go back from your short hiatus, keep your engagement natural. Ditch automated apps and do it manually. If you’re on shadowban and make an appeal, this will help prove that you are not a bot.
Best Ways to Avoid an Instagram Shadowban
There are many different reasons why your account could get shadowbanned. If you want to prevent an Instagram shadowban, here are a few things you need to take care of:
1. Do not use bots on Instagram. Check your follower list and revoke access to all bot accounts. It’s important to disassociate yourself from all dubious accounts to maintain your credibility.
2. Do not use any hashtags that are included in the list of banned hashtags on Instagram. If you see a similar message to this one, “Recent posts from #xyz are currently hidden … " it indicates that the hashtag you used is not in use any longer.
3. Use relevant hashtags in your posts sparingly. Even if Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post, it’s not advisable to use that many. Do not use more than 5-6 hashtags per post.
4. Write genuine comments on Instagram posts. If you write generic comments, you may get flagged after being mistaken as a bot.
5. Don’t go on a crazy comment/like/DM-streak. Making 60 comments and liking 100 posts in one hour or sending a plethora of DMs to a multitude of people do not increase engagement. It’s a pretty surefire way of getting mistaken for a bot.
6. Do not spam followers. You might think it’s fine to keep sending DMs or posting comments on accounts that follow you but going overboard might get you reported by annoyed users. When that happens, you’ll likely get subjected to shadowban too.
7. Take a break for 48 hours from Instagram. Think of it like a social media cleanse. Some users have said that such a break can help undo the damage. It can reset the system so you can begin on a fresh note.
Keep Out of the Shadows
Instagram shadowbans can wreak havoc on your profile’s engagement and visibility. It can totally kill your potential and growth.
If you want to avoid getting hit by an Instagram shadowban, it’s best to avoid using bots and third-party apps to manage your Instagram profile. Additionally, use only relevant hashtags in a sparing manner.
In a nutshell, if you are following Instagram’s terms and conditions, you have got nothing to worry about. Remember that taking precautions is always a better idea than facing the consequences of an Instagram shadowban.