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 are 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?
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. 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:
“We understand users have experienced issues with our hashtag search that caused posts to not be surfaced. We are continuously working on improvements to our system with the resources available. When developing content, we recommend focusing on your business objective or goal rather than hashtags.”
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.
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. Never buy followers on Instagram. Not only is it unethical, but it won’t do much to boost your engagement rate.
6. Post photos and comments by yourself. It may be tempting to use third-party apps to reduce your workload and to save some time. But, on the flip side, it can increase the risk of a shadowban.
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.
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.