Instagram made more changes this year and Instagrammers and bloggers and Instagram groups have talked of NOTHING else, but what is being called the Instagram Shadowban. I have been observing, reading and doing my own research and I've come to a few conclusions of my own that I want to share. Because there is a LOT of information and misinformation out there and I have a few things I want to point out.
WHAT IS AN INSTAGRAM SHADOWBAN?
Normally, when you use hashtags on your posts on Instagram, anyone who follows that hashtag should see your post. Even if they don't follow you. With an Instagram Shadowban, only you and your current followers will see your post when they search the hashtags that you have used.
Say you use the hashtag #documentyourdays on one of your posts. If you or your followers click on the hashtag, your post shows up under the hashtag. But for anyone who DOES NOT follow you, your post will not appear under the hashtag. Basically, you become invisible to anyone who does not follow you. This reduces the reach of your account and basically defeats the purpose of using hashtags strategically to grow your community and reach a new audience.
HOW DO YOU CHECK TO SEE IF YOU ARE SHADOWBANNED?
The first thing people usually notice is a steep drop in their engagement. But that does not mean that your account has been shadowbanned. To confirm, find someone who doesn't follow you and have them to check the hashtag you are using to see if your post shows up. If the post doesn't show up in the hashtag grids that you have used, there is a big chance you have been shadowbanned.
WHAT CAUSES A SHADOWBAN?
Based on my research:
1. Using Software that violates Instagram's Terms of Services
In April of this year, Instagram updated their Terms of Services to reflect how they feel about bots and automated tools.
#18-23 in its Developer's Policy as of April 2017, Instagram clearly states that NO app or website should like, comments or share automatically on your behalf.
So basically, if you use any kind of Automation software like Instagress on your account, Instagram has figured it out and that could be the cause of your shadowban.
2. Using Banned, Broken or the SAME hashtags over and over again.
Instagram has taken steps to stop the usage of hashtags that are being used that violate their community guidelines. Usually when Instagram notices, the hashtag is either blocked( non searchable) or the usage of that hashtag is limited. If you use one of these hashtags, Instagram will ban your entire post and prevent it from being used on any of the hashtags you used for your posts. To find out if you are using a broken or banned hashtag, click on it and you will notice that there is no top posts sections and you won't be able to scroll any images.
3. Engaging in Spammy Bot Like Behavior
Instagram has limits on how many photos you can like and comment on and how many accounts you can follow or unfollow at any given time. Every account is different, but each account has a trigger where Instagram will begin to see you as “abusing” the system. If you suddenly go on a liking and comment spree or follow 50 accounts and immediately unfollow 50 more, Instagram may think that you are a “bot” and shadowban your account.
What can you do?
Of course, Instagram has not confirmed the use of the instagram shadowban, but they did release this statement on March 1st of this year:
So, based on this, my suggestions are to…
- Immediately stop using any third party automation software that post for you, like posts for you, comments on posts for you or follows or unfollows for you. It is against Instagram's terms of services and it seems to be the main reason for shadowbanning.
- Using the same hashtags over and over again on each post, comes across to Instagram as being spammy. The trick is to use hashtags that fit your post that day at that time. Research hashtags before you use them and keep a running group of hashtags for each type of photo that you post. For instance, I have a group of hashtags for kids, coffee, flowers, Atlanta, and everyday life. That way, I don't use the same exact hashtags every single photo. As far as banned and broken hashtags, check out this article from BET with the latest update of banned hashtags. If you notice you are accidentally using one of these hashtags ( I mean Easter? Really?), remove it from your post and you should see the ban lift.
- Stop posting for 48-72 hours. This signals that you are doing a reset and starting over again. Unsubscribe from unauthorized third party apps, research your hashtags to make sure none are banned and come back and manually start to engage with your community again. It will take time and effort but this will show Instagram that you are following the rules and abiding by their terms of service.
Remember that changes in your engagement is normal as Instagram is constantly changing it's algorithm. If you are engaging authentically on Instagram and not using bot like behavior or using banned hashtags, you shouldn't have to worry about a Instagram shadowban.
While the Shadowban may change the way we use hashtags to grow and find new followers on Instagram in the future, for now, it is still one of the best ways to help you grow organically.
If you are looking for help building your Instagram authentically, check out my course Instagram Better!