Have you noticed a dip in your social media engagement recently? Your follower count has dropped, you’re not receiving as many likes on your photos as you used to, and your posts don’t seem to be showing up under the hashtags you’ve used. If this Instagram nightmare is all too familiar, read on as we are about to tell you everything about the dreaded Instagram Shadowban! In this blog, we will take a look at what ‘shadowbanning’ actually means, as well as what you can do if you suspect your account has been shadowbanned.

What is the Instagram Shadowban?

Instagram shadowban – is not an official term, but rather a popular one among social media users. It refers to the Instagram platform limiting your content reach by restricting visibility. This in turn results in a drop in engagement and makes it difficult for a shadow-banned user to grow their account. Thus, it can lead to a stagnation of your Instagram growth. 

The main indicator of shadowban is your hash-tagged content failing to appear on Explore pages to anyone but your followers, and severely limited reach and visibility for posts. However, there’s a twist! Instagram denies the practice of shadowban and insists that it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions. Instagram released a statement back in February 2020 acknowledging “We understand users have experienced issues with our hashtag search that caused posts to not be surfaced…When developing content, we recommend focusing on your business objective or goal rather than hashtags”.

Instagram statement

Figure 1. Official statement issued by Instagram in February 2020. Source: Instagram

Take from this what you will, but whether it’s a shadowban or reduced searchability and visibility of content, there still is an issue for Instagrammers. The consensus was that shadowbanning was Instagram’s attempt to prevent content that is against their terms of service and encourage users to play by the rules. And that sounds fair. 

Of course, a dip in followers and engagement could also be due to the regular updates to Instagram’s algorithm. So basically, don’t jump to any conclusions. If you’re skeptical of shadowban, it’s best to play it safe and follow Instagram’s rules.

Potential Symptoms of the Shadowban Effect

Check if you’ve been Shadowbanned with these simple tests:

  •    - Identify someone with an Instagram account that doesn’t follow you.
  •    - Create a fresh post on your Instagram account using the hashtags you regularly use.
  •    - Ask the person who doesn’t follow you to check the feeds of the hashtags that you tagged on your post.

If your post shows up on the hashtag feeds of the person who doesn’t follow you, you are not shadowbanned; and if your posts don’t show up on the hashtag feeds of the person who doesn’t follow you, you are shadowbanned. 

Don’t panic. Let’s first figure out why would a platform shadowban, and then figure out a way to fix it. Keep reading to find out!

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Why Would a Platform Shadowban?

Instagram has not explicitly stated what causes a shadowban or that these bans even exist, but in our expert opinion, shadowbans are based on a user’s actions. The more “spammy” they are, the more likely you are to be banned. Here’s what you could be doing that could cause an Instagram Shadowban:

  • - You’re using software that violates Instagram’s Terms of Service. This includes bots that grow your following such as Instagress, Followliker, and Mass Planner, or Instagram growth services that claim to do the work for you like Boostly, Social Envy, and Socially Rich. Additionally, if you are using software that posts images for you and schedulers such as Grum, Onlypult, and Schedugram. Lastly, if you have multiple accounts and you’re using automation on them.
  • - You’re abusing Instagram’s daily and hourly limits - this includes the number of photos you like, the number of comments you leave, and how many people you follow or unfollow. You shouldn’t exceed 150 likes, 60 comments and 60 follows/unfollows per hour. 
  • - You’re using a broken or abused hashtag. Sometimes a simple hashtag can become overrun with inappropriate content such as nudity, spam, or racially insensitive images, and when this happens and Instagram takes notice, they either remove the hashtag completely or limit its usage. 
  • - Your account is being reported for violating the terms of service or the community guidelines like spamming, infringing copyright, posting inappropriate content, etc.
Wondering man in front of lapto

How to Resolve or Prevent an Instagram Shadowban

So, you think you’ve been shadowbanned. There could be a variety of reasons responsible for it. Here are some things you can try to do to set things right with your account or prevent an Instagram shadowban altogether! Here’s what to do – and what not to do!

  • - Don’t use bots to grow your followers or to automate engagement on Instagram. Intensively check your follower list and carefully revoke access to all bot accounts. Disassociate from all doubtful accounts to maintain credibility.
  • - Do not use any hashtags that are included in the list of banned hashtags on Instagram. Also, use relevant hashtags in your posts sparingly, and try and keep the number to no more than 5-6 hashtags per post. 
  • - Write genuine comments on Instagram posts and engage with your community organically. Put the effort in to leave meaningful comments. Take note that generic comments may get flagged after being mistaken as a bot. 
  • - Avoid third-party apps that don’t abide by Instagram’s terms of service. Avoid using apps that post photos to your account directly without accessing Instagram’s Business API.
  • - Never buy followers on Instagram. The practice is unethical and certainly won’t do much to boost your engagement rate.
  • - If you suspect that your account has been shadowbanned, take a break for 48 hours from Instagram. Some users have reported that such a break can help undo the damage by resetting the system. 
  • - Stick to Instagram’s T&C’s! Read the community guidelines carefully to ensure that you don’t violate them.
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Yellow light bulb between papers

Instagram shadowbans can spell bad news for your profile’s engagement and visibility. It can kill your potential and growth. Follow these tips to give yourself the best possible chance of maintaining a good level of visibility and engagement, so you can grow your account on the platform. Stay up to date with the best practices, and changes to the platform and your account. In a nutshell, if you are abiding by Instagram’s terms & conditions, you have got nothing to worry about. Keep in mind that taking precautions is always a better idea than facing the consequences.

If you want to dive deeper into sustainable strategies to grow your Instagram, talk to the experts at atisfyreach. We provide services that help brands establish a strong presence across social media platforms, and connect them with influencers through tailored marketing campaigns. Get in touch, and let us help you tap into the new way to influence the market.