[[updated December 5, 2018]]
Have you noticed any drops in your Instagram engagement in the last few months? If so, you aren’t alone.
Starting several months ago, a number of profiles started seeing big dips in the engagement on their Instagram content. While some brands experienced this originally when Instagram’s feed algorithm was introduced, this was something a little different. Some profiles were actively seeing declines in the growth of their follower count, or their content not showing up in Instagram’s Discover section.
Some of these users could have been shadowbanned without even realizing that this is something that could even happen.
Shadowbans are a little bit like a time-out for users (particularly business profiles, in this context) that are placed because of certain behaviors the account makes. This often includes violating terms of service.
In a shadowban, the user isn’t technically banned, so they can still use the platform like they normally would and engage with other users, but their content may be kept hidden or given a lower priority in the algorithm.
In most cases, the platform will not tell you that you’ve been shadowbanned; it’s like they don’t actually want you to know.
In the specific case of an Instagram shadowban, your followers can still see your posts, but they may appear further down in the newsfeed. Your content also won’t appear in the Discover section of Instagram or in hashtag searches. This significantly damages your potential reach, leading to drops in engagement and the declining follower count.
If you’re seeking consistent decreases in engagement and follower growth, you should consider the option that you’ve been shadowbanned.
There are sites out there that claim to have the ability to tell you whether or not your account is shadowbanned on Instagram. From my experience, and talking to other industry experts, these sites are not reliable at all.
The best way to check is to search for a hashtag after you’ve uploaded a post containing it. If you can find your content (it won’t be in “Top content” but “Most Recent”), then you’re in the clear.
Behavior that Instagram deems to be spam-like—even if it’s not a technical violation of terms of service, which they could actually ban you for— seems to be the most common cause of being slapped with an Instagram shadowban.
Some of the most common ways you can get your account shadowbanned (or actually banned) include:
Did you know that Instagram has banned certain hashtags? Typically they only ban hashtags that are consistently used in ways that are abusive and/or violate Instagram’s terms of service. Using a banned hashtag even once can land you in hot water.
Some banned hashtags are not even a little bit shocking, like #weedstagram and #sparklingnudes (seriously…. they had to ban that one), but others are a little more surprising, like #valentinesday and #skype. Check out all the banned hashtags here.
When in doubt, search for the actual hashtag before using it and see if it shows up as being banned. If it does, you’ll only see a top results section and no “most recent’ posts, along with a note at the bottom of the page that the hashtag has been hidden.
Instagram may flag your posts as spam if you do this. This is yet another good reason to diversify your hashtag usage; while you can always use your branded hashtag, switch up the generic ones like “#TBT” and “#instagood.”
Buying Instagram followers is a bad idea for a lot of reasons; not only do you waste money on “followers” that are typically nothing more than bots, but they can sink your engagement rates and the practice could potentially get you shadowbanned. Technology is sophisticated and it’s shockingly easy for Instagram to detect bots – and the brands who use them.
Did you know that Instagram had posting limits for your account? I’ll be honest, I didn’t until I was researching this post. You can only like, comment on, and upload so many posts (and follow so many people) within a given time frame.
Now these limits are really high. You’ll have a hard time hitting them unless you’re using some sort of bot (and see above 2 sections on this), or you’re really active on Instagram. These limits include:
If you think you’ve been shadowbanned on Instagram, the first step is to figure out why.
Take a look at the common reasons this can happen, and see if you may have accidentally partaken in any of them. If you have, make some changes as soon as possible. Delete the post with the banned hashtag; you can repost it with new hashtags once you do. Get rid of software that isn’t compliant with Instagram’s terms of services (and sign-up for Agorapulse instead!)
It doesn’t hurt to give your account some cooling-off time; stop all activity for 48-72 hours as soon as possible before you come back and resume your marketing.
Check the apps you’ve allowed to connect to your Instagram’s API and make sure there isn’t anything there that could be hurting you. You can do this by clicking on the cog where you’ll also log out, and choose “Authorized Apps.”
You can also contact Instagram directly and report the problem. Make sure you mention that your content isn’t showing up in searches, and not just that your engagement is dropping.
If you want to keep your Instagram account and its engagement growing, it’s best to avoid any behaviors that Instagram find problematic. Not only will this keep your account in working order, most of the terms of service are really set up to benefit most brands; no user wants to see content that feels like spam, either, which is largely what the shadowbanning seeks to prevent from taking hold on the platform.
What do you think? Have you ever been shadowbanned on Instagram, or any other social media site? How did you realize you were shadowbanned? How did you fix it? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!