have you been shadowbanned?
The Instagram shadowban: just myth or does it really happen?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, unfortunately, this really does happen. Over the last several months I’ve seen several, totally-well-meaning-grammers, post on various Facebook groups wondering why their engagement has tanked. Even more troubling, when doing hashtag searches, they can’t find their posts. There was no warning from Instagram. Suddenly, it was as if they ceased to exist on the platform.
In fact… the reason I can tell you that the shadowban is a real thing is because it’s even happened to me. *gasp*
Nightmarish, right? For Instagram managers like myself, this keeps us up at night.
What is the Instagram shadowban and how can I tell if I’ve been banned?
The word ‘shadowban’ sounds a lot scarier than it is. It’s much more of an inconvenience than it is a sort of actual ban and unfortunately, thousands of non-spam accounts get caught up in the algorithm’s grip of absolutes – which is why those books and films about AI taking a simple command and subsequently starting an apocalypse isn’t exactly… far-fetched.
Luckily, for us, while the shadowban might feel like the end of the world, it’s always temporary and acts as a special reminder that your strategy shouldn’t ever solely rely on using hashtags or location tags.
Hashtags and location tags are passive ways of growing on Instagram. Engaging authentically should always be your priority.
This leads us to the next question: how can you tell if you have been shadowbanned?
First, you will likely notice that your engagement has plummeted. If you have a business account on Instagram this will be even more obvious to you as you will notice that hashtag impressions are no longer found on your Insights.
That’s the first red flag but, what’s the second?
The definitive way of knowing without a shadow of a doubt that you have been shadowbanned is by going into the ‘Recent’ section of a hashtag you have used in the post you recently published.
I suggest checking a hashtag that has less than 50,000 posts as it will be easier to sift through. If you look into the ‘Recent’ area and notice that your post is nowhere to be found (i.e. you posted it to your Feed 1 hour ago but the first most recent post under the hashtag says it was posted 30 minutes ago and the second most recent says it was posted 2 hours ago) then you have been shadowbanned.
Whatever you do, don’t panic!
I know, I know… easier said than done, but I promise this is temporary.
You now might be asking yourself…
Why have I been shadowbanned?
There are a few reasons you might have been shadowbanned. See if any one of the below resonate for you.
1. A sudden burst of activity.
This was actually my downfall. I had just taken on a client (my first one!) and her account went from being relatively dormant to having a surge of activity. In Instagram’s eyes, that might have been a sign that the account was hijacked in some way. Since then, anytime I take on a new client or I know there will be a change of IP addresses – for example, my *amazing* VA takes on the engagement for a client’s account – we slow down on engagement in the days leading up to it and during the transition to keep Instagram happy.
2. Using banned hashtags.
Have you ever been lurking through a hashtag and noticed it was filled with spam or camgirls advertising their services even though those things didn’t seem related at all?
As Instagram is such an enormous platform, it means that the really popular and/or vague hashtags can be subject to abuse and when enough users report it to the platform, the platform takes action to stop it.
This means that they will ban the hashtag.
Now, this is usually temporary but can affect some really perplexing hashtags such as #Kansas, #HappyThanksgiving, or even #PuppyDogMondays.
What is wrong with people??!
How can you tell if a hashtag has been banned?
Luckily for us, this is one of the areas Instagram will actually be fairly transparent about and warn you. You will know when a hashtag has been banned because the platform will actually tell you. Here’s an example of what that might look like:
You can also make note of which hashtags you should avoid by checking this list and making note of the hashtags that you are likely to use but shouldn’t. For example, one of my clients is a relationship coach so I know that I should avoid using a hashtag such as #Dating or #SingleLife in order to not get shadowbanned.
3. Using the same hashtags over and over again
This is, by far, the most common reason why I have seen people be affected by a shadowban and tends to affect the people who are promoting their businesses the most.
How can I remove the shadowban?
There’s no one real workaround that will remove the shadowban and you will probably want to wring my neck when I say this but the best thing to do is to be patient.
Lousy, I know. Here’s the thing though…
In my personal experience (yup, remember? it happened to me), there really isn’t much you can do except wait out 14 days. Why 14 days? Because that seems to be the magical number for when Instagram decides your content can be seen in the hashtags and location tags.
However, some people have also suggested trying to boost a post to show Instagram you are not a bot/spam, to stop using the platform for 48 – 72 hours, and/or removing all the hashtags from your recent posts.
I did all of these things and at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. I had to wait and right at 14 days on the dot, the shadowban lifted.
So, this might not have been the best of news for you but the good news certainly is that the shadowban on Instagram is temporary. Plus, now that you have a clear idea as to why Instagram might have shadowbanned your account, it’s even less likely to ever happen again.