Have you noticed your Instagram engagement seems to be down, but you’re wondering what you did to cause this? It could be Instagram’s infamous shadowban. While Instagram states that shadowbans aren’t real, they did own up to “hashtag glitches” as well as altered algorithms to encourage higher quality content in a statement in February 2019. This has led many to believe that Instagram shadowbans are definitely a real thing, and multiple users claim to have experienced them firsthand.
So what does it mean to be shadowbanned?
It’s Instagram’s mysterious way of hiding a user’s posts from people who don’t follow already follow them - making it almost virtually impossible to be seen or discovered on the explore page, and especially through hashtags. What this means is if someone who is shadowbanned uses a hashtag on their photo, only the people who follow them will be able to see that photo. If someone who doesn’t follow that person searches for posts under that hashtag, that photo won’t show up - at all. Obviously this halts any account’s growth, but how can you know for sure if you have been banned, and what can you do to lift it if you have?
There is definitely some Instagram behavior that experts claim can lead to a shadowban; most of which depict a user’s account as spam. But what kind of behavior is it exactly that can lead to a ban? If you’re utilizing Instagram in any way that comes across as spammy, you may raise a red flag with Instagram even if your actions were purely innocent. Mass follow/unfollow above the allotted ranges, using third party accounts to do your posting, liking, and commenting for you, using banned hashtags or not switching up your hashtag use, and any other “bot-like” actions could result in the dreaded ban.
We’ve put together a few ways you can make sure to avoid being shadowbanned, how you can check to see your account standings, and some tips on what to do if you think you have been banned!
Mix Up Your Hashtags
Don’t use the same hashtags over and over again! Whie this seems innocent enough, using the same exact hashtags on all of your posts can be seen by Instagram as “spammy.” Instead, make sure that no matter how many hashtags you’re using, whether it be all 30 or just a fraction, that you’re using different ones. What we recommend doing is keeping a note on your phone of all the relevant hashtags to your niche. You can even segment by day, so that you’re not posting the same hashtags on Monday that you did on Sunday, and so on and so forth. Keep it fresh so you can keep your account in good standing! Keep in mind you can use the same hashtags, just not every day, or back to back on all your posts. Spread them out a bit!
Avoid Using Broken/Banned Hashtags
Sometimes, Instagram will ban a hashtag if they feel users have violated the tag by posting inappropriate content. If you are unaware of any bans, yet continue to use the broken or banned hashtag, Instagram may flag your account for spammy or inappropriate behavior, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. You can check to see if a hashtag has been banned by searching for it on Instagram. If no recent posts come up (only top posts), then chances are it’s been banned. You may even see a message from Instagram pertaining to that particular hashtag explaining that it can no longer be used.
Here's a complete list of banned hashtag for 2019.
- beautyblogger, but #beautybloggers works
Don’t Be Botty
If you’re going through and liking multiple photos, following multiple accounts, and then quickly unfollowing accounts, Instagram may flag your account for bot-like activity. Instead, pay attention to your activity, and don’t go over the thresholds for how likes, comments, follows, and unfollows. These numbers are generally around 150-200 likes per hour, 60 comments per hour, and 60 follow AND unfollows combined per hour.
Don’t Use Unapproved Software
If you’re utilizing third party apps that Instagram hasn’t approved to help manage your account, chances are you’re going to get shadowbanned. These are typically apps that auto-like, and auto-comment on photos to help grow your account. These can even include apps that post on your behalf to your own account. The general rule of thumb, is if you’re paying or relying on a software program to do the work for you - then it’s probably not allowed. The only exception to this rule is Later, which is a program that Instagram does approve of to help remind you when it’s time to post. Not only can relying on bots to do your work get you shadowbanned, it can also get your Instagram account banned entirely.
Don’t Participate In Mass Comment or Like Pods
If you’re active in the IG community, chances are you’ve seen or been approached by comment/like pods. These are groups of Instagram users who share their latest posts within their created groups, and every member has to like and comment on that post. Rumors have circulated that Instagram is able to pick up on this activity, especially if the posts are being shared within IG messages, and have banned members for participating. These types of actions create inauthentic engagement, according to Instagram. Some users have even reported having their accounts deactivated because they participated in pods.
Don’t Get Reported
Be respectful in your social media use and don’t do anything that other users could report you for. If someone files a complaint against your account, and Instagram finds you guilty of violating their standards, not only could you get shadowbanned, but you run the risk of losing your entire Instagram account.
So if you’ve noticed a drop in your engagement and suspect you’ve been shadowbanned, how can you find out for sure? Probably the best way is to utilize someone else’s account and check. Make sure this person isn’t following you (ask a friend to unfollow you and help you check!), and then create an Instagram post, utilizing a few hashtags. It may even be a good idea to utilize hashtags that aren’t popular or won’t have a ton of people using them (create your own!), that way you can see right away if your photo appears. Have your friend search for posts under those hashtags. If you’re not seeing your post come up under those hashtags, then chances are you may have been banned.
You can also utilize a shadowban analyzer website or app, but some people claim those aren’t the most reliable sources for figuring out your Instagram standings. If you do decide to check with an analyzer, proceed with caution, especially if they ask you to login with your Instagram credentials. The site could be a scam, and you don’t want to lose access to your account.
One popular analyzer that doesn’t require you to login is the Triberr Shadowban Tester. All it does is ask for your instagram handle, and then it takes a quick analysis of your latest 10 posts and the hashtags you used. They’ll show you which hashtags are “healthy” - meaning safe to use, and if you’ve used any broken or banned hashtags.
You're Shadowbanned, Now What?
So.. what if you have been shadowbanned? Sometimes you can speed up the ban process by showing Instagram you’ve changed your unknowingly bad habits if you take a short break from posting, lay low for awhile with following/unfollowing new accounts, and you can even report the suspected ban to Instagram. While there’s no guaranteed quick way to get it lifted (sorry), most bans tend to go away within 2-3 weeks, as long as you’ve stopped the behavior that Instagram deemed ban-worthy to begin with. Some other methods to lift that ban include:
#1. Take a Break
Reduce your activity on the ‘gram significantly, at least for a little while. Instead of posting multiple times per day like maybe you’ve been used to, take a few days off. You may even find you enjoy the little social media break. Some users have even reported taking 3 day to two weeks before they’ve noticed their ban being lifted. Think of your break like a “reset.” Hit that reset and then use it as an opportunity to start over. Once you do come back, limit your posts and limit your activity. Still lay low for a little while until you feel that you’re starting to see a positive difference in your engagement.
#2. Delete Hashtags From Recent Posts
Instagram has admitted to having a “hashtag glitch.” If you find that you’ve used broken or banned hashtags in any of your posts, it may have affected your overall engagement and ultimately “broke” your other hashtags and posts in the process. Sounds crazy, we get it. But go through and delete your hashtags from a couple recent posts and see if you notice a difference.
#3. Reduce The Number of Hashtags Used in Your Recent Posts
Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags per post, but if you’ve been using all 30 consistently and you’ve seen a drop in your engagement, try going through and removing some so that you’re not utilizing the max. Once you start to post new content, slowly build your hashtag use back up again, but don’t start out with using all 30 right away. In addition, switch those hashtags up, and don’t use the same exact ones on every single post. Space them out and try using different hashtags. This shows Instagram that you’re an active user and not just a bot going through the same motions time and time again.
#4. Stop or Pause Participating in Pods
Eventually, the amount of likes and comments you get from immediate pod use will die down, and it’ll hurt your engagement rather than help it in the long run. Brands, businesses, and Instagram itself want to see high quality content and real engagement, not something that comes across as less than authentic.
#5. Change Your Password & Log Out Of Apps Requiring Instagram Login
As mentioned before, any apps that engage on your behalf (liking, following, commenting, messaging) is against Instagram TOS. Anytime you provide your logging information to an app, you are at risk of having your account being used to engage in unauthentic behavior without you knowing. It's better to safe than sorry. And during this time of proving yourself to Instagram again, you should change your password and log out of any apps that require your Instagram login.
What this all really boils down to is just be cool. Use Instagram like any other real person and have fun with it. When you’re using your account to post high quality content and connect with other people, it will show. Don’t rely on tactics to artificially grow your account, because it’ll get noticed. Not only by Instagram, but by the people who follow you as well. Have patience and be true to yourself, your brand, and your mission. The work will pay off for you in the long run.