August 2, 2021
Is Instagram muting your voice with shadowban? That’s a question every creator has asked when engagement numbers drop.
But does Instagram really shadowban accounts?
Way back in 2018, they categorically refused it. They did not hide content for using the wrong hashtag or too many of them. In 2019, they corrected themselves and said that content that was “ineligible for our global community” was hidden from the Explore page (even if it follows all guidelines).
In 2020, Adam Mosseri indirectly spoke about shadowbanning and stated that they would “review how content is filtered on Explore and Hashtag pages.” This year, Adam wrote a detailed blog on how Instagram works and specifically shadowbanning.
The long and short of it is that Instagram does shadowban. The term may not be bang-on, but the effect is still the same: fewer new users can find you and your content doesn’t show up on the Explore page.
So, what exactly is Instagram shadowban?
In a crux, it is Instagram deprioritising your account. They can do so by:
- Restricting your posts.
- Hiding your posts.
By curbing your content, Instagram decreases your reach. Fewer people can see your content, and that negatively impacts engagement.
What can get you shadowbanned?
Since Instagram doesn’t notify you of the ban, you are often unaware that your account and posts are not discoverable either on the Explore page or through hashtags.
So, it’s up to you to make sure that your content and page are not restricted. These are the reasons you can be shadowbanned by Instagram:
You use banned hashtags
Hashtags are the bread and butter of Instagram. But a few of them are banned because the platform doesn’t want users using them. If you include any of these banned hashtags (like #Snapchat) in a post, it’ll be restricted.
It won’t show up in follower’s feeds, hashtag pages, or Explore pages. Instagram doesn’t release info on which hashtags to avoid. But this is a great blog post listing them.
You used a broken hashtag
Write down all the hashtags you used in your last 10 posts. Then check if you are showing up on the search page for each of them. In case you see an alert from Instagram explaining that the # is hidden for safety reasons, it’s a broken hashtag.
You fail to follow community guidelines
Instagram has strict community guidelines. If your content violates it, like posting about violence, you will be penalised. Inappropriate posts are shadowbanned too.
You’re buying likes and followers
We’ve spoken about how harmful it is to buy followers and likes before. But did you know that it can get you shadowbanned? When you purchase double taps or comments, Instagram detects bot activity in your account and punishes you for it.
You’ve crossed the daily activity limit
The Instagram algorithms have set a limit to daily activity. That’s how they differentiate between a human and a bot. So, if your account suddenly follows 60 people in a day, it will shadowban you. The trick is to never have sudden big surges in activity.
Your activity seems like spam
Commenting on a gazillion posts. Following and unfollowing accounts. Or even copying and pasting the same DM again and again. All these activities are seen as spam by Instagram. That leads to a shadowban.
Your account is being reported
A final reason you may be shadowbanned is getting reported by users. One report won’t shadowban you. But if a lot of Instagram users do it then your content and account will be deprioritised and ultimately suspended.
How do you check if you’re shadowbanned or not?
The process is simple. You just have to check if you are showing up on the “recent” posts for hashtags you’ve used in a post. But there is a condition. You can not use your own account for it. Instagram will show you your post for a specific hashtag even if it’s shadowbanned.
So, here’s how you can make sure if Instagram is shadowbanning you or not:
- Publish a new post with the relevant hashtags.
- Ask anyone who doesn’t follow you to search for those hashtags (or you can create a new account and do it yourself).
- Check if the post you published shows up in the “recent posts.”
- If it does, you’re golden. If it doesn’t, wait 5 minutes and check again.
- If the post still doesn’t pop up, you have been shadowbanned for that hashtag.
Points to note:
Use a tag with a fewer number of posts to check for account shadowban. If a tag already has 1M posts, the chances that you will show up on the Recent tab are too low.
If you’re using multiple hashtags, you will have to search for each one individually. For example, your post may rank for #OOTD but not #beauty.
What to do if you are shadowbanned?
The first step is to report it to Instagram by going to Settings > Help > Report a Problem. In the pop-up, select “Something Isn’t Working.” Then describe what is happening. Do not write that you are facing a shadowban. Simply say that your posts are not discoverable, and that’s affecting your influencer engagement rates.
In addition, review your hashtags.
Check if you are banned for any of the hashtags you use. Then remove the tags that you are banned for from all your posts, including broken ones. If the tag is particularly relevant to your content, keep an eye out. It may be removed from Instagram’s banned list in the future.
Stop using repetitive or irrelevant hashtags. Instagram shadowbans when you repeat tags in posts or rely on tags that don’t match your content. Stay away from generic tags like #happy and #love. Use specific and relevant tags.
An extra tip:
Adding hashtags to the first comment has become common. But you can’t edit comments. You can only delete them. In case you are shadowbanned for a particular #, you will have to delete the entire comment. Thus, also removing hashtags you were not banned for.
When your #’s are in the caption, you simply erase the hashtag for which you are not showing up on the search page and leave the rest as-is. That’s why always add the hashtags in your caption, not comments.
Or take a break.
This step might not be possible for every creator. But it does work in revoking a shadowban. Log off from Instagram for a few days. No posting, liking, scrolling or commenting. Once you come back, the ban will have likely been lifted. But remember to not go on a spam-like spree after the break.
Instagram shadowban is not always to blame.
Are you getting fewer comments? Have your likes decreased? Are new users not able to find you on Instagram? All of these are frequently by-products of the Instagram shadowban.
That said, it isn’t always so. The social media network is making changes to its algorithm, which does affect engagement. Our advice is to check if you are shadowbanned. If you’re not, and your stats are still oscillating then think about recharging your content creation game.