It happens to the best of us - sometimes your engagement on Social Media such as Instagram and Twitter just drops without any rhyme or reason, and your posts aren't even reaching anywhere near as many people as they used to. Often, this is not a big deal. Maybe you've simply become less favored by Instagram's algorithm, or maybe you're not posting the kind of content Instagram thinks your viewers want to see.
This is often cyclical and expected because engagement is not a linear graph. Sometimes, though, it might happen that your engagement doesn't pick up even after weeks of posting relevant and timely content. When this is the case, it is easy to speculate that your account might just have been shadowbanned.
Related: How To Get Unshadowbanned on TikTok
Shadowbans on Instagram - Fact or Fiction?
A shadowban can be the result of someone spamming or harassing other users. If you're not sure if your account has been suspended, just go onto Instagram and try checking out some different accounts to see what type of reaction they generate in comparison with yours.
An "Instagram Shadow Ban" refers to hiding content on social media without telling its author that it's happening - typically when someone breaks one of many community guidelines implemented by Instagram or by posting inappropriate content such as being abusive towards another person/group.
So, does the Instagram shadowban really exist? The truth is, we can't be entirely certain. Instagram released a statement in February 2019 on their Instagram for Business page after certain users complained about their content not being visible to certain hashtags.
While the statement itself implied that visibility could be attributed to algorithmic changes, they neither accepted nor denied the existence of shadowbanning. At this point, one can merely speculate that Instagram uses shadowbanning as a tactic to hide content they deem inappropriate, uncreative, or unworthy of having a wider reach.
How To Test If You've Been Shadowbanned
While external tools exist that claim to check your account for shadowbanning, these are often unreliable. Instead, it is better to conduct certain tests yourself to make sure that your posts are reaching your audience.
Post an image with a hashtag that isn't often used. (If you use one that has millions of posts associated with it then chances are people won't be able to tell if your content is banned or just hidden by competition). Once you've posted and ask some people who don’t follow you if they can see your post on that hashtag. If no one can see the post, chances are you might have been shadowbanned.
Check your Instagram Insights. Your Insights page should give you a pretty accurate idea of whether you've been shadowbanned or not. If you compare your metrics on reach and engagement over the past couple of weeks, you will get a fairly clear idea of whether your account has been supposedly shadowbanned. A significant drop in reach to accounts that don't follow you is usually an indicator of shadowbanning.
Check your used hashtags for hidden posts. Some hashtags have been banned by Instagram as they are considered inappropriate. If any of your posts use these hashtags, your account might have been flagged by Instagram. A way to check for banned hashtags is to look at the pages of the hashtag in question. If you see a message that posts have been hidden, the hashtag is banned. Some banned hashtags include #tag4like, #beautyblogger, #antivax and even #snapchat!
How To Get Unshadowbanned On Instagram
One way to avoid being shadowbanned on Instagram is by posting authentic content and abiding by best practices when growing your audience. It will take longer, but the slow-and-steady approach wins - you won't get silenced forever!
If you do suspect that your account has been blacklisted, here are some steps you can follow to try and get unshadowbanned.
- Remove banned and blacklisted hashtags from your posts. If you've been using or have used banned hashtags in the past, it is best to remove those from your posts. Try to use less popular hashtags because hashtags that are used en masse run the risk of being blacklisted if usage volume surges.
- Avoid mass commenting, liking, or following. If you like and comment on hundreds of posts in a day, or if you follow or unfollow a lot of people in a short period, chances are that Instagram might suspect you of using an automated bot. Bots are extremely frowned upon by Instagram. If you are suspected of bot usage, your account will be temporarily disabled from performing any actions and might also be shadowbanned.
- Unlink dubious apps from your Instagram account. Several third-party applications exist around the Instagram ecosystem such as for scheduling, analytics, and automated posting. Always ensure that the apps that you are using arise from legitimate sources and disable any that you might consider questionable by unblinking them from your settings page.
- Don't use unrelated hashtags. Flooding your posts with thousands of hashtags that are completely irrelevant to your post might be seen as a red flag by Instagram. Always use hashtags that are relevant to the content you have created.
- Contact Instagram support. If it's been a while and nothing seems to be working, it might be a good idea to contact Instagram support and let them know that you've been experiencing decreased engagement for some time. Don't explicitly mention that you have been shadowbanned. Simply notify them of the exact changes in metrics you are experiencing and how this could potentially hurt your brand. They might be able to offer an explanation or solutions.
- Give it time. Often, shadowbans are temporary. Taking a break from Instagram and not posting for a whole can not only be better for your mental health but also give your account time to be unshadowbanned.
The Instagrams algorithm is becoming increasingly smarter, and gone are the days when one could simply buy followers or use hashtags meant only to increase engagement or followers. While bots are still in existence, Instagram is becoming increasingly strict with deleting any bot-like accounts they deem suspicious. Thousands of accounts are deleted every day on suspicion of unwanted activity, so always make sure that you follow Instagram's community guidelines.
Growing an Instagram following is a long process that rewards those that play by the rules and are consistent. There are no shortcuts, but if you do it right, the result is well worth it.