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By
Katarina Nápoles
12/04/2017
at 12:17 PM

What is Instagram’s shadowban (and how to avoid it)

Did you feel the number of followers in your profile stop growing? The engagement in your posts decreased? Posts that don’t appear when they’re searched by hashtags that you used? What we call “shadowban” could be the responsible for reducing your reach in Instagram.

The term is being very used by digital marketing experts, but a lot of professionals still don’t know what it means. We can’t say for sure that Instagram’s shadowban is what’s really affecting a specific post’s reach or if is just a matter of content adjustment.

We put together all the information that we have about it, here, in this post. So, if you’re thinking you were affected by shadowban, keep reading and I’m sure you’re gonna find some answers!

What is Instagram’s shadowban?

The term “shadowban” exists since 2006, but just spread for digital public recently. By definition, a shadowban is when an user is blocked on a social media without noticing he was banned.

Above all, remember that Instagram is performing an algorithm updates since june 2016. Because of that, many accounts felt a huge decrease in engagement. But, the fact of that your engagement isn’t going as well as before, doesn’t mean necessarily that you were affected by shadowban.

Allow me to explain: an Instagram shadowban happens when your hashtags becomes “invisible” in discovery tab. In other words, you can use hashtags normally, however, your posts will only be shown on your followers feeds. Which, basically, ends the whole purpose in using strategic hashtags to gather new followers for your posts.

So, your images cannot be seen in hashtags feeds of people who DON’T follow you, reducing, therefore, your profile’s reach and making it harder to catch up an audience that is not yours yet.

How do I know if my profile was affected?

To make sure your profile was affected by Instagram’s shadowban, we defined a very simple step by step:

  1. Make a post on the account you suspect has suffered shadowban. Use one of the hashtags that you frequently do, but is less utilized (this will help you in the next steps). 
  2. Ask a few profiles who DO NOT follow you to search the hashtag that you used on the post and ask if they can see your post  on the hashtag’s search. 
  3. If your profile doesn’t show up for those people, your post might have been affected by shadowban. 

But don’t panic! We’re gonna teach you how to set things right! 

How to avoid it? 

After a lot of research, we gathered some reasons that might be causing your posts to be shadowbanned.

1. Automation tools, bots and buying followers

Instagram terms of use are clear like water: you cannot realize any kind of automation to try and expand your number of followers. This includes tools and services which make any action for your profile. But how would Instagram know that? One day an action is done in Russia, the location of the automation tool you’ve hired. Later that day, you access the app through your phone, in the US, and a second IP is registered by them. Oops! Instagram turns the alert on that something strange is happening: how the same person is in two different places at the same time?

2. “Broken” hashtags

Make sure hashtags you’re using are not “banned” by Instagram. If only the superior section (Top Posts) appears when you search for the hashtag, it is probably blocked by the social media. Pay attention and make this kind of search frequently. Even harmless hashtags can be used for a different context. For example, the tag #petite can be used to represent a different meaning than imagined, as can see below.

 

search of the hashtag #petite and Instagram's shadowban

Notice that Instagram will display short message in hashtag search feed, explaining that posts were hidden because they didn’t meet Instagram’s community guidelines. If you notice any hashtag you used is banned, stop using it! Instagram can be preventing your posts to show up on hashtag search if you do.

message from Instagram about the "blocked" hashtags

3. Using the same hashtags for many months

Some users affected by shadowban realized that, using frequently the same hashtag for a long time period, can be defined as spam. Even when you’re using the same hashtags to keep consistency in your posts, be careful with it. You should not trust brand’s hashtags too. Actually, according to Instagram himself, we should not trust hashtags in general! We’re still with an eye in this suspect, but we recommend you maintain your hashtags always updated! And change them when it’s possible.

4. High activities 

If you suddenly follow or unfollow many people, or like a high number of posts, Instagram might notice that is not a behavior expected from a regular user. Make sure you’re making a moderate use of the service and never engage like a robot would do.

 

What does Instagram say about shadowban?

By the fact some users affected by shadowban were not making spam, Instagram published a note on it’s Facebook’s page, in beginning of year, recognizing that the problem with hashtags is real. However, instead of admitting they implemented “shadowban”, the company told that they were doing “system improvements”. And when pressed for an answer about how to solve the problem, they told not have resources to resolve it yet.

How can I solve shadowban in my profile?

We already wrote about how to get in touch with Instagram’s support in our blog, and how this is not an easy task. That’s why we’ve gathered some solutions that worked for other users:

1. Give a break in activities of your Instagram account

“Resting” your profile for 24 to 48 hours without doing any actions, may revert things back to normal.

2. Check your hashtags 

Check hashtags you utilize and make sure they’re not blocked by Instagram. Take your time to create a new mix hashtag to use in next posts.

3. Think twice about automation tools 

We told in the tip 1: the first thing to do is stopping automated services in a period of 24 to 48 hours. Another approach is to reduce the automated service’s speed. Some tools give you the option to choose speed levels, from “slow” to “fast”. Pick the first one.

4. Reduce posting frequency

Instagram analyses any spam sign that a profile could have. The amount of posts you do make part of this analysis.If you were being too aggressive on your posting, try to maintain a number of posts that a personal profile would have, for example.

5. Change the profile from Business to Personal

Instagram may be focusing in business accounts, since businesses are much likely to use spam as a way to market their products and services, when you change your profile from Business  to personal, it is possible that you “leave” Instagram’s radar.

6. Engage your audience in a organic way

Without automation tools, it’s time to get to know better your followers in a organic way! Make hashtag research manually and comment in profiles you think are interesting for your brand.

 

Conclusion

If you use Instagram in a natural form, without doing exaggerated actions, without behaving like a robot and keeping an eye out for banned hashtags, keep calm! We have no news about any profile affected by shadowban that hasn’t done a few of the things we listed on this post.

It doesn’t make sense that Instagram would punish users that uses the service in a authentic way, doing exactly what it was planned to be.

Instagram updates itself frequently. So, from time to time, algorithms will change, and we will try to keep this post updated as changes happens.  

If you have did some of these actions, don’t panic! Just follow the tips we listed here. 😉 

Have you been affected by shadowban? If you solved the problem in a way not listed here, tell us in comments. 👇