Have you noticed your Instagram engagement used to be much higher and has recently declined? Maybe you are in a few Facebook social media/business groups and have heard some comments regarding an “Instagram shadow block”, but you are unsure what this means? Well, we are here to give you a little insight and clarification – and hopefully you will be able to figure out if you have been the target of a shadow block and we will give you tips to getting the ban lifted!
What is the “Shadow Ban”?
As you may have noticed, Instagram (as well as its parent company, Facebook) has implemented many changes in the past 1-2 years, especially regarding their algorithms and business vs. personal accounts.
The Instagram shadow ban has been noted as a ban on your photos particular hashtags. This means that while you are using certain hashtags to promote your post, Instagram is not allowing them to be seen under that particular hashtag’s search results. It’s believed that a shadow ban is a way for Instagram to crack down on influencer marketing and force business accounts to invest in paid advertising. Since hashtags are used to make your post “discoverable” by others, it would make sense that IG may want to make it a little harder so that they can get business’ to spend on ads.
As a business on social media, this affects you because you are missing out on getting discovered by hundreds if not thousands of potential followers who can turn into customers/clients via hashtags alone. In short – you become invisible to people who don’t already follow you.
How do I find out?
Please keep in mind that an engagement dip does not always mean you have been shadow banned, it may be another Instagram issue or glitch. However, it is a good idea to try to find out if you have been, so that you can lift the ban! (Also keep in mind that Instagram has not yet admitted to placing shadow bans, so simply asking them will actually not be of any help)
In order to find out if you may have been shadow banned, we suggest trying the following: Find 3 or 4 accounts who aren’t following you already (maybe a coworker – or have a few friends unfollow the account in question and test this out for you) and ask them to check for your images in the hashtags in question.
*Keep in mind: If a hashtag is highly popular and has views in the millions, chances are you will not easily find your image in the search – as these hashtags move quickly. Pick a few hashtags that have less posts and therefore the search moves a little slower.
If each person/account (who searches the lesser-used hashtags) does not find your image in the hashtag search – you may have been shadow banned!
If your images are found by these accounts, then you are likely not banned and therefore your dip in engagement may be for another reason or there may be an actual Instagram glitch (which does happen!)
It looks like I am shadowbanned – what now?
Remember – Instagram is not technically admitting they are shadow banning accounts however hundreds (if not more) accounts who have experienced it, have come together in many chat rooms and figured it out for us. This means that they have also been able to pinpoint a few of the reasons we get banned and therefore what to do and not do if you in fact are banned (and of course, it’s great advice so that you do not get banned!) The conclusion has been that Instagram is banning accounts they feel are too “spammy” and overusing hashtags and marketing. Why? Because they would prefer you pay to play (pay for ads).
If you are shadow banned please make sure you are not doing the following (and if you are, stop now)
- Using 3rd party programs, software or apps that may be violating their terms and services: Are you using bots or programs to help you get more followers, likes or to comment and like for you? (i.e: Massplanner, Likestagram, StatusBrew etc) Additionally, are you using software or programs to post your images for you? This is a big no-no for Instagram and could be the main reason why you are being shadowbanned. Remove these programs from your account and stop using any and all kinds of automation, the last thing you would want is for Instagram to, in the end, remove your account for violating their terms. Also, if you have multiple accounts and just one account is using these programs – you may be subjecting all your accounts to a ban and not just the one account in violation. To remove access to these programs go to your profile settings > authorized applications > revoke access. If there is an automation tool you know you are using, but doesn’t show up on the list, visit the applications website and stop access directly from that account.
Using “broken” or “abused” hashtags: Sadly, sometimes even the most innocent hashtags end up getting used for not-so-innocent purposes, many of which violate Instagram’s Terms. To check if a hashtag is broken or has been “abused” or “broken” you can type it into the search (with the # sign). If a blank page pops up (even if it says it has 10 million uses), then chances are that Instagram had to remove/break the hashtag. FYI – using ONE broken hashtag, can actually affect the rest of the hashtags you use as well. So make sure you are periodically checking your hashtags. Also – if possible, remove broken hashtags from old pictures.
It is also believed that using the same group of hashtags on every post can cause a shadow ban. Switch up your hashtags periodically – ideally if you can come up with 2 to 3 groups of different hashtags (at least 15-30/max in each group) you can switch these up between posts.
- Your account keeps getting reported: If you are spammy, stealing pics or content and saying it’s yours (this is a huge problem in many niche’s), or you are posting inappropriate content – people will report you. Instagram may not even shadow ban you, they may end up just disabling your account in full. Don’t do anything that may get you reported! This includes leaving spammy comments on people’s images. Instead, follow accounts and build relationships in the comments and like their pics etc.. before you start a sales pitch.
- You are not adhering to Instagram’s hourly limit: Instagram has an hourly limit on likes and comments! Limits vary on the size and age of your account, however some accounts get a 24hr+ ban for liking/commenting on 30 accounts in an hour – while other larger accounts may get the ban at 60 likes. (FYI- Facebook does this as well). Try to stick to 15-20 per hour. Once instagram notices that this is your normal usage, you can raise it by 5 or 10 every couple days or every week. Keep in mind that following/unfollowing accounts OR deleting followers will also fall under an hourly limit. At first, take it slow.
- Using a business account instead of personal: This one is up for debate in the Instagram world. Many Instagram users feel that by switching to a Business profile, it automatically started limiting their reach. Why? Well, it is assumed that it’s because Facebook – the owner of Instagram – wants business’ to pay for ads. Which, makes sense. If you feel this may be the case – you can switch back to a personal account and test your reach for a few weeks. If you notice a change and rise in your engagement then you can make the decision to stay as a personal IG page. If it makes no difference, and you prefer having the business features, like reach and engagement reports etc – then you can switch it back whenever you like. You are not locked down to keeping a business profile (or vice versa) and as of now, you can switch back and forth as you please.
Once you have followed all the steps above – take a short Instagram break, approx 48 hours. This will give your account time to remove the ban and start fresh. Once you return, make sure to engage with others and check your hashtags. Make sure everything you do is done manually – no automation. Yes, it may be a little time consuming but it will save you a future ban and headache (and a possible removal of your whole account).
Have you been the target of an Instagram shadow ban? Let us know how these tips worked for you in the comments below!