This last week I have been crazy busy responding to Instagram messages, Facebook group posts, Quora questions and Reddit members all needing helping to lift their shadow ban.
What is a shadowban?
New to Instagram, or only recently identified, a shadowban is when a user posts to Instagram and uses all their usual hashtags but receives significantly slower than usual engagement. Their post is not showing up under those hashtags and only their existing followers can see their post, not good as we all know that hashtags are the lifeblood of audience growth!
Why would you be shadowbanned?
Using "Under Review Hashtags"
A couple of accounts that reached out to me for my help on Reddit turned out to have been shadowbanned for using tags that were "under review", these don't have to be sexual tags they can be seemly innocent, for example, #cupcake was recently under review, not great if you're a baker. Another I've seen is #preteen, again not ideal if you are using the tag to promote your children's clothing range. I would add here that recommend avoiding any tags that could be used inappropriately as you really don't want your business to be associated with that kind of content.
#BeautyBlogger is another broken tag, again it was widely used and this "break" has caused an enormous amount of issues for actual beauty bloggers wanting to connect with their community! If you search for #beautyblogger under tags, it doesn't even exist!
Before using your hashtags, double check if they are under review - search for the hashtag and scroll down, you'll only see about 20 or so posts before you see a message from Instagram that will look like this:
With 600 million accounts on Instagram and sign-ups every day, the growth rate of spammers is growing every day as well and they are latching on to every hashtag they believe they can gain from.
From what I've seen, the trend is across really large hashtags, over 1 million posts, so you need to try and avoid these best you can. If you've read my blog post on hashtags or received my subscriber download, you will know that I don't believe using tags over 1 million is worth your while anyway as your post is quickly lost in the noise. In addition, these tags often "break" and "glitch" preventing users from seeing the content under the tag anyway.
How will I know I've been shadowbanned?
Firstly you need a second account that isn't following you and you're not following them. Send out a post, use your hashtags like usual, then switch to the other account and check if your post has appeared in the hashtags (not the top 9, drop down to the most recent section). If it is, you're fine, if it's not there, check a few other hashtags. If your post is only missing under one tag - that tag is broken and may be why you have had slow engagement. Stop using it (and tell your Insta friends too). If you're missing from all the tags then I'm afraid you have been shadowbanned.
How do I get "un-shadowbanned"?
There are varying theories for this, firstly, if you are using any automated services, STOP! Disconnect your account completely and cease this activity.
Secondly, if you are using broken or very large hashtags, remove these from all your recent posts. Just delete the hashtags (or the entire post, up to you) and don't use them again.
Finally, I would recommend carrying on like normal, post, engage and follow. Don't go on a crazy liking spree but act like a normal engagement member of the community and hopefully, your ban will be lifted it could be 24 hours, it could be a few weeks. The jury is out on this at the moment.
I have seen recommendations that you log out your account and don't touch it for a few days/weeks but I don't see how this will benefit you. It is widely reported (and even by Instagram themselves) that the algorithm favour those that are active members of the community so I don't see how this theory would work.
Another option is to report your account as hacked, this is worth a shot and might speed up the ban being lifted.
One other note to add is to be careful posting from different geographical locations in a short time period. If you use a virtual assistant and they are based overseas, be careful logging into the account at the same time as them as Instagram knows you can't be in two places at once! I noticed a drop in engagement when I came back from Dubai, it wasn't huge but enough of a drop for me to question what was going on and why all the likes were from my current followers. Within a couple of days my engagement rocketed back up, it was either a hashtag glitch or Instagram security was questioning my whereabouts as I had been able to post from two significantly different IP's in the same 12 hour period.
The shadowban theories are still appearing and everyone with any significant interest in Instagram is talking about it, if I hear anything concrete I will be sure to update this post and tweet, gram about it! So far though, it's all hearsay.
If you think you've been shadowbanned and you haven't been using automated services or buying likes/follows - send me an email email@example.com with your Instagram handle and contact info and I'll take a look at it for you, completely free of charge and let you know what I think the issue could be.
Further reading on shadowbans:
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