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Instagram shadowban

The Instagram Shadowban: What is it and Why is it Happening?

Have you noticed a dip in your engagement recently? If so, you’re not the only one! We’ve been hearing a lot lately from Instagrammers who are concerned that they’re experiencing the Instagram shadowban – their follower count has dropped, they’re not receiving as many likes on their photos as they used to, and their posts don’t seem to be showing up under the hashtags they’ve used. Sound familiar?

The Instagram Shadowban: What Is It And Why Is It Happening?

The general consensus is that shadowbanning is Instagram’s attempt to prevent content which is against their terms of service and encourage users to play by the rules, namely posting engaging, relevant and interesting content that receives genuine engagement from the community.

Of course, a dip in followers and engagement could also be down to the updates to Instagram’s algorithm, which has been open to ongoing changes in recent years. According to Instagram expert Alex Tooby, these algorithmic changes have led plenty of accounts to see “a drastic decrease in engagement of up to 50% or more”.

engagement drop Instagram

To find out if you’re simply falling short due to Instagram’s algorithm, or if you really have been shadowbanned, ask yourself if you’re (intentionally or unintentionally) committing any of the following Instagram faux pas:

1. Using bots to like, comment, and boost engagement

Did you know that at least 40% of comments on brand Instagram posts are fake? Understandably, Instagram doesn’t want the platform to fill up with fake, spammy interactions from bots (which Instagram is cracking down on – hard!). Using bots to gain followers and grow your account might seem like an easy way around the change from the chronological to the algorithm-based feed, but it’s definitely not a good idea.

There’s a lot of debate around exact ‘caps’ on activity, and nobody seems to have a definitive answer, but if you’re following and unfollowing a large number of accounts per day, leaving hundreds of comments in a short space of time, or liking countless posts per hour, Instagram will recognize this as fake activity. It can lead not only to your account being shadowbanned, but to it being closed down completely! And that’s not something you come back from…

2. Using software that’s against Instagram’s terms of service

This one is along the same lines: using third party scheduling apps such as plangram.io and plany.io, which post directly to Instagram rather than scheduling and then requiring approval before posting (which is 100% allowed) is another reason you might be experiencing the dreaded shadow ban. Yes it saves time in the short term and allows you to post more content with less effort, but this is why Instagram doesn’t want you to use these direct posting apps. The platform is about well thought-out, quality content and not ‘bulk posting’, so avoid them at all costs!

Tools which allow you to schedule posts in advance, such as Iconosquare, Later and Buffer etc. are approved by Instagram and comply with its terms of service. Iconosquare is actually an official partner of Instagram, so go ahead and give it a try!

3. Using banned hashtags

There are some hashtags that you’re probably not going to use on Instagram – you wouldn’t be surprised to find that there’s a blanket ban on these, and if you search them they simply don’t show any associated content. However, you might be using a totally innocent hashtag to push your lovely content, such as #tgif, #boho, and even #dogsofinstagram (!) only for that particular hashtag to be hijacked by people promoting ‘less lovely’ content and ruining things for everyone.

Instagram is tackling the problem of inappropriate, pornographic or offensive content seriously, and this means banning or limiting the visibility of certain hashtags that are being spammed – even if they sound innocent enough.

If you think this might have happened to you, search for the hashtags you’ve been using on the app. If you’re only seeing a limited number of posts followed by a message explaining recent posts from that particular hashtag have been hidden, it’s best to remove that tag from your post. The ban could just be temporary, or it could be in place for months! You can also check out this list of banned Instagram hashtags from The Data Pack, but keep in mind the hashtags which are banned or restricted are regularly changing.

4. Overusing hashtags

Another innocent mistake that could cost you your visibility and engagement on Instagram is using the same hashtags too often. Instagram might pick up on this as spam, even if you’re simply using the same hashtags across your posts to maintain continuity. Be wary of posting exactly the same hashtags each time you post, and don’t rely too much on branded hashtags. In fact, according to Instagram, we shouldn’t be relying too much on hashtags in general!

Instagram for business post

5. You’ve been reported!

If your account has been reported for whatever reason, Instagram could decide to shut it down or make it ‘invisible’. Avoiding posting offensive content or using bots should keep this from happening, but you never know. There have been cases in which business accounts have been reported by competitors – unfortunately, you can’t always know people’s motives for unfairly reporting your account. However, if your account does get disabled, you can appeal Instagram’s decision and hopefully get your account up and running again.

How to remove the Instagram shadowban

– Don’t use bots to grow your followers or to automate engagement!

– Engage with your community organically. Put the time and effort in and leave meaningful comments. You get what you give!

– Carry out a hashtag audit and get rid of banned or broken hashtags

– Mix up the hashtags you’re using and make sure they’re relevant to your content

– Don’t use too many hashtags per post

– Post less often or take a hiatus from ‘gramming for a while

– Avoid third party apps that don’t abide by Instagram’s terms of service, such as apps which post photos to your account directly (rather than scheduling and then notifying you to complete the posting process)

For more ideas on how to grow your engagement and follower base organically, take a look at these articles on creating engaging captions and using influencer marketing to boost your brand.

Hopefully these tips help you get your engagement and follower numbers back up! Shadow banning can happen even if you think you’re playing by the rules, but as long as you’re focused on producing great quality content and engaging with your community organically, you should be able to avoid this happening to you.

Have we missed anything? Do you have a different experience of the Instagram shadowban? Leave us a comment and let us know!

  • Robert Thompson

    Never knew there were so many rules to using an app that seems designed mostly for 15yo teens to post selfies…

  • Kellie Taylor

    I dunno, guys. The Shadowban seems speculative, and inconsistent at best (if it is in fact a thing). I have a competitor’s page whose entire feed appears as “banned” if you use a Shadowban Tester. But a quick search of their tags reveals they actually *do* show up. Until someone offers up incontrovertible evidence, I have to say that the ban is not what’s at the heart of lost engagement.

    • Hi Kellie! Totally agree that there could be a number of reasons for a drop in engagement, such as a change in the type of content posted or regularity of posts, for example, but it’s true that Instagram limits the visibility of accounts which don’t comply with their terms whether intentionally or unintentionally. We can’t validate the accuracy of shadowban testers as these are not authorised by Instagram, so we would recommend to pay more attention to searching for hashtags to see if they show up there. Thanks for your comment!

    • Carianne Hixson

      Disagree. I run two accounts, unfollowed my main account to see if the hashtags worked on the main account. They did not. I am shadow banned and have been working hard at organically increasing my followers. This is really really frustrating.

  • BBB

    I disconnected everything from my API (including Iconosquare) for a few weeks and it worked. I don’t even use hashtags anymore. I cant go over my old hashtags because Ihave over 5k posts now. I am very active so they probably think I am a bot lol

    • Hi there 🙂 Glad to hear you’ve resolved the problem. I’d just like to point out that Iconosquare is an affiliate partner of Instagram and using Iconosquare won’t have any negative impact on your account.

      • BBB

        That’s what I was thinking, right now I only have I conosquare connected to the API, see how it goes. Hopefully their algorithms differentiate between affiliates and bots. Thanks, you do a great job.

  • My client and I have been struggling off and on with a shadow ban for the past month. We have been doing everything right – never use unauthorized bots, she comments everyday (but not too much) with individual comments, and I try to vary her hashtags as much as I can while still staying in her field of interest. Thank you for pointing out that IG has been discouraging hashtags altogether. I also can’t help but think that IG is mistaking comments made through the Iconosquare custom feeds as spam, even when she tries to limit to 10-15 comments per day. In desperation we have considered disconnecting everything. We cannot shake this gd ban, and we did everything right!

    • Olga

      Hey!

      Shadowbanning can be caused by lots of different things, as the article explains, but you shouldn’t worry that Iconosquare (or similar tools, like Buffer, Hootsuite, etc, for that matter) can hurt your account. The way it works is simple: Instagram officially opens up (part of) its API, allowing to connect with certain sides of Instagram through tools like us. In other words, you’re allowed to manage comments through Iconsoquare because of Instagram’s permission to do this in the first place.

      Instagram DOES allow using official third-party apps like Iconosquare, but it does NOT allow using dodgy third-party apps that go around their API (e.g. apps that use bots, sell likes, schedule without permission, etc etc). So just do your research before you commit to a new tool!

      Also, the shadowban will pass — they’re just temporary. For a while, if I were you, I would try to post with completely different hashtags or even no hashtags at all and find the way for your content to be seen and engaged with on it’s own: get in a pod with your loyal partners who are also your followers, give your IG a shout out on your other channels, and promote your IG externally.

      • I’m going to try posting for a while without hashtags, as you suggest. I saw in another discussion that apparently a lot of people were forced to re-log-in to their accounts, sometimes with two-factor authentication. After they did this they were immediately shadow banned from hashtag searches. Many of them had never touched banned software. It all happened around September 2 (happened to my client on Sept 3). It appears IG may have had a security breach they don’t want to talk about. Many others had their accounts deleted completely, or had a few images disappear from their accounts around the same time.

  • quitaortiz

    Has anyone had experience with their personal account being shadow banned? That appears to be what’s happened to my account. I do indeed copy/paste many of the same hashtags over and over… but it’s my personal account. I am perhaps guilty of hashtag overuse, but I certainly don’t violate any of IG’s terms. Can’t seem to get this ban lifted from my account. I’ve tried logging out for a couple days, deleting hashtags, etc… but still, my posts aren’t being categorized with the hashtags I assign them. Very frustrating.

    • Olga

      Hey! Actually, copy pasting your hashtags might have been the core of the problem. It doesn’t matter if your account is Business or Personal — if you “spam” the same hashtag over and over again, Instagram will think you’re, well, spamming.

      Try not using any hashtags for a while, post as usual, and encourage your EXISTING followers to engage with your posts. Hashtags are for discoverability, for acquiring new followers. Try to engage with the followers you already have, so that they like your posts and prove to Instagram that you have content that’s worth to be shown.

      Tell us how it goes!