ByAugust 23, 2017 42 Comments

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!

Caitlin Hughes

Author Caitlin Hughes

Caitlin is a Content Marketing expert at Iconosquare, based in Berlin. She’s passionate about creating ROI-driven content strategies and sharing her best tips on social media marketing. She’s also into true crime, loves ‘80’s music, and spends too much time online shopping.

More posts by Caitlin Hughes

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