Has your engagement and growth on Instagram declined over the past few months? Just like thousands of other brands and influencers, you might have fallen victim to the hashtag restriction that’s automatically filtering posts, having a strong effect on users with small followings.
The shadow ban, as the internet calls it, has left some influencers and brands at a practical standstill with their engagement and growth. And as if to add salt to the cyber wound, over six million Instagram users were also hacked just recently.
Instagram hasn’t officially acknowledged the shadow ban as a real thing. Without guidelines and notifications, users everywhere are left without a clue as to if or when the shadow ban will befall them.
What You Need To Know About The Shadow Ban
Just this year, there have been been rumors going around that Instagram is filtering some hashtags and preventing them from being seen, without apparent rhyme or reason.
The internet calls this kind of phenomenon, where people are banned in some way without being told, a shadow ban. And this restriction has left thousands of brands and influencers with a significant decline in engagement and growth.
It’s believed that Instagram is underhandedly filtering out posts that use specific hashtags from being seen by most of the community.
When a user uploads a photo and adds a seemingly-innocent hashtag in their caption, everything would seem normal on their end. A shadow-banned user can still find their posts in the gallery by running a search on the discover tab using any of the hashtags in their caption, and their followers can see it too.
But after that, things begin to look weird.
When any other random user searches for that hashtag, the post won’t show up. The post gets automatically filtered from their hashtag searches, which robs brands of the ability to be discovered and grow.
While the user who publishes the post and their followers can see it in the gallery, people who don’t follow that person can’t see it.
To this day, Instagram hasn’t officially acknowledged shadow banning. Back in February of this year, Instagram issued a vague statement that addressed the concerns expressed by some users regarding their missing posts. The statement did not directly address shadow banning and instead reminded users to adhere to guidelines and policies to avoid running into any problems within the platform.
Image credit: Female Creatives Association
How Does the Shadow Ban Affect You?
In case it wasn’t obvious enough, Instagram’s shadow ban can kill your engagement and growth potential faster than you can take a selfie.
Instagram is home to over 700 million active monthly users, making it a diverse online community with unlimited marketing potential — in theory. The current restriction is preventing brands and influencers from connecting with the community Instagram has successfully built, instead only showing their posts to people who already follow them.
As if standing out on a highly saturated platform like Instagram isn’t hard enough, you also have to worry about using the wrong hashtag and being at risk of shadow banning. This would seem to make it pretty hard to get your posts in front of new eyes and grow your audience.
It seems Instagramers can’t catch a break these days.
Below you can see a post of a photographer who’s been victimized by the shadow ban on Instagram. If you look at it closely, you’ll see that there’s nothing offensive about the post nor its caption — but it got banned anyway.
Image credit: PetaPixel
When someone other than the user runs a search on any of the hashtags, it’s obvious that the post has been filtered out of the results and won’t show up in the gallery.
If a shadow ban can befall a cute, innocent proposal photo, it can happen to you, too.
Have I Been Affected By The Shadow Ban?
If you’re noticing a significant drop in your engagement the past few months, you’ve most likely been affected by the shadow ban.
The only way to know for sure is by conducting a hashtag test. For this, you need your brand account and another one that’s never had an interaction with your profile.
Using your account, post a photo and add one or more of your underused hashtags in the caption. Publish it and run a search in the Discover tab using the hashtag you used.
You should be able to see the post under the Most Recent tab.
Now, take the other Instagram account and search for the same hashtag. If you can find your post using the other account, you haven’t been banned. At least for that hashtag, for now.
But if you can’t find your post in the Most Recent tab, you’ve most likely been shadow banned.
Image credit: LGBTQ Nation
Why Did I Get Banned?
Instagram hasn’t officially acknowledged the shadow ban, which isn’t helping users avoid it.
Based on Instagram’s last statement regarding the matter, influencers and brands deduced that adhering to the policies and guidelines is the safest way to avoid the restriction. But this doesn’t help anyone who thought they were already doing all the right things.
There are a few particular moves that could get you shadowbanned on Instagram and we’ve enumerated a few of them below.
Using a Banned or Broken Hashtag
Instagram has banned some hashtags to prevent users from uploading and sharing what they deem to be offensive or explicit content, though this list has changed over time. Some of these are understandable, related to porn and racism, but others are a bit weird. #Armparty and #desk were banned, really?
Using any of the currently banned hashtags in your caption might increase your chances of getting shadowbanned in general, and will definitely make those particular posts impossible to find.
Some hashtags that are/have been banned. Image credit: The Data Pack
Mass Following or Unfollowing Spree
Instagram limits the amount of engagement and actions you can take per hour to prevent people from spamming other users. Following, unfollowing, and engaging with people rapidly on a massive scale may lead Instagram HQ to think you’re a spambot wreaking havoc on their platform. This could get you shadow banned or your account temporarily restricted.
Someone Reported You
There’s no telling who you’ll piss off on the internet so it’s best to be careful with your interactions. If someone reports you, HQ may pose restrictions on your account for violating community guidelines.
You Used a Hashtag Way Too Much
Using the same set of hashtags on all of your posts can make you appear spammy and may force Instagram to pose restrictions on your account, which may include shadow banning your posts.
When using hashtags, try to switch things up with every post so you can cover more ground, it’ll be a lot better for your engagement anyway.
Grow Your Following
The shadow ban definitely seems to be real, whether Instagram admits it or not, and it’s affecting thousands of users as we speak. It may be some kind of error in the hashtag search algorithm, a problem Instagram has mentioned, but the effects on the user are the same as a ban.
While there’s no way to beat this restrictive monster from deterring your growth with absolute certainty, there are few things you can do to circumvent its adverse effects on your engagement.
One way to beat the shadow ban is by growing your following so more people can see your posts, creating a better chance to have them shared around. This way, a significant number of users can still see your posts even if you fall prey to the shadow ban.
Easier said than done, right? Well, not exactly.
Attracting more followers becomes so much easier if you have impressive social proof online. One way to boost your credibility on Instagram without overly exhausting all of your marketing resources is by purchasing a few thousand Instagram Followers and Likes from a reputable provider.
A high-quality Instagram follower.
This increased attention to your account will draw in more users naturally, because they’ll want to see why you’re so popular. Once you attract more organic followers, you can focus on your engagement. The better your engagement is with your followers, the more visible your posts will be overall.
When purchasing Followers, only buy from a reputable provider. The top providers featured on our list are fully tested and reviewed, and guaranteed to give you the most value for your money without putting your name or credibility on the line.
Focus & Regroup
Shadow banning and other surprise algorithm changes have made Instagram marketing even more challenging than it already was.
If you’ve been affected by the shadow ban, the best thing to do right now is to regroup and rethink your strategy. Focus on building a significant relationship with your followers so your posts will be more visible to them and more likely to be shared.
While you’re improving your engagement, you should also work on your credibility by buying an impressive number of Followers from a reputable provider. Make sure not to buy hundreds of thousands at once, so they come in at a somewhat gradual pace.
By buying an impressive number of followers, you’re making yourself seem more credible and relevant in the eyes of organic users.
The shadow ban may make Instagram marketing even more challenging but you can overcome it. You just need to understand the new landscape to conquer Instagram once again.