Is your Instagram account in danger of being shadowbanned?

Mar 16, 2018
Avoid an Instagram Shadowban

Avoid an Instagram Shadowban

Shadowban??? Yarra – WHA??!!

I know I can’t keep up either!

The “shadowban” concept has been doing the rounds among the uberInstagrammers since last September. The term has been around on forums and in online gaming since 2006. What it means is that an account will no longer appear in search on Instagram or when a user clicks on a hashtag of interest to them.  A shadowbanned account will only appear to its followers or (heaven forfend!) not at all, depending on the gravity of the offence! It’s called a shadowban because unless investigated, the offending account owner may not be aware that they are banned. It was developed as a way of stopping spammers and trolls from realising their downgraded status and set up a new account for troublemaking. It’s very easy to fall foul of the rules and it can really effect a business with Instagram at the heart of their online strategy.

Lovely but not crochet. Use your hashtags wisely.

Lovely but not crochet. Use your hashtags wisely.

On Instagram using hashtags is a great way to engage with a community of interest and to allow that community to find your account. It has really kicked off since last December when Instagram introduced the ability to follow hashtags last December. Here in OnlineHubIE we LOVE this new feature as it allows us to find and follow inspiring #crocheters and #knitters all over the world. It does irk us of course when somebody uses the hashtag we are following on embroidery for example. We care not for embroidery.

So it makes perfect sense for Instagram, as a platform, to crack down on the overuse and the spamming of hashtags. If they wish to remain relevant and useful they need to manage that beast.

However the list of banned hashtags contains some fairly innocuous words that you might use in all innocence. Words like #newyears and #newyearsday or #snapchat or (get this Irish readers!) #snowstorm. Some are banned outright and some will be experiencing a temporary ban due to community complaints. The ban will remain in place until Instagram does some housekeeping.

You’ll know your Instagram account is suffering from shadowbanning when your likes and comments suddenly drop.

If you are a regular user of Instagram and are used to getting numerous comments and likes on Instagram and one morning this drops suddenly you may be experiencing a shadowban.

A drop in comments, likes, reach or impressions are all indicators that you may need to review your Instagram account for offensive practices.

What causes a shadowban?

There are specific practices that Instagram frowns upon. It may seem like everyone is doing them but as a business owner who is using Instagram as a platform to reach customers you can’t afford the risk. Ignorance is not bliss in the case of online marketing!

What brought your account to this pretty pass?

  • Overuse of spammy hashtags
  • Use of banned hashtags

It’s relatively easy to find out which hashtags are banned.

In Instagram click on the wee magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen to search. Type in a word you are considering using as a hashtag. I chose “woman”  deliberately because it is currently on the banned list. This was so I could demonstrate how shadowbanning displays. Interestingly the hashtag #man is not on the banned list! Click “Tags”, then click the hashtag. Regardless of its current status, Instagram will display “Top” posts for the hashtag. However it’s the recent tab that interests us. If you click “Recent” and find an empty screen with a “Learn More” link you know that there is an issue with that hashtag so avoid, avoid, avoid!


What to do if your Instagram account has been shadowbanned?

So what do you do if you think your account has been shadowbanned? Firstly confirm that it is. There are tools available a Google Search away but actually it’s quite easy to do this manually if you have access to a second Instagram account or know someone who has an Insta account that doesn’t follow you. That last part is crucial.

  1. Create a post on your account and use a unique or unusual and SAFE hashtag on it.
  2. Log in to the second account or ask your trusty pal to check their Instagram.
  3. Search for that unique hashtag from the second account.
  4. If your posts appears in the “Recent” happy days.
  5. If not, you have some work to do.

Okay so you’ve confirmed that your account is banned. Don’t panic! Firstly your faithful followers will still be seeing your posts. However take the following steps to tidy up your account and things should get back on track.

  1. Remove all hashtags from recent posts. Go to the post. Click the three small dots at top right hand corner and click “Edit”.
  2. Take a break for a couple of days.
  3. If normal service returns (use the above method to test) all good. If not you need to let Instagram know that despite your best efforts you are having issues with their platform.
  4. You can perform the “rage shake” which on some phones will bring you to a “Report a Problem” page on Instagram. Otherwise go to Settings/ Report a problem/ Something isn’t working and do this until your shadowban is lifted.

Avoid running into problems by using best practice in the first place.

If you have never experienced this issue, long may that situation last. If you are new to Instagram, use best practices when using the platform and you won’t run into problems.

  1. As always in online, be authentic. You know your customer best so choose specific hashtags that relate to their interest in your product. Don’t just wham in hashtags that are trending or popular and certainly avoid those banned ones!
  2. Do not post more than the maximum allowed hashtags. The limit is 30 but, honestly, the next time you see a post with a rake of hashtags ask yourself, as a user/ customer/ potential customer what do the last 20 hashtags add to your experience or understanding of the post? As the man said “It’s a limit, not a target!”
  3. Put the (few! specific! related!) hashtags that you do use in the post. You can keep your post tidy by adding spaces using the dots on your iOS keyboard.
  4. Don’t transgress Instagram’s Terms of Service and don’t use any third party apps that do.

Instagram can be a great platform for the right type of business. We’ve had some success for clients using Ads Manager on Facebook to advertise on Instagram – it allows great granularity and very targeted advertising if you have great imagery. Get in touch if you would like to talk about what can do for you. We have some really reasonable Social Media Management Packages that can include managing your Instagram.

Leave a comment below if you have any Instagram tips that you would like to share or any questions about the platform. If you like you can follow on Instagram.

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