What is the 'shadowban' and how can you tell if you're affected?

Have you noticed on Instagram that your engagement has suddenly dropped, followers going down or images not showing up in search? Over the past few months, an increasing number of users have been affected by what has come to be known as the 'shadowban' and the worst part is that you wouldn't even know if it was affecting you!

We've recently had lots of questions from our friends and clients about the shadow ban, and we wanted to shed some light on what it is, how you can tell if it's affecting you and most importantly - how to fix it!


What is the shadowban?

The term shadowban has actually been around for a while now, but it has only recently gone 'mainstream'. The term by definition means the act of banning a user from an online community, in a way that the user doesn't know they've been banned.

For example, Twitter recently announced that it would filter out spam accounts by applying a temporary 'time-out' to users whose tweets are deemed offensive. However, Twitter notifies users that they have been banned rather than blocking them without notice.

On Instagram, the shadowban will hide your instagram posts in search from those who don't follow you, and you can be shadowbanned for something as innocent as posting the same hashtag repeatedly. More specifically, if you've been shadowbanned on Instagram and you use hashtags on your posts, only those who follow you will be able to see your posts when searching for a hashtag you've used.

For those hoping to grow their community using strategic hashtags this is detrimental to growing your following and engagement - it even defeats the point of hashtagging entirely!

Given how important hashtags are for being discovered by new users on Instagram, being shadowbanned can be a big problem. It can halt or decline your following and engagement and if you use Instagram for business, it can affect sales and your chances of reaching new customers.


What causes an Instagram Shadowban?

Shadowbans exist to put a stop to inappropriate or unwanted behaviour. So any users who are deemed to be spammy or displaying abusive behaviour against Instagram's policy is a likely candidate for being shadowbanned. This means things like repeatedly using the same hashtag (which could be seen as spammy), using a hashtag that Instagram usually associates with spam accounts, following/unfollowing people at a rapid rate in one go, liking/commenting on an unusual amount of images.

In this respect, the Instagram Shadowban seems to be banning users who are displaying signs of using a bot to grow their engagement and following, but it could happen to any of us who are innocently trying to reach new people.


How can I avoid the shadowban?

1. Avoid using spammy, broken or overused hashtags. Due to the increasing number of users on Instagram, hashtags can become over-ridden with inappropriate images that don't directly relate to those hashtags. For example #foodblogger is a perfectly innocent hashtag, but if inappropriate images started to appear on the search for this, then in theory, Instagram would put a shadowban on this hashtag. If you use a hashtag that has a ban placed on it in a block of hashtags, then 'word on the street' is that these hashtags will also become ineffective.

2. Stop using bots: this means what it says. Stop all forms of automation. It might boost your vanity metrics such a following, but what are you actually gaining from it? It's obvious when an account is using such software and it's against Instagram's Terms of Service. If you're using it then yes, you're likely to be shadowbanned as well as any other accounts you're running from the same software because it all comes from the same IP address!

3. Don't abuse Instagram's Daily and Hourly limits. There are limits on how many users you can follow and unfollow, and the number of likes and comments you're doing. This could be different depending on the age of your account, but the general guidelines is that you should do more than 150 likes, 60 follows/unfollows and 60 comments in an hour.


I've been shadowbanned, how can I fix it?

1. STOP USING BOTS TO GROW YOUR FOLLOWING! I think we'll all agree that having 500 followers who truly love what you do is way better than having 20,000 follows who are also using auto bots to like and comment on your pictures. It's not an effective way to support or grow your business and these users simply won't be clicking through or buying what you're selling. Delete all of the software you're using to do this, and revoke access to any suspicious looking applications from your 'Authorised applications' on Instagram Desktop.

2. Check that the hashtags in your set haven't been banned. You'll need to do this one by one. If one of your hashtags has been banned, you won't see anything at all - or you'll see a message displaying that this hashtag has been hidden due to misuse.

3. Switch from a business profile back to personal. Lots of people have been saying that switching from a business profile back to personal profile will help your engagement. Instagram is owned by Facebook, and it's a wide known fact that Facebook penalises businesses organic engagement so that they have to make use of paid ads - thus making Facebook money. You do the maths - it's better to have a personal profile than a business one for engagement but it's also best to experiment and see what works for you. It's only a theory that this will help with the shadowban and definitely not proven!

We would advise that using a mixture of hashtags and advertising anyway is a healthy and sustainable marketing strategy that will help boost following, engagement and target new customers - not one or the other.

As with most things on social media, have a play around and see what provides results for you.

4. Take a break. Everyone needs a break every now and again. People have been reporting that their shadowban has been solved after two weeks. Try not posting or engaging at first for a few days, then if that still hasn't worked then you may need to leave it a little longer. The most important thing is not to panic- it's not going to be in place forever and your engagement should return soon!

Do you think you're being shadowbanned? Or do you have any tips? Message me on Instagram @lucyhitchcock_