Help! I think I've been shadow banned!

Shadow banning is a poorly propagated myth.  In all honesty, we believe that Instagram has propagated this myth to discourage people from using growth hacking techniques to grow their Instagram accounts as it takes away from people spending money on advertisements to grow their accounts.  i.e. Instagram potentially loses money if people choose to use growth hacking techniques instead of spending advertising dollars.

However opinions aside let's get down to the facts, shadow banning is not a real thing, and Instagram itself says it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions. This is directly confirmed from Instagram in a recent whiteboarding session with major media outlets. 

You can read the article yourself here:
Source: Tech Crunch

However, if you do not believe Instagram and want to take every precaution possible to ensure your engagement is not affected.  We have compiled the best anti-shadow banning tips & techniques for you here.

1. Using banned hashtags

There have been some recent developments regarding banned hashtags. At the beginning of the year, hashtags which had been ‘hijacked’ to display spammy or pornographic content would display a limited amount of posts. You might have been using a totally innocent hashtag to push your lovely content, such as #tgif, #boho, and even #dogsofinstagram (!) only for that particular hashtag to be taken over by people promoting ‘less lovely’ content, ruining things for everyone.

In the original version of this blog post, I recommended that using these banned hashtags could potentially result in a shadowban, or at least have a negative impact on your engagement, and advised removing any banned hashtags from your post. However, if you check those banned hashtags now, you’ll see that all associated content is displayed. You won’t find the ‘Recent posts from # have been hidden…” message. It seems all previously banned hashtags (that aren’t obviously pornographic or offensive) have actually been restored!

So, if you want to use #dogsofinstagram to share a photo of your #goodboye with the world, go ahead! Just use your discretion when it comes to hashtags and avoid any that could be deemed pornographic or offensive.

2. Overusing hashtags

Another innocent mistake that was previously thought to cost you your visibility and engagement on Instagram is using the same hashtags too often. I’m erring on the side of caution here and keeping this one in.

Although Instagram has said that using too many hashtags too often won’t effect your visibility, there’s a chance your content might get picked up on as spam, even if you’re simply using the same hashtags across your posts to maintain continuity.

So, be wary of posting exactly the same hashtags each time you post, and don’t rely too much on branded hashtags. This isn’t only to play it safe regarding a potential shadowban – using the same hashtags over and over again will limit the discoverability of your content regardless. To reach a wider audience and increase your chances of being discovered through the hashtag search, use a varied  mix of relevant hashtags and keep an eye on which hashtags bring the most visitors to your Instagram, as these are the ones it makes sense to use often.

3. You’ve been reported!

If your account has been reported, Instagram could decide to shut it down – even if you don’t think you’ve broken any rules.  😱

There have been cases in which brand accounts have been reported by competitors. Unfortunately, you can’t always know people’s motives for unfairly reporting your account. However, Instagram’s official policy is to review the content on your account to ensure it complies with their T&Cs before making a decision. If your account does get disabled and you’re not sure why, you can  appeal Instagram’s decision and hopefully get your account up and running again.

But what about when your account gets reported and doesn’t get shut down? There has been talk that this can be one of the causes of a shadow ban.

Does being reported actually have any impact on your reach and engagement?

Maybe. Maybe not.  🤷

Either way, avoiding posting offensive content or using bots or dodgy third party apps should keep this from happening.  If you stick to the rules, there shouldn’t be a problem. Ultimately, it’s unlikely Instagram is trying to catch anyone out. They want to keep people on the platform – that’s how they make their money!

How to remove the Instagram shadow ban

If you’re still convinced your account has been shadow banned, or you’re not 100% sure whether the Instagram shadow ban is real but you want to play it safe, here’s a summary of what to do – and what not to do!

  • Avoid third party apps that don’t abide by Instagram’s terms of service, such as apps which post photos to your account directly without accessing Instagram’s Business API
  • Engage with your community organically. Put the time and effort in and leave meaningful comments. You get what you give!
  • Mix up the hashtags you’re using and make sure they’re relevant to your content (and not offensive)
  • Stick to Instagram’s T&C’s!

Following these tips are going to give you the best possible chance of maintaining a good level of visibility and engagement  so you can grow your account on the platform. Even if the Instagram shadow ban isn’t what we originally thought it was, it doesn’t hurt to stay aware of the ground rules and the best practices, and keep an eye out for changes to the platform and/or your account.

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