The Instagram Shadowban

Hummingbird CreativeBranding & Creative

should you be worried?

There a rumors swirling around the Internet about an Instagram Shadowban. What’s an Instagram Shadowban? Has your brand been affected? How can you fix it if you have?

The Instagram Shadowban was rumored to be Instagram rendering your hashtags “undiscoverable”. You can use your hashtags, but your photo won’t be seen by users outside your followers list. Your photo won’t come up in the hashtag feeds of anyone who doesn’t follow you, reducing the reach of your account and making it much harder to reach a new audience.

But, there’s more to the story than the Internet thought.

Turns out, Instagram was actually working hard to clean up their platform from bots.

At least 5 companies, maybe more, were shut down by order of Instagram. MassPlanner and Instagress were amongst the companies shut down and accounts that registered using their IP addresses were likely marked with “spam-like” activity.  

massplanner instagram shadowban hummingbird creative group

Instagram is very clear in their terms of service: no automation. This includes programs that comment as you or automatic posting services.

“But wait!”, you might be saying to yourself. “I’m not a bot! I don’t even use automation software”

In some cases, it was an Instagram glitch. Real users contacted Instagram directly to report a problem with their hashtags amd had their Shadowban lifted after speaking with someone.

There is one other thing that could be causing your account to be Shadowbanned. Recently, it’s been confirmed there have been over 60,000 banned hashtags. That means there are 60,000 hashtags you should most likely avoid when posting. With 60,000 banned hashtags, it can be difficult to know if you’re using a bad one. Using just one bad hashtag can make all your hashtags undiscoverable.

Yikes.

Why though?

Let’s take a look at what’s causing certain hashtags to be banned, how to spot a bad one on your own post and what to do if you’ve used on recently.

If you’ve noticed a drop in engagement recently, you might have a Shadowban. Large numbers of brands have noticed a massive drop-off in engagement rates, the largest since Instagram changed their feed from chronological to the new algorithm (which a ton of people are still mad about).

Spotting a bad hashtag that can earn your brand a Shadowban is fairly easy– just search for it. When you go to the Instagram search page, it should look like this:

instagram shadowban #nationalloveyourpetday top posts hummingbird creative groupinstagram shadowban #nationalloveyourpetday recent posts hummingbird creative group

The screen is split into top posts (the cream of the crop!) and most recent posts. If a hashtag is good, it will look like normal. If it’s not good, it will look like this:

ATTACHMENT DETAILS  instagram-shadowban-desk-recent-posts

Notice how the recent posts section has nothing in it? That means the hashtag is Shadowbanned and it might be best to leave it out of your content plan. Sometimes Instagram will even leave a note explaining why the posts under this hashtag have been limited.

Maybe you’re an entrepreneur who posts Instagram videos of your work. Well, you can’t use #workflow to reach more people. Maybe you’re a business celebrating the new year. Don’t use #NewYears or #NewYearsDay to celebrate. Shadowbanned. Even #DogsofInstagram caught a temporary Shadowban.

You could also face a Shadowban if you use the same good hashtag a bunch over the course of several months. If you continuously use the same hashtag over a long period of time, Instagram might feel your account is being a little spammy.

Of course, it’s always a good practice to keep your hashtags fresh and switch them out so your audience doesn’t get stale.

Long story short, the Shadowban sounds like it’s actually a new type of Instagram algorithm targeting hashtags.

Some important rules to remember are:

  • Some hashtags might be banned forever
  • Some hashtags might be banned temporarily
  • Using banned hashtags can affect your entire account and engagement
  • Using one bad hashtag affects them all

Are you concerned about what hashtags you can or can’t use? Check out this free tool that allows you to search for hashtags and determine if they’re banned before you use them.

Avoiding the dreaded Shadowban is (hopefully) pretty simple.

  1. Don’t use banned or broken hashtags on your post. Use the tool linked above to check!
  2. Don’t use software that violates Instagrams Terms of Service. It’s best for your brand account to act like a real human.
  3. Avoid huge surges in your Instagram activity. Instagram does have limits to the amount of photos you can like, comments you can leave and accounts you can follow or unfollow within a certain period of time. But, everyone’s limits are different. Users under 3 months have the lowest limits, to discourage creating accounts for bot usage.
  4. Avoid being reported by other users. Being reported isn’t an automatic Shadowban. Instagram will check out your profile to make sure your account isn’t violating their Terms of Service and determine from their. If you’re found at-fault Instagram may Shadowban you or even fully disable your account.

With Instagram staying vague about what’s going on, there’s no real clear answer about what’s going on, what’s for sure, leaving the Internet rumor mill churning. However, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry!