Ever since Instagram rolled out it’s algorithm in the middle of last year we’ve heard a number of complaints from users & brands who have seen drops in their engagement. This can be extremely frustrating, especially when you’ve been putting a lot of effort into creating original content & engaging with users to grow your fan base.
Recently, the engagement debacle has gotten worse, much worse, especially with brands on Instagram. Clients have been noticing that they’re not gaining followers as quickly or are even losing followers and that their posts are no longer showing up in popular hashtags that they’ve been successful using in the past.
This anomaly has come to be known as “Instagram Shadowbanning.”
What does ‘Instagram Shadowbanning’ mean?
Shadowbanning, also known as Stealth Banning or Comment Banning, is the act of blocking a user from an online community in a way that doesn’t let them know they’ve been banned. So this could be happening to your photos & you would have no idea you’ve been Shadowbanned!
What does Shadowbanning look like on Instagram? Instagram will now hide your posts that are connected to a hashtag from users that aren’t already following you. So if a user clicks a hashtag that you have used in association with a brand post, your photo won’t show up in the hashtag feed unless that person is already following you. So if you’ve previously been using hashtags to grow your account and gain new fans, this will definitely have an impact on your account growth and could even result in you losing followers.
“I have been experiencing less engagement, does that mean I’ve been Shadowbanned?”
Not necessarily. Unfortunately, all of the algorithms that Instagram has been rolling out over the past year are known to negatively effect engagement on users’ posts. Just because you’ve been experiencing lower engagement rates doesn’t mean you’ve been Shadowbanned.
The easiest way to discover if your posts are being Shadowbanned is to ask a user who doesn’t follow you to click on a hashtag that you’ve used and see if your photo shows up in the feed. If your photo isn’t in the feed, you have most likely been Shadowbanned.
If they do find your photo, then you’re experiencing low engagement for a different reason. Try switching up your posting times, create new types of content or make more of an effort to engage with potential new fans (like and comment on their photos) on a daily basis.
“Why have I been Shadowbanned?”
There are a few different reasons that your posts could have been Shadowbanned.
You use the same hashtags repeatedly.
We’ve discovered that some accounts who use the same block of hashtags on every single one of their posts have been Shadowbanned. Because you’ve been using the same ones, you might have been flagged as a spam account. Make sure to mix up your hashtags on every single post in order to keep them fresh & avoid being banned.
You’ve been using a bot for follower growth.
If you’ve been using an automation tool to help increase your follower base & engagement, you’re likely to have been Shadbowbanned. These tools, like (the former) Instagress and Likestagram are clearly against Instagram’s Terms of Service which prohibit use of automation services, such as bots.
You like & comment too frequently on posts.
Instagram has limits for how many photos you can like or comment on in a given hour. If you’re being super diligent on your engagement and notice that you’ve been reaching the liking limit (you’ve reached the limit when you’re no longer allowed to like photos), it’s likely that Instagram has flagged you with bot behavior and has Shadowbanned your account.
You’re using a “broken hashtag.”
A “broken hashtag” is a hashtag that has been flagged with inappropriate content. When a hashtag becomes extremely popular, it can become overrun with inappropriate content. Even if the hashtag itself is innocent, Instagram promotes a safe online space and will have to remove the hashtag from their community. Double check all of the hashtags that you’re using to make sure that they aren’t associated with vulgar or inappropriate content.
Your account has been reported.
If your account has been reported to Instagram, someone thinks that you’ve been acting in an inappropriate way on the platform. If this happens, Instagram is likely to Shadowban you.
“How Can I Grow My Account if I Don’t Use Hashtags?”
Focus on content.
The best thing that you can do to grow your account is have great content. Focus on a great photoshoot highlighting your product or brand or brainstorm ways to produce new & unique content that users will associate with you. Take time in using other features, like Instagram Stories, to find new fans.
Don’t use bots to increase your following. Make sure that you are behaving in an authentic way on the platform & doing your engagement by yourself. This is also the best way to make sure that the fans you are targeting are ones that will interact with your brand & will be interested in what you have to offer.
Play by the rules.
Especially if you’re using Instagram as one of your main methods of marketing for your business, make sure that you know what the Terms of Service are and that you are abiding by them. Shadowbanning is bad, but it could be worse. Instagram has been known to delete accounts that repeatedly don’t abide by their terms and you definitely wouldn’t want that to happen.
At the end of the day, remember that Instagram is a community. Use the platform as it’s meant to be used, to foster a community of creative individuals and friends.