How To Avoid the Dreaded Instagram Shadowban

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So what even is the Instagram Shadowban?

Experts can’t agree on whether it is a real thing or not.  And Instagram is being coy about it by neither confirming nor denying that it exists.  If you’re an avid Instagram user, you’ll have heard all about the frenzy that is the Instagram Shadowban.  Apparently, Instagram has decided to hide your content from being discovered by others, without your knowledge.

When you are shadowbanned, the affected posts will only be seen by your followers.  Anyone who is not following you, will not be able to see that post.  This is a big big problem for you if you’re using hashtags with the intention of being discovered by other users.  Users have been reporting a huge nosedive in engagement since the shadowban.  This would happen to you if you’ve been relying on hashtags to bring you new engagement and new followers.

So how do you know you’ve been Shadowbanned?

The best thing to do is to ask some friends to unfollow you and then go to the search feature and see if they can find your post in the hashtags that you’ve used.  If they can’t find you, then chances are, you’ve been shadowbanned.  An alternative to this is to use this website to quickly tell you whether or not you’ve been shadowbanned.  However, use that website with a pinch of salt.  I’ve personally found that it works like a charm, but other experts can’t seem to agree on whether it’s accurate or reliable at all.

Why is this happening?

There’s a whole host of different explanations floating around about why this is happening to us.  For starters, it was rumoured that since Instagram is owned by Facebook, they are trying to purposely limit your reach so that you will pay for advertising to reach more people.  However, Instagram responded back with: “Just to clarify, when a post uses a hashtag, it doesn’t guarantee it will show up under that hashtag because of the millions of users combined with the millions of hashtags.  Only the most popular posts show up under the hashtag and is constantly changing.” (Source).

The shadowban could also be Instagram’s response to all the automated likes, comments, follows and bots.  (This is a likely explanation as you’ll see further down in the section about how to remove the shadowban.)

So you’ve heard that the reason why your account is being shadowbanned is because you have a business account?  Instagram has also directly said that hashtags use an algorithm that specifically affects business accounts and personal accounts they have flagged as “business-related”.  This means it doesn’t matter whether you have a business or a personal account, if they notice that you’re doing business on there or look like a business, they’ve got you on their algorithm radar.

It is also rumoured that Instagram is introducing an artificial intelligence search capability to eventually replace hashtags.  Facebook is already using this technology which is called Lumos.  You see this in action at the most basic level when Facebook suggests users for you to tag; facial recognition.  But if you go to the photo app on your iPhone and click the magnifying glass in the top right corner, you can see this in action even more powerfully.  Try typing in some words related to some objects you’ve recently taken photos of.  I tried “flowers” since I know I’ve been taking pictures of flowers.  The phone is able to read your photos and show you search results based on what you’ve typed in.

In future, Instagram is rumoured to be using this technology to determine whether you are abusing their hashtags or not.  This is to weed out hashtag irrelevancy.  If you are using hashtags that Instagram deems unrelated to the photo you have posted, it could negatively impact your account.  This means it’s more important than ever to keep hashtags relevant.

How do you get Shadowbanned?

Shadowbanning can happen from a variety of different reasons.  It can happen when you are using Instagram’s features too aggressively on the platform.  It can also happen when you’re using “abused” or “broken” hashtags.  A broken hashtag is one that has been associated with nudity or suicide or anything else Instagram does not allow on its platform.  For example, when you go to search for #woman or #beautyblogger, it comes up with the following message:

Using these broken hashtags will render your entire post unsearchable under any of the hashtags you have used.  This would mean your post would be shadowbanned.

If your account is constantly being reported for spam, infringing copyright or inappropriate content, you can also find yourself in the shadowban jailhouse.

How do I remove the Shadowban?

1. First of all, stop using software and bots to automate your Instagram account.  This is a violation of Instagram’s terms of service.  Delete and log out of all automation software and websites.

To ensure that your account is totally clean:

  • Log into your account on a desktop computer
  • Navigate to your own Instagram profile
  • Click “edit profile”
  • Click “Authorized Applications”
  • Click the blue “revoke access” button on any apps that you don’t recognise

2. Stop overusing Instagram.  Stop liking, commenting, following or unfollowing people for at least a 48 hour period.  Once this period is over, you can slowly start using Instagram’s features again, but they must not be automated actions.  You must be genuinely liking posts or following people manually.

3. Check all your hashtags for any abused or broken hashtags.  Remove any hashtags from your posts that come up with the following message:

That’s it.  In the end, it’s just about not trying to cheat Instagram’s algorithm or system, but using Instagram authentically and naturally.  You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by using automated software to try and grow your following and then end up getting shadowbanned, stunting your growth and engagement!


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