Over the last year, many social media platforms changed and will continue to change significantly. Recently, conversations about moderating content on social media, which can hinder brands' efforts to get seen — especially small businesses. Specifically, one tactic is shadow banning. It's speculated that Instagram has increased this practice.
In February 2019, Instagram made a statement to address complaints users made regarding their content not appearing when they used specific hashtags on their Facebook Business page. In a way, Instagram admitted to their use of shadow banning in their statement.
But what exactly does shadow banning mean?
Shadow banning is the practice of blocking or partially blocking a user or their content from being seen in an online community without making them aware or communicating what they’ve done wrong.
Now, why should we be cautious of Instagram's shadow ban?
With 800M+ users globally, Instagram is one of the most popular social media channels for marketing. Additionally, there has been a 16.4% year-over-year increase in social shopping, with many small businesses and entrepreneurs having success with direct purchases through the platform in the last year. Because of these trends, it's critical that brands keep shadow banning at top of mind.
How to tell you have been shadow-banned on Instagram
It's simple and, at the same time, not very simple to check if you've been shadow banned from Instagram. But ultimately, it is doable, and no online tools are necessary.
First, check your hashtag pages. As you're looking at pages of the hashtags you use regularly and see a message that posts have been hidden, you may have been shadow banned for using those hashtags (Hubspot). You can click here to for a handy hashtag checker.
Another way is with a bit of help from your friends. And that is by finding someone who does not follow you then posting on your Instagram account using the hashtags you regularly use. After your post, ask the person who does not follow you to check the feeds of the hashtags that you tagged on your post and ask if they see your content. If they do not, you may have been shadow banned.
Tips for Avoiding Shadow banned Status
Reestablishing your account as a legitimate account relatively easy.
Do not use bots. If you used a bot or automated service for more exposure or to increase followers, delete it immediately. Make sure your Instagram account is not attached to the bot's accounts, used to inflate your follower and “like” count. Go to your desktop Instagram, click "Edit Profile," and then "Apps and Websites." If you see any of your bot accounts in the Active tab, click "Remove" to remove them from your account altogether.
Review your hashtags. Look through your hashtags and see if there are any broken hashtags; sometimes, this leads to your account being shadow banned as the Instagram algorithm thinks your account may be a bot due to broken hashtags. Additionally, ensure that you’re not accidentally using any hashtags that are associated with controversial topics like false or hateful information. Correcting these tags will help you get out of the shadow banning void.
Take a break. Lastly, sometimes users reported that the best way to reclaim an account after a shadow ban was to take a complete 48-hour break from their Instagram accounts to reset the system, both the Instagram algorithm and your algorithm on the app.
Avoiding Instagram’s shadow ban
The simplest way to avoid being shadow banned on Instagram is to post helpful, authentic content, and abide by best practices when growing your audience. (Hubspot)