Organic traffic on Instagram might be "free" but Instagram can take it away from us at any time they please. If you have a business accouont and your company relies on this organic traffic from Instagram, losing it can be a devastating blow to your bottom line and dramatically stunt your Instagram growth. One of the most common ways that Instagram accounts lose their organic reach is through something called an Instagram shadowban.
In this short blog post, I'm going to answer all of the common questions you might be having about Instagram shadowbans. Including...
- What is an Instagram shadowban?
- Why would an Instagram account become shadowbanned?
- How can I tell if my Instagram profile has been shadowbanned?
- How long does an Instagram shadowban last?
- How can I avoid having my Instagram account shadowbanned in the future?
Alright, let's dive right in.
What is Instagram Shadowban?
A shadowban (also called stealth banning or ghost banning ) is term that is often used to describe when a social media company limits the organic reach of a user's account.
This can happen to any account whether it's a business account or personal account. Now, "shadowbanning" isn't likely a term or concept they talk about at Instagram HQ, but it is absolutely something that goes on.
These can lead to a significant drop in the accounts organic reach and impact the reach and visibility of other posts composed going forward.
Instagram shadowbans (ghost bans) are almost always a result of some violation of the Instagram community guidelines or user policies. They can be detected through algorithms and AI or by being reported by other Instagram users.
When your Instagram account is shadowbanned, it can feel like your on an island and only you and maybe a couple of diehard fans are seeing your content. Your Instagram posts no longer appear on the Instagram feed and you might become hidden from the Instagram explore page or the hashtag search.
This is Instagram's way of punishing users (or just not rewarding them) for something that they didn't approve of (more on that shortly).
How Long Does an Instagram Shadowban Usually Last?
Instagram shadowban durations can vary but are almost always temporary and extend between 24-72 hours. A shadowban may be an early warning sign that your Instagram account is at risk of a full ban, but you will receive notifications if that does happen. If you believe that you've been shadowbanned, it is wise to review what might have caused it and immediately stop doing it so you don't slip into a full and potentially permanent banning.
What Causes Instagram Shadowban?
Instagram Shadowban Cause #1 Hassing other Users on the Platform
Confrontation is unfortunately far too common on all social media platforms. Instagram has a zero tolerance policy for any sort of harassment, cyberbullying or hate speech.
Instagram's algorithm has gotten very good at identifying things that might be harassment or bullying. In fact, the algorithm has perhaps gotten a bit too sensitive and often blocks things that weren't actually abusive. Remember, AI doesn't yet fully grasp sarcasm and it doesn't understand your personal relationships with other users. Telling your little brother that you're "going to kill him," for eating the last ice cream sandwich could unfortunately trigger a shadowban.
Instagram Shadowban Cause #2 Using Banned Hashtags (or "Broken Hashtags
Yes, some hashtags violate Instagram's terms. I've always found this odd (why don't they just make it impossible to use them?!?) but it is what it is.
Also, you might be shocked to see that some extremely basic terms are actually banned hashtags. Terms like #alone and #pushups for example were banned at one time (although they appear to be back now for obvious reasons).
How to Find if a Hashtag Is Banned on Instagram
To find out if a hashtag is banned on Instagram, head to the Instagram export page and type it in. If nothing appears (and it's spelled correctly and obviously something someone would use) it's banned.
Of course, #hasfiaghieagiea will show up as nothing and isn't banned, but use common sense. Also, using a broken hashtag like the one above would also be considered a violation of terms anyway.
Even if you aren't posting inappropriate content, using broken hashtags can trigger Instagram's shadowban.
So, if you have a completely mysterious Instagram shadowban, these banned hashtags might be the cause.
Frustratingly, you might have been victim of what Instagram is calling a "hashtag glitch," in which a hashtag is flagged inappropriately or by mistake when you didn't actually use it.
If you believe this happened, go back through your most recent posts and delete all hashtags. Of course, delete ones that are abused hashtag (banned) but also delete other hashtags as well.
Instagram Shadowban Cause #3 Using Too Many Hashtags or Irrelevant Hashtags
Instagram's hashtag feature is used to help their users find the content they want to see and navigate the sea of content. Putting hashtags that aren't relevant can clog up hashtag pages and can be perceived as spammy behavior.
Context matters as well. You might be using a broken hashtag or a hashtag that has a different meaning than you believe it does. Understand what a hashtag is about before using it.
Instagram Shadowban Cause #4 Using Software That Violates Instagram's Terms
There are a number of third party apps that promise to help you grow you Instagram followers count. These are almost always black hat and should be avoided. If you're experiencing a shadowban after using one of these softwares or growth services, stop doing so immediately and revoke access to them.
There are many legitimate softwares out there that can do things like auto post content and help you drive more engagement, but there are many that are gray hat. Remember that your goal is to maintain a good engagement rate and increase traffic. If you've used a software too much, you may have to prove to Instagram that you are not a bot and have an actual human presence behind your account.
Also, even if you're using a software such as buffer or hootsuite to schedule posts, ensure that they aren't posting too often. Posting multiple times per day on the platform can come off as spammy.
Instagram Shadowban Cause #5 Linked Facebook Page Has Been Shadowbanned or Banned
Instagram associates you with the Facebook pages you've connected to it. If those pages have violated terms, you might be shadowbanned as a result.
Unlink your profile from any Facebook account that might have violated their terms.
There are other potential causes but these are the 5 biggest ones.
How Can I check if I'm Shadowbanned on Instagram?
In most cases, you will have had some sort of content censored by Instagram before a shadowban begins. If you think you're shadowbanned and you recently had a post removed by the platform for bullying, it's likely that you are in fact shadowbanned.
If you want to verify if this is the case, navigate to "Account status," inside of your Instagram profile.
Go to your Profile > Menu (Hamburger Stack Icon) > Settings (Cog icon) > Account > Account Status
Fortunately, there are multiple, free Instagram shadowban tester tools on the market. HeistSocial.com is one that can tell if you've actually been shadowbanned or not.
However, I feel these tools are possibly limited and suggest performing the manual shadowban test below.
Step #1 Create a New Post on Instagram with Multiple Hashtags
This should be done from the account that you suspect might be shadowbanned. Be sure that the hashtags you use are not banned or the same hashtags as the ones used previously.
Step #2 Access the Instagram App with another Instagram Profile
Preferably, find a friend who has a different Instagram profile that can search this for you.
Step #3 Try to Find the Post You Created
Search for both the user handle as well as the hashtags used. If you can find the post from your main account, you are not shadowbanned. If you can't find it, it's likely that you are. Obviously, make sure that the other account hasn't blocked you or that you haven't blocked them (talk about awkward by the way).
How Do I Fix a Remove Instagram Shadowban?
I recommend that you wait at least 72 hours before taking any action. During this time, refrain from using Instagram at all except to monitor your engagement and reach. If after 72 hours you are still noticing that you aren't appearing on Instagram feeds or in searches, it is time to contact Instagram support.
You can do this by navigating into the Instagram settings page and clicking on "report a problem."
Go to your Profile > Menu > Settings (Cog icon) > Help > Report a Problem .
This is the standard way to get in touch with their support team. Tell them what you believe is going on and find out what needs to be done to remove the ban.
Last Resort: Switch from Business to Personal Profile
It seems that business profiles get the brunt of the shadowban issues. If your business profile is shadowbanned for an extended period of time, switching back to a personal profile may solve the issue. This is not ideal and not our first recommendation, but it's reported to work. Personal accounts seem to be shadowbanned far less often than business accounts.
How Do I Avoid an Instagram Shadowbann in the Future?
The simplest answer is to just follow Instagram's rules. Read through the Instagram terms of service as well as the Instagram community guidelines. Never engage with or create inappropriate content or content that violates Instagram's terms.
Understand the hashtags you're using and avoid using broken hashtags at all costs.
Focus on creating quality content and not spamming and you should be ok moving forward. Breaking rules doesn't go unpunished on Instagram so be careful!