Figuring Out The Instagram Shadowban
Hi, my names Lauren and I've been a lazy Hashtagger.
That's right, i've let myself down on Instagram, my absolute favourite social media platform and now i'm really paying the price. My followers are plummeting, my likes have halved and my confidence have been knocked. But instead of sitting around and whinging about it (anymore than I already have) I thought I'd make a plan and share the knowledge I've gained - from my copious amounts of research - with you. In the hopes that none of you will have to suffer like I have (OK, maybe that's a touch dramatic.)
before we begin, lets bear in mind-
It's all a bit elusive - Instagram haven't really said much on the subject and no one is actually sure of anything right now, all the articles I've read and the one i'm about to write are based on experience, theories and user 'evidence' of sorts.
*sidenote - every time I write Shadowban my autocorrect tries to change it to shadowbox so if you see the word shadowbox could ya just roll with it and read as 'shadowban'? *facepalm* Thanks.
What is the Instagram shadowban?
The general concusses is this - Instagram is now so popular that it's turned into a wonderful place for both - people who enjoy sharing beautiful photos and chatting with the community as well as people who like to post naughty and/or offensive content for the world to see and be shocked by. As well as this people are using a lot apps to get their followers and likes up - effectively cheating - which isn't allowed in our happy IG world. To try and prevent all this it seems Instagram are policing their platform so that we can happily scroll through innocent hashtags without being confronted with penis pic's, and we can actually talk to likeminded humans rather than being spammed by automated apps. A great thing, thank you Instagram.
The trouble is they can't check on every person and just block the inappropriate ones, there's not enough hours in the day and new accounts are popping up constantly (so to speak!) so they need something a touch more automated. They appear to be tracking certain behaviors that seem 'spammy' and robotic as well as hashtags that have become inundated, then they simply block them. But the beauty of this, and what makes it different to a normal ban (where you would be notified) is that the person being blocked isn't aware that they have been blocked. They can post all day everyday hashtagging away, they can check that they are showing up in those tags and the people who follow them can still see what they're posting. However, to everyone else in the would who isn't following that person, they are invisible. Their posts aren't actually showing up under their tags and they are practically undiscoverable but non-the-wiser. Hence the Shadowban.
Well that's great, What's not to like?
It is great, it seems to be the best way to control the majority of content and hide as much inappropriateness as possible, as well as clamping down on the robot 'gramers HOWEVER, the trouble is when poor unfortunates like you and I stumble into the wrong hashtag or display 'robotic' or spammy tendencies, Instagram doesn't know how to determine the difference between us and 'them' so we get stuck in the crossfire and taken down with them. A major issue for small businesses who use instagram to promote their beautiful products, I'm sure you'll agree. *crazy, frantic eyes*
So how do you get hit with a SHADOWBan?
As far as anyone knows, the main things that cause a shadowban are
1) using banned hashtags
2) bad behaviour
So let's look at those things -
Which hashtags are banned?
As you can imagine, some of the banned hashtags are really nasty, insulting and offensive that nice gals and guys like us wouldn't dream of using anyway, but there are some really unexpected tags that are now banned because they became popular and therefore saturated with unpleasant posts. It's really important to research your tags before you get posting because they can be things like #book and #beautyblogger. The way to tell the difference - a normal tag will have 'top posts' and then show a block of the 9 top posts, underneath them will be a short break followed by 'most recent' (as shown on the left below) - whereas a banned tag with say 'top posts' show about 30 posts and below will say-
"recent posts from #beautyblogger are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet instagram's community guidelines"
So it's always best to check your tags before you post, here's a helpful graphic from Plannthat.com which includes some popular hashtags that are banned - but remember it doesn't include all of them so yes use it, but don't rely on it.
So that's banned hashtags sussed, we're going to avoid them;
now onto bad behaviour...
what CONSTITUTES bad behaviour?
The point of instagram is that real people can use it to share images and connect with each other in a normal, human way. So the trick is that there is no trick, you need to act like a person, in real life ...with the addition of hashtags. Bad behaviour is when we act spammy, which is what I was doing unknowingly.
There's different ways to define spammy behaviour all of which can encourage a shadowban and are also considered bad practice on social media. I've broken them down into a list below...
- Using apps or websites that automate anything on your account: NOTHING should be liking, commenting, following/unfollowing or posting for you - not only is it asking to be blocked as it's not actually you, but following people so they follow you back, and then swiftly unfollowing them is really antisocial and rude.
- Don't go on a spree: (unless it's shopping which is always allowed) try to avoid mad bursts on instagram if you suddenly like 300 images and follow 100 new accounts it will look really robotic and can cause a red flag. From my research it seems you're 'safe' if you stay below 200 likes, 60 comments and 60 follows per hour (Which still sounds like a lot to me!)
- Don't leave low value comments: it's really great to partake in the conversation on instagram but each of our interactions should add value, we're all guilty I'm sure of leaving some heart-eyed-emoji's when we see something beautiful but instead of just a few emojis try expressing it with words, (when you mean it) it may not sound like a big difference but it is more valuable, both in terms of algorithms and the person receiving the comment - it's much easier to reply to a statement than just 3 emojis - the best way to do this is to simply consider what it is you like about the picture and tell them that i.e. "the colours you've used are so beautiful!"
- Where to tag: although there are always conflicting opinions (especially when the subject matter is so ambiguous!) the general consensus seems to be that putting your hashtags in your caption is better for avoiding shadowbanning than putting your tags in a comment below. I've recently switched - from adding a comment after I've posted to including them in the caption - trying to ditch my ban.
- Don't use the same tags all the time: This was my mistake, I got lazy and used the same tags on almost every post - #chunkyknit #knit #giantknit #smallbusiness etc it was easy, and I set up a shortcut so they'd all just pop up. I didn't realise but this is really spammy behaviour. It's so important to find the latest tags *THAT ARE RELEVANT* and tag accordingly, without constantly repeating your tags. Think outside of the box and do your research to find the best and more appropriate tags for your posts (and make sure they're not banned tags!)
How to check if you've been shadowbanned...
You might already have an inkling that you've been banned, your engagement is really low, your followers may be declining rather than growing and you feel like you're putting in loads of effort but not getting anywhere... but it's so hard to tell because when you look at your posts and their tags, they all show up.
The best way to find out is to post something and use an obscure/uncommon hashtag on it. Have a look at that tag to see where your post is sitting, then, create a second account - or use someone else's account who doesn't follow you. From the new account, check your uncommon hashtag - the reason you want it to be uncommon is that you'll be able to find your post on it quickly. If it's 'safe' then it should be sitting in the same place as you saw it on your account and if it's/your banned then it won't be there at all.
I use #laurenastondesigns on most of my posts and was horrified when I compared this tag on 'my account' to the new account. Most of my posts were missing. Out of 50 posts that I could see on my account only 12 of those were actually showing on the tag.
& if you have been effected, what to do next?
Again, the trouble is we don't really know. All we can do is try to be on our 'best behaviour' if you're doing any of the naughties above then stop immediately and start with your good practise. (there's a list of do's and don't below)
The only other thing that has been suggested is a break from Instagram. Again this is ambiguous, some people have said coming off it completely for 3 days helped, others have said that their's has been fixed by not posting for a week but still commenting and interacting. If you've been effected I'd say it's up to you to do what you feel comfortable with. I deleted my app for 3 days so I couldn't go on. I do seem to be showing up in tags now, however my engagement is still at about 50% of what it was a few months ago and my followers are still declining faster than they're increasing so I am considering a week long break. (what will I do with my evenings?!)
And finally, a summary of the do's and don'ts:
- Be a normal human, interact and chat like you would in the real world.
- Check your hashtags before posting
- Use a variety of tags each post, specific to your image such as #peonies or #cockapoopuppy / #harrythecockapoo and general tags like #thehappynow or #pet
- Increase your engagement after you've posted - go and see who else is using the same tags and who has photos similar to yours and interact.
- Use your hashtags in your captions rather than in the comments
- Be consistent - with your posting, images, comments etc - try to keep it all stable.
- Have a break if you want to try and shift a current ban.
- Post your normal beautiful images and keep your chin up.
- Use any automated apps or sites
- Go on liking/commenting/following spree's
- Constantly use the same tags on different posts
- Leave low value comments - get out of the emoji habit (you can use them but mix them in with words)
- Try not to edit your captions after you've posted them
- Post too often - max 3 times a day if you can
- Panic. Remember, we're all cobbling information together as best we can. You might just be having a bad week and even if it is a ban - it might not last long! Be yourself and enjoy your posting, I know it's frustrating because you want to share your beautiful pictures with the world but it's not about the numbers. You keep plugging away and it'll all come right in the end. (and if not tell me and I'll come and like all your pictures :p)
Some bedtime reading:
The following blogs and websites have brilliant advice and information about the shadowban and instagram in general, so if I haven't completely bamboozled you with all this writing then I highly recommend having a look at any/all of them:
meandorla.co.uk - on the shadowban
plannthat.com - on the shadowban
plannthat.com - on banned hashtags
thepreviewapp.com - on the shadowban
camrynrabideau.com - on her beating the shadowban
I also want to recommend Helen from The Creative Business Network who runs brilliant workshops on Instagram (and all sorts!) and does small business mentoring - I went to one of there IG workshops last week and it was brilliant to talk it through with someone who's knowledgeable and sensible.
I think that's quite enough for this evening, go and grab a G&T in the sun and try not to worry if you've been effected by the ban. Feel free to comment below with suggestions or questions and I will help as best I can,
Take care friends <3