WELL, IT'S OFFICIAL – I GOT SHADOW BANNED.
"You got WHAT? What even is that??"
Since most people have no clue what shadow-banning actually is and everyone is freaked that it'll happen to them, I figured I'd give you all the scoop on my experience and hopefully help you make sure it doesn't happen to you!
Okay, what even is this ban??
Shadow-banning is basically when Instagram's algorithms/spammer-guard systems look at your account and, based on your posting and hashtag behavior, flags your account as a spam account and removes your feed from all search queries. This renders your account effectively invisible from everyone but your current followers...
...AND IT'S THE WORST!
Now, to my knowledge Instagram hasn't officially released any information on shadow banning nor do they technically acknowledge that it even exists. The best they've done is put out a little disclaimer that some accounts aren't showing up in search results – but then they finished the release by simply listing ways to market yourself better on Instagram instead of actually helping with the situation. Not awesome, Instagram, not awesome.
This happened to me last week.
All the sudden, in the span of a few hours, my post engagement dropped to a fraction of what I had been getting and I was no longer showing up in any hashtag search results – that means no new followers, limited marketing, and a lot of headache.
Long story short, I ended up having to take a complete break from Instagram for 72 hours to "reset" the system – and thankfully that worked and I'm plugging away again. But now the fear of getting banned again lingers in the back of my mind and question burns in my brain...
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN??
...and, more importantly – what can I do to make sure it doesn't happen again?!
Over the 72 hours I took away from Instagram I spent a lot of time researching the Instagram algorithm, hashtag issues, and the specific issue of the shadow ban – so, here's what I've learned on what causes the ban, how to make sure it doesn't happen to you, and what to do if you end up getting flagged.
FIRST OFF – HOW TO AVOID GETTING SHADOW BANNED...
1. don't use broken/banned/too many hashtags.
When your engagement suddenly drops and you have shadow banning on your mind, it's easy to immediately jump to the conclusion that you've been banned. BEFORE YOU FREAK OUT – make sure you're using 30 or less hashtags (comments + caption), that none of your tags are duplicates, and that all of your tags are still live tags on Instagram. If you use too many tags or include even one banned/broken tag, this will break the links from ALL the tags on your post, effectively rendering you invisible. And if you're wondering which tags are banned, simply search the tags in the Instagram app and see if there are recent posts showing up – easy peasy!
2. vary your hashtag use!
One of the things Instagram seems to look for is consistent hashtag use in posts. If you're always posting the exact same tags, this could make your account look like a spammer – so keep your tags somewhat varied (plus, this is just great for broader marketing!) and you should be good!
3. don't behave like a spammer =)
Haha, okay, here's what I mean. Instagram has limits on how much following/unfollowing/liking/commenting you can do per hour. So if you just drank 5 espressos and are double tapping EVERYTHING and posting your entire camera roll photo by photo – go take a walk or something ;) First off, it's spring and amazing outside so enjoy it. Secondly, that way you won't get flagged for spamming! Win-win right?
Also – this should go without saying but DON'T FREAKING USE BOTS. A lot of the shadow ban issues are because Instagram is cracking down hard on people who use automation to build follower count or like/comment on other feeds – so, just don't do it!
As a great alternative, use apps like Mosaico or Panoly (among others) that let you plan out your posts but don't actually post on your behalf (which is a big no-no). They'll alert you when it's time to post, copy your captions to your clipboard, and then let you post everything yourself. Planning ahead without breaking the rules – whoop!
NOW – WHAT TO DO IF YOU DO GET BANNED...
1. contact Instagram!
Now, don't start yelling at Instagram telling them you've been "Shadow Banned" (because that technically doesn't exist). Just kindly report a problem and let Instagram know you're not being seen in search results and cross your fingers and hope they reply!
**DISCLAIMER!!! When you're shadow banned, you can still see your own posts in hashtag searches, as can your followers. What you'll have to do is check hashtag searches from an account that doesn't follow you and see if you're showing up or not.**
2. take a break for a bit.
For me, I took 72 hours off – no posting, no liking, no commenting, etc. At the end of the three days, I posted again and voila, I was back!! This sadly isn't guaranteed to work (some users said it took weeks) but hopefully a couple of days away from the app will "reset" things for you and you'll be up and running again!
3. pour yourself a drink, cry a little, & make the most of the situation.
Falling victim to the shadow ban totally sucks. When Instagram is your chosen social media platform and the majority of your work comes from interactions with other users, it can be incredibly discouraging, disheartening, and straight out aggravating to have to walk away from the platform for days on end.
But at the end of the day – this isn't something you can fix on your own (unfortunately). Until Instagram updates their algorithms and addresses the situation directly, the best we can do is try our best to work with what we've been given. So...make the most of the situation! Stepping away from your usual interactions with social media can be refreshing, inspire new creativity, and give you time to pursue other ventures.
Personally? I used the time to plan out the next couple of months, dream of future endeavors, get some other projects done, and research everything out so I could write this blog :). And I ended up also connecting with a bunch of awesome users who had experienced the same problems – and built relationships and connections with them that will last far longer than the 72 hours I had to spend avoiding clicking the upload button.
I sincerely hope none of you reading this ever have to endure the headache of getting banned but if you do, feel free to give me a shout and I'll shed a tear for you (and help in any way I can)! Additionally, if you've gone through this yourself, drop me a comment and let me know what your experience was like!!
Cheers and happy posting...