The Instagram Shadow Ban is creating problems for business account holders
There is a buzz going on in the social media world. The buzz is the Instagram Shadow Ban and it can cause huge problems for those who use the Instagram platform for marketing.
600 million people use the Instagram platform every month (source). What started as a simple image-sharing site has become a platform for millions of businesses and individuals to market their wares. Millions of businesses use Instagram as a way to show their products and services to clients and potential clients.
For everyone who uses Instagram for marketing, the Instagram shadow ban is a real problem. Leads, clients, and sales dry up and your organic reach is negated. In addition, the biggest issue is that you have to figure out how to fix the problem all by yourself.
What is the Instagram shadow ban?
Instagram doesn’t acknowledge a shadow ban (although they do appear to admit there is a hashtag glitch), but most of the time it refers to a social media platform using it as a way to clean up spam accounts.
In Instagram, however, it’s happening to businesses who don’t spam. This particular shadow ban appears to be a hashtag algorithm cleanup. So essentially, your use of hashtags is causing Instagram to hide your posts from people searching for those particular hashtags.
Social media algorithms have long caused problems for people looking to organically market their business. The algorithm changes and you have to find out the hard way, through decreased engagement and lost followers. You have to use forums and social media conversations to piece together best practices that are only relevant until the next algorithm kicks in.
This particular algorithm causes your business account to be rendered invisible to potential new followers. Additionally, because it is a shadow ban, it’s hard to know if you’ve been banned or if your images are simply less engaging to your followers.
How do you know if you are the victim of the Instagram shadow ban?
There are a couple of ways to tell if you are the victim of the Instagram shadow ban.
First, you will notice that your likes and comments are way down. You will notice that overall engagement is down and your number of likes and comments are cut by as much as 80-90%. You may also find that you lose more followers than normal.
To confirm if you are the target of the Instagram shadow ban, find 3-5 users that do not follow you and ask them to check if your image is appearing within the hashtags you used on that post. Pick a lesser-known hashtag so that your post won’t get lost in the millions of posts that use a very popular hashtag. If they can’t find your post, it’s likely that you’ve been shadow banned. Accounts already following you will still be able to see your posts, so you can’t use followers for this.
If non-followers can see your posts, you have likely not been shadow banned but have less engagement.
How to get the Instagram shadow ban lifted
Similar to Facebook, it is extremely difficult to find a person to talk to at Instagram. You may be able to find someone if you have a business account with a dedicated representative, but there is no guarantee that the rep will have the information to help you get the ban lifted.
Here are some of the Instagram best practices that will help you get back into Instagram’s good graces:
Quit using software that violates the Instagram Terms of Service
Instagram is serious about their Terms of Service and like their parent company, Facebook; they want users to have a good experience. They are tough on getting rid of spam. They penalize anyone using software to improve their numbers.
If you want to get back into Instagram’s good graces, quit using software to make your job easier. This means no using bots to gain followers, including bots that grow your following for you such as Instagress, Followliker, Mass Planner, Boostly, Social Envy and Socially Richs.
Scheduling software such as Grum, Onlypult and Schedugram also violate the Instagram Terms of Service, so they can create a shadow ban, so you might want to go back to manual scheduling. Buffer allows you to schedule posts but you have to manually post, so I believe it’s ok to use.
Don’t be a spammer or post content that violates the terms
If you violate the Instagram Terms of Service repeatedly and someone reports you, Instagram is likely to ban you or kick you right off of the platform. Spam, copyright infringement, and nudity are all violations of the terms.
How to regain control of your Instagram account
Take a 2-4 day break
Take a break and when you return, make sure you abide by Instagram’s Terms of Service. This means no bots, no scheduled posting and no automated commenting. And no spam.
Interacting manually helps you to connect with your followers and build relationships.
Quit using bots
Grow your following the old-fashioned way by posting unique and interesting content. Follow people in your niche and hope they will follow you back. Bots gain you followers, but they are not an authentic way to grow your following. Instagram notices you following and unfollowing people multiple times. The Instagram algorithm notices this stuff and you might gain numbers but you aren’t gaining quality followers.
Change from a business account to a personal one
Instagram wants businesses to purchase ads. They might want you to “pay to play” by forcing businesses to purchase ads in order to beat the algorithm. The business and personal accounts have different algorithms, so this might work for some.
Don’t violate the number of interactions
You may not know this, but there is an engagement limit for most of us. This includes 150 likes, 60 comments and 60 follows/unfollows per hour. Spam accounts are well known for commenting on multiple accounts with the same nonsense click bait as they try to convince you to check out what they are selling.
How to Hashtag
There are times that an innocent hashtag such as #fashionblogger is taken over by inappropriate content such as spam, ethnically inconsiderate photos, or nudity. If Instagram notices, they might remove the hashtag completely. When you use one of these banned hashtags, it can affect the rest of your hashtags, rendering them invisible. There is nothing you can do about this one, but you should be aware of the possibility.
Don’t break the hashtag rules
Instagram has a limit of 30 hashtags per post. So don’t add 30 to your post and then 30 in a comment. I know you think you are fooling Instagram, but you really aren't.
Practice smart hastagging
Use fewer hashtags
Instagram has a limit of 30 hashtags allowed by the account holder to use for a single image. I’ve heard that 11-15 is the number that works the best for the algorithm, but Instagram hasn’t confirmed this. You can test this with your own account but alternate the number of hashtags you use.
Use only targeted hashtags (targeted to the image)
If you are a fashion blogger, use hashtags that correspond with the image. Don’t use hashtags in order to try to find people in other niches.
Don’t use the hashtag more than once a day
This can be a tough one for those who post similar images multiple times a day. Find more hashtags and alternate them.
Don’t copy and paste hashtags
I know, this is hard! However, you need to type them out yourself.
Create an Instagram Pod in your niche
A pod is a group of 10-12 accounts in your niche. You all work together to like and comment on each other’s pics in order to increase your engagement.
Instagram Shadow Ban
The Instagram Shadow Ban is a fluid issue that’s complex and constantly changing. There aren’t many people you can find to complain to when you get shadow banned. You can use best practices in order to stay in Instagram’s good graces but even that isn’t a guarantee that you will remain visible.
There doesn’t appear to be any urgency on Instagram’s part to “fix” this hashtag issue, so I don’t expect it to change anytime soon. In fact, they may take away the ability to search using hashtags if they feel they aren’t providing any value for their users.
Have you experienced the Instagram shadow ban? What (if anything) did you do to resolve it? Share it in the comments.
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