1 May 2017

What Is The Instagram Shadowban?

What Is The Instagram Shadowban, how to beat the Instagram shadowban, Instagram shadowban, Hampshire social media

I've decided to break away from my editorial calendar and write this post as soon as I found out more about Instagrams latest disease - the Instagram Shadowban. After several of my friends and you lovely readers reached out to me about problems with your account engagement and the fact that hashtags are simply not doing anything for you anymore, I took into exploring the issue - and realised I may have fallen victim myself.

So what is the Instagram Shadowban?

The Shadowban makes your hashtags unsearchable and undiscoverable (GASP) - your photos become invisible to anyone outside of your current followers. Instagrammers and social media managers will know that for engagement, new followers, and communities this is truly awful. You are happily hash tagging along and building your community but what you don't realise is that anyone who isn't following you will look through hashtags like #theeverygirl looking for similar accounts like theirs and new accounts to follow - they will not see you if you have come under the Shadowban curse. Yet when you look at that hashtag, or your followers look at that hashtag - your photo will come up, like everything is peachy.
What this means is that if you're a smaller account putting in hours and efforts into building your following - you'll have the worst time because no one can discover you. Equally big accounts who have a following and want to carry on contributing to the community will struggle to be seen and followers may think your account has become dull and dead.

But why would Instagam do this to our accounts which are NOT spam?? We haven't posted any offensive content or nude snaps?

Although Instagram hasn't formally introduced the ban, or even acknowledged it, there are a few reasons why this may be happening:

1. You are using banned hashtags. Sometimes perfectly innocent hashtags get overrun with spam accounts and nudity that Instagram decides to ban the hashtag altogether. I had NO IDEA that the hashtag #Instagirl was BANNED yet I've been using it on my posts about Primarks new makeup range called Instagirl. Brilliant. There are other hashtags like #eggplant and #NewYears which you may think are totally innocent but these are banned. Worst of all, if you're using banned hashtags your photo won't appear on any other hashtag galleries you have used on that post.

2. You are using the same hashtags on all of your posts. I really don't see why this is a problem because I have made many news friends and built a community over hashtags like #hampshirebusiness #girlboss #womeninbiz - all of these are attracting my tribe. Yet there is a potential that Instagram thinks this is spam and flags you as a potential spam account.

3. You are using Instagram apps, bots or any other service which promises to boost your Instagram account. If you are, the likelihood is that you're actually sabotaging your account more than doing any good to it. Any automated service is against Instagram's terms of service - and it will find out who is using bots because your account behaviour will look dodgy, and the IP address of the service will be liking photos from London, then suddenly the IP will be located in Berlin. Instagram are not dumb - well, not when in comes to bots anyway.

4. You yourself have gone on liking sprees, and decided to jump on the follow/unfollow bandwagon. Before I even get into this, I just want to say that I totally see the people who follow me, then wait for me to follow back, and then unfollow me - you know what happens then? I unfollow your account and will never engage or follow you again because no one needs this kind of spam in their lives. Back to the ban: Instagram actually has a limit on how many likes, comments, and follows you can make in an hour - so try not to exceed 150-200 likes, 60 comments, and 60 follows per hour. Which lets be real, if you're a genuine account that doesn't engage in crappy techniques to boost your own following, you're not going to exceed anyway.

5. Other users have reported you - ouch. So you know above I said those people who keep following/unfollowing me and I just refuse to interact with them? Yeah some people actually report these accounts and Instagram takes reporting really seriously. If someone reported your account for inappropriate behaviour, spammy posts, or nude photos - your account may not just be shadow banned but actually deleted.

So this sounds awful, right? And you need to know immediately if this has happened to you, but how do you find out if on your account and your friends accounts everything looks normal?

Your account could have been shadow banned for weeks and you wouldn't have known about it (keeps getting better doesn't it?). The biggest tell tale sign is your engagement drops dramatically, you're no longer getting new followers like you used to, and all your comments and likes are coming from accounts which are already following you.
You can ask a friend to unfollow you and then check out where your photo is on the hashtags which you have just posted - if your photo appears, your account is safe; if it doesn't, that means bad news my friend. But there is now an easier way and that is to check through the Shadowban Checker.

So what happens if you have fallen victim to Instagrams Shadowban? Is there a way to get your account back to normality?

As we all know, contacting Instagram for any support is useless - they never reply to emails, tweets, shout outs. Dead silence. So whilst you may not get anywhere with Instagrams support team, here are some tips which should be able to help you out:

1. Stop being dodgy and following/unfollowing people. That will eliminate two of your potential problems - Instagram seeing you as a spammy account or bot, and you'll be less likely to get reported by other users who are annoyed with your actions.

2. Keep your activity realistic - use your account to engage and like others content every once in a while and don't go on an hourly liking spree. I like to log on every couple of hours to catch up with what's going on and spend 15 minutes interacting with my favourite accounts.

3. Get rid of those bots and automated services. Even being linked and letting bots have access to your account can be damaging so visit your setting page within Instagram and revoke access to all apps which are going against Instagrams policies. Additionally, I would change your password to revoke access to any bot software which may not show up in your settings.

4. Switch from a business account to a personal account. Money rules the world, and Instagram may be tying to get your business to start paying for ads to gain exposure to new customers rather than do this organically. So some accounts have reported that after switching back to a personal account their bans have been lifted.

5. Log off. Literally, get off Instagram for a few days - taking a break has reportedly been successful when trying to lift shadow bans. Take a weekend, or even better do this for a week - log out of your account, don't engage in any activity, just don't even open the app and enjoy the silence away from social media. Then when you log back on remember that you are being watched - so ease in slowly.

6. Avoid engagement groups - these may help you out for a week or so, but we don't know how Instagram feels about these groups and you could get punished for using these kinds of tactics. The same as when you use 60 hashtags in 2 comments - don't do it.

7. If you know you have content which is borderline dodgy, remove it immediately. Get rid of banned hashtags, get rid of any photos which could be considered rude, nude, or spammy. And be mindful of the kind of comments you're leaving on other accounts - are you being genuine or can you be considered annoying/spammy?

These should get you our of the Instagram Shadowban - and if you have a tactic that worked for you please share with the community! We're all here to enjoy the platform and help each other grow. I thought I got caught up in the Shadowban - thankfully I haven't and am probably being paranoid about my engagement levels recently. But have you? Check it out and let me know what's going on with your accounts.

I know we're all wondering WHY INSTAGRAM??! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS??! So here's what Instagram had to say on the matter:

What Is The Instagram Shadowban, how to beat the Instagram shadowban, Instagram shadowban, Hampshire social media

Hmm. So when all of us have grown to love the Instagram hashtag game, you are now telling us not to rely on them. How are we supposed to find new accounts, build communities and tell our stories? My personal opinion - this is in now way the gospel, it's just my opinion - I do feel like all of this chaos with Instagram is a constant experiment to monetise the platform even further. Not many people pay for Instagram advertising, especially when Facebook ads in integrated with Instagram, and business accounts are being punished for using organic methods of growing their community, instead of paying Instagram to do so. Instagram knows that by killing our engagement, we will resort to finding new ways other than hashtags to get in front of more faces - currently, the easiest way to do so without hashtags is paid ads. 
Another popular theory is that Instagram is cracking down on bots and accounts, and occasionally the system gets confused and blocks genuine accounts. 

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic and I hope this helps anyone who is worried about their account and engagement! And remember you can follow me on Instagram - say hi and introduce yourselves, I'd love to engage with more of you!
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