Shadow ban is a hot topic among Instagram users now as more and more people claim they’re a victim of the said ban.
But what is ‘shadow ban’?
Shadow ban (also goes by shadowban) is when a post uploaded into your account using a specific hashtag is visible to yourself and your followers, but not to others searching the hashtags used. You won’t know your account is shadow banned unless you check it yourself.
It’s not a big deal for casual users. But the sudden drop in engagement is worrying for businesses that rely on Instagram to get new leads. If you use Instagram to promote your products and services, for instance, you won’t be able to reach new audiences through hashtags.
Are You Really Experiencing a Shadow Ban?
Before you panic and assume that you’re a shadow ban victim, you should know that Instagram has been implementing algorithm changes since June of last year. Of course, like Facebook’s algorithm changes, this caused a decrease in many users’ engagement rate.
If your account has been shadow banned, everything will look normal to you. Pictures you upload using selected hashtags will appear in your own feed. You’ll also see the image if you search for it under the hashtag’s feed. But when someone else searches that feed, they won’t see your image at all.
Instagram’s algorithm change last year didn’t mention anything about a shadow ban. Instead, the announcement was about the platform’s change into an algorithmic feed from a linear feed, so that users only see the best content. That means you might notice a drop in engagement, but that doesn’t automatically mean your posts are shadow banned.
What Triggers a Shadow Ban? How are Users Affected?
Since I haven’t experienced this ban myself, I compiled comments from other users on how the ban affected them, and what they thought triggered it.
Some users say this only happens to Instagram accounts for business use, but with all the complaints surfacing, it’s hard to tell if there are any personal user accounts affected.
Here’s a comment from two users saying they got shadow banned after adding hashtags in the first comment of their image upload. Note that another user (last comment), says he didn’t get banned despite posting hashtags on the first comment.
Instagram has usage limits, such as:
- You can only follow 20 users per hour
- You can only use 30 hashtags per post
But one user says he’s been shadow banned for 3 months despite not violating these limits. Granted, there’s no way to know for sure if he violated any of those limits.
This user says he’s experiencing a typical shadow ban and one where even he can’t see his own posts. Unfortunately, Instagram’s template reply to most of these complaints gives users no hope that this hashtag ‘glitch’ will get fixed anytime soon. They admitted, “We don’t have available resources to fix the hashtag issue”.
Another user says his original account got shadow banned, then the new account he created got banned after one post.
The Official Statement from Instagram
The official statement Instagram released from their Facebook page isn’t reassuring.
Instagram admits there’s a hashtag glitch, but they didn’t mention anything about the shadow ban. So this could be their way of telling people that something’s happening without openly admitting to it, like how Google implemented an algorithm update months before they made an official announcement.
Some users claim they got hit by the shadow ban before news got out, others complained as early as January. There are users that claim to have ‘fixed’ the shadow ban issue by switching to a personal account, logging with a different IP, or using a different device. But it looks like these are only short term fixes.
How to Check if Your Posts are Shadow Banned
There are two ways to check if your posts are shadow banned.
You can do it online by plugging your username and one of your posts’ URL to this website. The shadow ban analyzer will crawl through the hashtags you used in that image, and then compare it with the list of publicly available images for those hashtags. If your image doesn’t show up in the public hashtag feed, it’s banned.
Some users doubt the effectiveness of the website above. If you’re having second thoughts, you can check your Instagram posts manually.
- Choose two to three of your Instagram posts with few hashtags (less than 10). Make sure the hashtags aren’t so popular so it’s not impossible to find your post in the hashtag feed.
- Ask three to five users that don’t follow you to check the hashtag feeds used in your images. Can they see your post on those hashtag feeds? Remember, if they search a hashtag with 100,000 posts associated with it, it might be impossible to find your image. So choose posts with less popular hashtags.
- If everyone who checked your posts didn’t see any of them in at least one of the hashtags used, that means your post may be shadow banned. If some of your posts appear on one hashtag, but not on another, you’re either experiencing the hashtag glitch or algorithm update.
Getting the Shadow Ban Lifted on Your Posts
Shadow ban affects users on a per post level, so it won’t affect your account as a whole. Unfortunately, it seems like Instagram isn’t in a hurry to fix this issue so don’t expect your engagement rate to get better anytime soon.
If you want to continue building your authority and engagement rate online, you need to find a way around these changes. For now, one thing you can do is to double up your efforts on other social media accounts. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon Instagram all together.
Next week, I’ll share a couple of best practices to avoid getting shadow banned.