Instagram Shadowban: What It Is & How To Fix It
If you’ve noticed a sudden drop in your engagement rate on your Instagram profile, it might not be just a coincidence.
If your posts suddenly stopped appearing in hashtags, you started losing Instagram followers, if the number of new followers or likes on your posts or overall growth rate dropped, it might be Instagram shadowban.
When you put in the hard work to gain followers and engagement on Instagram, the last thing you want is to run afoul of their algorithm and wind up losing all of that hard work because of something you’ve done that could have easily been avoided.
If you are a business or brand on Instagram, this decline may have a real-world dollar amount for you, and this could adversely affect your business, your bottom line, and your marketing efforts.
In this article, we’ll go over more about what an Instagram shadowban is and the steps you can take to avoid having one applied to your Instagram account.
You will learn:
What is an Instagram shadowban?
Instagram shadowban is a way of blocking user’s visibility to others in Instagram feed, often in a way that they don’t realize that they’ve been banned.
Instagram shadowban hides your post (can be one or many) from people who are not already following you.
Shadowbanning has been around for a while now, and many social media platforms, although unofficially, have been quick to adopt this method of limiting profile visibility.
Twitter has been doing this for troublesome accounts on its platform by giving a ’time-out’ to users who post abusive tweets that wind up in a filter they’ve designed.
Instagram has taken a similar but slightly different approach.
This is a massive negative for you as an account holder because your ability to grow and gain more followers is a crucial part of the engagement rate on Instagram.
The shadowban will prevent your posts from appearing in the hashtag searches for the hashtags you use on your posts for people who do not already follow you.
If you’ve been smart about posting and using hashtags you know that this can decimate your engagement and prevent your account from growing.
It removes all incentives for being strategic about how you post, and without new followers, you will only see your engagement stagnate and decline over time.
Is an Instagram shadowban real?
A lot of mystery surrounds Instagram’s shadowban. To some, is just a myth, but many more experienced it on their accounts.
In one of Instagram’s Q&A, the Instagram CEO - Adam Mosseri - was asked about Instagram shadowban. Here is his official reply:
“Shadowbanning is not a thing. If someone follows you on Instagram, your photos and videos can show up in their feed if they keep using their feed. Being in [Instagram’s Explore page] is not guaranteed for anyone. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, sometimes you won’t.”
However, many Instagram users doubt this was a true statement.
What causes an Instagram shadowban?
Here are the most common reasons for having your profile shadowbanned:
- community guidelines violation
- using the same hashtags frequently
- using banned hashtags
- bot activity
- inappropriate or abusive content
- reports by other users
Let’s go over each cause.
Community guidelines violation
Instagram’s guidelines for not being shadowbanned seem pretty straightforward.
They emphasize that being ‘spammy’ is the most effective way for the profile to earn this distinction and receive a shadowban.
They might also administer bans to users who post inappropriate content or are abusive on the platform.
Using the same hashtags frequently
One might assume that the shadowban Instagram has decided to implement should only apply to accounts that use the platform in obviously spammy ways like using more than a certain amount of hashtags per post, buying followers, or using Instagram bots to post or engage with posts on Instagram automatically.
Instagram appears to be applying the shadowban to accounts that do not behave in any other abusive behavior, besides posting using the same hashtag multiple times.
This means that if you have a daily post about fitness in the morning, you might want to avoid using the same fitness hashtags each day and thus run afoul of the Instagram guidelines for being delisted, or shadowbanned from hashtag search.
This may seem unfair.
After all, if you have active engagement and a healthy follower count you have probably made hashtags a core part of your Instagram strategy.
Instagram is encouraging users on the platform, however, to focus more on the content they produce and less on the hashtags they use to help that content appear in searches.
Using banned hashtags
Instagram has a list of hashtags that are banned from the platform and using them is against Instagram guidelines.
This means that post that includes banned hashtags will be hidden from the feed, which will hurt your organic reach and account visibility.
Running bots and third-party apps that are strictly against Instagram’s Terms of Service might also cause shadowbanning.
This includes auto post, auto-follow, or auto commenting.
One reason for doing this may be to make organic growth more difficult and thus encourage paid ad strategies on the platform.
If your posts do not get to appear in search, you might be inclined to try and purchase ads to help grow your account.
Instagram is after all a growing service that is owned by Facebook, so it would make sense that encouraging more advertising on the platform would be a motivation to get users to move beyond exclusively organic growth strategies.
Inappropriate or abusive content
Posting content against Instagram’s Community Guidelines is another common, this includes comments you leave under other people’s accounts.
However, this is might be an issue for Instagram users who regularly share borderline content that obeys the platform’s rules but could still be deemed “inappropriate,” such as pole dance instructors or LGBT models.
This will very often lead to situations where they won’t know what they’ve done wrong, or how to adjust their content to Instagram’s liking and best practices.
Reports by other users
Some of the above might lead to users reporting your IG profile. If a big number of reports regarding your account accumulates, this could be a reason for Instagram to shadowban your account.
How to see if you are shadowbanned on Instagram?
As of right now, Instagram does not offer a way to test whether or not your profile is shadowbanned.
Instagram has not yet even referred to this type of ban as a shadowban, instead referring to the changes as ‘improvements to the platform’.
But you still would like to know whether or not you are affected by these changes.
So how to know if you are shadowbanned on Instagram?
Here are few ways you can verify whether you are indeed a victim of Instagram’s shadowban.
- decrease in engagement
- posts don’t appear in the hashtag search
- Instagram shadowban tester
Drop in the engagement
Engagement rate is a good indicator of how your Instagram account performs overall.
If you have seen a sudden or sharp decrease in engagement on your recent posts, this could be a result of Instagram shadowban.
Posts don’t appear in the hashtag search
One common way to check is to look up hashtag search for the same hashtags you posted recently under your Instagram post.
Unfollow the account in question and search to see whether or not you appear in the hashtags you include in your posts.
If your posts appear just fine, then you have nothing to worry about.
However, if they don’t, you might be shadowbanned.
Instagram shadowban tester
You can also use a third-party app like an Instagram shadowban tester to see whether or not your account is shadowbanned.
These work by allowing you to enter your username on the site and it will check whether or not your posts appear in search based on the hashtags your post contains.
Is an Instagram shadowban permanent?
No. In most cases, Instagram shadowban is a temporary ban that lasts anywhere between 24 hours up to one week.
Shadowbanning does not equal account suspensions and there is definitely a way to get out of shadowban jail.
How long does a shadowban on Instagram last?
Users report that Instagram shadowban can last anywhere from 14 to 30 days.
How to remove an Instagram shadowban?
If after checking your account you are convinced you are shadowbanned, you can take some tips to try and get your account unbanned.
If you are looking for quick ways to get rid of Instagram shadowban, read on.
Now, these steps are not a guarantee, and because Instagram does not provide many details on the ‘ban’ itself or how to remove shadowban, this process will be different for everyone.
Take a break
First, you will want to lay off posting after you have noticed you do not appear in search.
Delete banned hashtags
Delete all the hashtags you have used on your recent posts and keep in mind in the future you will want to avoid using too many hashtags.
This may have been what has gotten your account into trouble.
Contact Instagram support
Contact Instagram support and let them know you have seen your IG profile disappear from the search.
Do not say that you have been ‘shadowbanned’ as they do not use this term and it may make you seem like a clever spammer who is just wanting to resume activities on their site.
Some users have said that saying your account was ‘hacked’ might help, but this approach will route you to a different support team and is disingenuous, so it would be best to avoid using this tactic to try and get your account back to appearing in search.
Switch from Business to Personal account
If you have not already switched to an Instagram business profile, you’ll want to avoid switching for now.
Even after you get your posts back appearing in search.
It would be smart to wait and see how future posts land.
Also, if you are having trouble getting your business account to appear in hashtag searches again, you might try switching back to a personal Instagram profile.
Because there is not a set method or list of steps to follow to rectify this situation if you find your account has disappeared from the search you will need to conduct some trial and error to get your account back in good standing.
Keep in mind, if you have engaged in using bots or other third-party services these are almost certainly the reason for your ban.
Instagram does not like these, and they are best avoided.
You also want to make sure you aren’t posting any kind of content that Instagram finds inappropriate or using hashtags that have been banned, or might run afoul of the Instagram community guidelines.
If you have not engaged in any negative behavior on Instagram but still find yourself in this situation, you might be an unfortunate victim of the new platform changes on Instagram and will need to work hard to try and get your posts back in search.
Steps you can take to prevent an Instagram shadowban
Some ways to prevent Instagram shadowban include:
- verifying your email address
- verifying your phone number
- connecting your Instagram account to Facebook
- avoiding posting banned hashtags
A lot of these revolve around the idea of proving to Instagram that you are a real user and increase your chances of having the Instagram shadowban taken down.
Verify your email address
This goes without a question, you should have a verified email address attached to your profile.
Verify your phone number
One of the most basic ways, similar to email address, is having attached an active phone number.
Connect your Instagram account to your Facebook
This step makes you automatically more trustworthy in eyes of the social media giant.
We wrote how to connect Instagram account with facebook quick guide so just follow it.
Avoid posting banned hashtags
Don’t use banned hashtags in your posts.
Instagram will sometimes ban hashtags that contain inappropriate content.
If you use one of these hashtags, you may find that your account has been removed from the search for all of the other hashtags you have used as well!
It might be difficult to avoid using a hashtag that Instagram deems not being fit for the platform because there seems to be some ambiguity.
However, if you ensure that you are not using any inappropriate hashtags, you should be in the clear.
To be on the safe side, it would be wise to stick to hashtags that don’t have much ambiguity.
Avoid posting in surges and ramping up your activity on the platform all at once.
It may seem tempting to get all of your posts and posting energy out in one day, but this could signal to Instagram’s algorithm that you might be a spammer, so it’s best to avoid this type of activity.
You’ll also want to try and avoid posting in such a way that will get you reported by other Instagram users.
Getting reported is an easy way to receive a ban.
Another way to stay in good standing is to avoid using any third-party software that violates Instagram’s terms of service.
Instagram has recently made its algorithm tougher on bots and using software like this is an excellent way to run afoul of their terms of service.
Because of the algorithm improvements, it is likely that if you use any automation software on Instagram, they know about it, and you will be shadowbanned.
Third-party software like this may also end up getting your account banned so it would be wise to evaluate any service you might like to use and make sure they abide by the Instagram terms of service before you start using them.
This will likely be an area that Instagram will continue to crack down on in the future.
Final Thoughts on Instagram shadowban
Instagram is getting more severe with how they enforce its terms of service and community standards on the platform. If user notoriously breaks the rules, they might even suspend their account and that will result in their profile show up as “not found” on Instagram.
They have publicly stated that they want people to focus less on just using hashtags and more on posting content.
If you’ve been following the standard strategies for growth on Instagram, you may want to re-evaluate precisely how Instagram may receive your plan as they update their algorithms and policies.
If you want to avoid receiving a shadowban, the best thing to do is to try and prevent being spammy as best as possible.
Be vigilant and keep a regular check on the health of your account and make sure you’re keeping up with Instagram’s suggested guidelines.
Most importantly though, keep providing your audience with the great content they know and love from your account!
I hope this blog post was helpful!
Karen is a senior technical writer and copywriter here at GrowFollowing. Her area of expertize are social media apps and new media.