The Myth of the Instagram Shadowban

instagram shadowban
Alexz Miller

Alexz Miller

Last Updated: Dec 18, 2020

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Brands and individuals alike often find themselves confused when they see a sharp decline in engagement — is the Instagram shadowban to blame? There are several reasons an account might begin to see lower engagement, but most people are quick to blame their Instagram woes on something more sinister than the true problem: the Instagram Shadowban.

You might not even know what being shadowbanned means. How can you blame this phenomenon for your lost engagement? Let’s break down what the shadowban is, where this tall tale came from, and uncover the truth: The Instagram shadowban is actually just a myth.

Understanding the Instagram Shadowban

What does it mean to be “shadowbanned?” The concept of the shadowban isn’t exactly new; people have been complaining about shadowbanning on various online platforms for many years. Shadowbanning is a term used to describe a user’s content being blocked by a platform, making it harder for potential followers to discover them. Essentially, shadowbanning is hiding a users’ content without alerting them that their content isn’t reaching as many people as it should. Users who suspect their Instagram account has been shadowbanned might use a certain hashtag on a post, search through that hashtag with another account, and be unable to find the post. 

How did the shadowban myth come about? First, as Hubspot notes, it’s important to understand that shadowbanning makes sense for Instagram. When Instagram users try to quickly grow their accounts through underhanded tactics such as using hundreds of hashtags that don’t relate to their content, that’s not fair — other Instagram users won’t be receiving the valuable content they want. 

Instagram addressed this with a statement saying that the company understands users have experienced issues with the hashtag search feature that caused posts “to not be surfaced.” The company also assured people it was working to improve its system, and encouraged users to focus on creative growth strategies that go beyond just hashtags.

Other Instagram officials have backed up the statement that the shadowban is just a myth. At an Instagram whiteboard session, TechCrunch reported that Instagram employees explained shadowbanning is not a real thing — Instagram said it does not hide peoples’ content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions. 

Alleged Reasons Behind the Instagram Shadowban

People who believe in the Instagram shadowban list multiple ways your account can land in hot water. Most of these reasons, however, don’t actually hold up.

Banned or broken hashtags

Many people think you can be put in “Instagram jail” by using banned or broken hashtags on your posts. Banned hashtags are Instagram’s effort to stop spam accounts; highly popular hashtags are often banned, and if you use them, your account or post could be flagged as spam. Broken hashtags are tags that have been removed (or limited) by Instagram due to being filled with inappropriate content.

You won’t be shadowbanned for using broken hashtags. However, you will be shooting yourself in the foot — because if your hashtags don’t work, your posts won’t be categorized, leading to reduced visibility for your brand. Banned hashtags aren’t a good idea, either. Not only does your account have the potential to be marked as spam, but these tags are highly popular. To get more eyes on your content, it’s best to research niche hashtags where your post won’t get lost in the shuffle.

Software that violates the TOS

Some people say that using software that violates Instagram’s terms of service can get you banned. Most bot-like softwares and some softwares that automatically post to Instagram for you are not allowed.

While using these types of softwares doesn’t really apply to the shadowban — after all, the shadowban is just a myth — it’s still not a good idea. Using software that violates Instagram’s terms of service might get your entire account banned! It’s certainly best to only use software that’s accepted and safe.

Switching a business account to a personal account

Some people say that switching from a business account to a personal account can prevent you from being shadowbanned. The reasoning behind this idea: A business account is more likely to be used for marketing purposes than a personal account. However, there’s no proof backing up this part of the myth. 

The Truth Behind Your Low Engagement

Before you start Googling “am I shadowbanned?”, wait! You’re guaranteed to uncover articles blaming your use of hashtags as the reason you aren’t getting your usual number of likes and comments. Remember, Instagram itself has said shadowbanning is not a real thing, and that users’ posts will not be hidden for using too many hashtags or the same hashtags. 

The concept of the Instagram shadowban is indeed a myth. In reality, users that have noticed a drop in their likes, comments, and overall follower count are likely just experiencing the effects of the change in the Instagram algorithm.

The most recent algorithm changes were designed to sort users’ content according to relevancy. As an attempt to block out abusive content and connect users with those they are more interested in, the new algorithm inadvertently caused brands to experience lower engagement across the board.

The truth of the matter is that if you are looking for ways to fix your Instagram “shadowban,” you’re headed on a wild goose chase. What you really need are effective strategies to boost your Instagram engagement.

Getting Your Engagement Back

The key to taking back your engagement on Instagram is to focus on improving your current Instagram practices. Start by using the following four strategies to single-handedly boost your Instagram engagement.

Quality Content

Focus on the quality of the content that you share. Feeds that curate aesthetically pleasing images always fare better than users that share lower quality images. If it fits with your company’s image, you might choose to have a minimalistic feed, posting photos with lots of white. Other businesses add a pop of color based on their branding — a company that has orange and blue in its logo, for example, might make an effort to include lots of orange and blue on its Instagram feed. Whatever type of theme you use, your goal is simply to create a beautiful Instagram grid that makes people want to hit that “follow” button.

Quality content doesn’t just refer to your theme. Every aspect of the content you post should be high-quality. Photos should be high-res, graphics should look professionally designed, and captions should be well-written. Focus on creating content that you’re proud of — interesting content that’s relevant to your target audience and will help your engagement go up.

Call to Actions

The next step is to make a concentrated effort to include calls-to-action in your captions. As a way to encourage responses and engagement overall engagement, be sure to include statements like, “What do you think? Let us know in the comment below” or “ Be sure to tag a friend in this post!” at the bottom of each caption.

A good CTA will encourage followers to visit your profile and your website, learning more about your brand and ideally making a purchase. Test out different CTA’s to see which ones seem to work best. Every single photo or graphic you post should include a CTA at the end to invite interaction and engagement with your followers. Even Instagram Stories can have CTA’s, asking readers to swipe up and follow a link or vote on a poll in the next slide.

shadowban CTA

Hashtags

In addition to using CTA’s, discovering the truth about shadowbanning should inspire you to use more hashtags as part of your social media campaign. Using hashtags is one of the most effective ways to make sure your content gets discovered by users that share a common interest. What’s more, brands that share hashtags with their posts experience a 12.6% higher engagement than Instagrammers that don’t.

What should your hashtag strategy include? Use multiple hashtags on each post, and aim for a mixture of larger and smaller hashtags. All hashtags you include should be relevant to your business and to that post. If you need ideas for hashtags, search your competitors’ accounts for some tips.

Location Geotag

The final fix for low engagement is to tag your location. When you tag your location, you’re essentially checking in at a place — be it a brick-and-mortar business or a popular city. In addition to making your content visible in a search of that location, you’ll be able to boost your engagement by 79% when you add a location tag.

If your store doesn’t have a location tag, you can create one by using the “Create the Location” feature on Facebook. Invite your customers to use that location tag if they come visit your store. This can expand your reach to a larger audience, with your customers acting almost like brand ambassadors.  

Small businesses on the outskirts of a big city might also want to use that city’s tag to get more visibility. For example, a bakery in an Atlanta suburb could use the location tag Atlanta instead of tagging its specific smaller town.

Grow Your Instagram Engagement

Don’t let your fear of the Instagram shadowban stop you from getting the engagement that your brand deserves. As you continue to learn ways to grow your engagement, you’ll see that the shadowban really is just a myth — and your business will begin to see success on Instagram.

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2 Comments

  • Avatar Audrey says:

    So what is the reason why your post isn’t on any of the hashtags used?? If it isn’t a shadowban?

    • Samantha Hackett Samantha Hackett says:

      If your photo is not showing up under a certain hashtag there can be a few reasons for this:
      There could be a typo either under your photo or in the search bar, or it can just be because of changes in the Instagram algorithm. Instagram presents only the ‘top’ photos for the hashtag which receive the best engagement while the most ‘recent’ posts may be buried a few pages down and hard to find. Hope this helps!

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