Has your Instagram reach and engagement significantly declined recently? Are you worried that you’ve been Shadowbanned?
In all of my years building businesses on Instagram, I’ve never actually experienced it or met anyone who has been Shadowbanned (and I’ve met thousands of hardcore Instagram users). Don’t let people sell you “fixes” with the excuse of preventing or fixing Shadowbanning, it’s likely an Instagram myth (if it’s not please email me proof to [email protected]).
That being said, if you’re still terribly worried about it and want to make sure, just check it yourself.
Here’s how you do it:
First off, it’s important to know what Shadowbanning actually means.
Your account is Shadowbanned when you use hashtags on your posts but those posts don’t appear in the hashtag feeds of anyone except the people who already follow you.
In theory, this greatly reduces your reach because no one outside of your current followers will discover your account through hashtag feeds (hashtagging has been a well-known Instagram growth strategy for a long time).
Here are 3 simple steps to check if you’ve been Shadowbanned:
If your post doesn’t appear the first time, don’t panic, check again 3–5 minutes later. Connectivity isn’t always reliable and that can affect the timing in which a post shows up on a hashtag feed.
(***Important note: Posts are shown on a hashtag feed in chronological order. This means that the larger the number of posts in the feed of a hashtag, the faster the person who doesn’t follow you will have to check that feed. For example, in a popular hashtag like #fashion (with over 600 million posts), your post can be pushed down in a feed far enough to be “undiscoverable” within less than a few seconds. If you’re using one of these big hashtags, I’d advise you to change your strategy and use more relevant and niche Instagram hashtags anyway.)
If your post shows up on the hashtag feeds of the person who doesn’t follow you, you are not Shadowbanned.
If your posts don’t show up on the hashtag feeds of the person who doesn’t follow you (even after checking twice), you are Shadowbanned.
But before we begin, let’s tackle some myths: Banned hashtags aren’t a thing. Really, they aren’t. Check these on Instagram for yourself. None of them are “banned”. Also, Shadowban testers (like this one or this one) aren’t accurate. They exist because people are scared of being Shadowbanned and they can leverage that to sell you stuff. If you’re worried about being shadowbanned or if one day Instagram decides to actually enforce banned hashtags, you can easily check it yourself. It’ll save you from unnecessarily spending money on services you don’t need.
Now that we have that clear, here are the likely reasons behind your Shadowbanning:
You are using an Instagram automation service (otherwise known as an Instagram bot) that isn’t safe and/or using automation settings that caused your account to be flagged: Most people think that using an automation service (bot) means getting Shadowbanned. That’s not necessarily true. I (and thousands of other accounts) have used a well-automated Instagram automation service through a safe provider to grow my reach for years and I’ve never been Shadowbanned. You get Shadowbanned if your automation service provider isn’t well-run (using servers and settings that put your account at risk) and/or if your settings surpass Instagram’s interaction thresholds per hour (for example, Instagram allows an account to do X amount of “likes” per hour, but the exact numbers are always kept secret).
Here’s how your audience can report your posts. People can report you if they consider that your posts are harmful or just because they want you to get flagged. If a post gets enough reports, Instagram will take it down and you run the risk of being flagged as a harmful or spammy account.
Your account is getting reported by your audience: Instagram is committed to keeping their community safe, so highly-reported content is the first line of defense when it comes to flagging an account for behavior that might harm someone. If your account is flagged for harmful behavior, Instagram will be highly incentivized to not surface your content.
After making these changes, check again if you’re Shadowbanned: If you’re still Shadowbanned after a week, contact Facebook’s customer service and tell them that your posts aren’t showing up on hashtags (include screenshots with proof). They’re very helpful if you’re not currently violating their Terms of Service.
The Instagram Algorithm changed: Instagram is an advertising company and they make money from keeping you on the app as long as possible to sell your attention to advertisers. The algorithm exists to show you the posts that they consider you are most likely to engage with first, and it’s constantly being tweaked. If Instagram considers that your posts aren’t likely to engage your followers in comparison to all of the other posts available (view the graphic on the left to see how this works), the algorithm will show your posts to a smaller percentage of your audience. This will result in a lower reach because fewer people are seeing your posts, which sometimes causes some people to worry about being Shadowbanned when they aren’t.
Your content has become stale: How many times have you followed an account that you love only to find that six months down the line you’re kinda bored of their content and just stop paying attention and liking their posts? If you’ve felt this way, so do most other Instagram users. It’s natural for accounts that have been around for a while to see declining engagement rates just because people are used to them on their feed and/or because they don’t constantly keep their content exciting and engaging. This decline in engagement means that Instagram will downgrade your content on the Home feed of your followers, and that lowers your reach. This leads some of us to think that we might be Shadowbanned when we’re not.
Check out the Creating Super Engaging Content section of this article. It shows you the exact process through which you can identify which content generates the most engagement and how you can improve upon it.
People are using Instagram differently: Instagram has been around for many years now and they have saturated the US market. This means that users (your followers) are beginning to change the way they use the app. Although Instagram provides no data about this I know from a first-hand source that, like any other business, Instagram also suffers from seasonal changes in the way their customers (users) use the product. People tend to engage with home feeds less and stories more, people tend to follow fewer people, some people use the app less. All of these changes can affect your reach and engagement, not because of the algorithm or a Shadowban.
There it is. Now you know what Shadowbanning means, how to check for it, what the likely causes of them are, and how to fix them — now it’s up to you to make the necessary changes, stop worrying about it, and enjoy your life :)
Btw, if you want to dive deeper into sustainable strategies to grow your Instagram, read these articles on how to build an Instagram repost account that makes money, why your Instagram account isn’t growing, how to find the best time to post on Instagram, how to create effective Instagram story ads, how to create effective Instagram sponsored posts, how to monetize your Medium article, how to automate your Instagram posts, as well as how to measure what an influencer is worth, how to find the most valuable Instagram influencers, how to reach out to influencers, and how to measure your influencer marketing ROI.
Hope they help!