Has there been a sharp decline in your Instagram engagement and following of late? Are you frantically trying different ways to re-engage users, but to no avail? An Instagram shadowban might be the reason!
Although Instagram has claimed that shadowbanning is not a real thing, a sudden and sustained drop in engagement and followers say otherwise.
Instagram has a set of rules that users must follow. Break them and the platform may shadowban or restrict your account!
In this article I’ll help you understand what causes an Instagram shadowban, how you can avoid it, and how you can remedy a shadowban, thus restoring your engagement back to normal.
An Instagram shadowban occurs when the platform hides or restricts your content without a warning or notification. While you can still see your content, it will not be visible to those not following your page. It is a way to prevent users from spamming the platform.
Instagram reportedly shadowbans accounts that violate its Community Guidelines.
A shadowban can make your account invisible to non-followers and keep you from gaining new leads and engagement.
Since Instagram has denied shadowbanning accounts, it never notifies users about it. You may not even realize you are shadowbanned on the platform unless you notice a sudden and continuous drop in your likes, comments, and followers.
If you are suspecting a shadowban, you may want to know how do you get shadowbanned on Instagram.
Let’s take a look at the causes of shadowbanning on Instagram to understand where you went wrong.
- Getting Reported Many Times
- Exceeding the Activity Limits on Instagram
- Adding Banned Hashtags to Posts
- Spamming the Platform with Hashtags
- Fake Engagements
The platform restricts accounts to check the exposure and circulation of unwanted content on the platform.
Instagram has also stated that any content inappropriate for its global community will not be visible on the Explore Page, even if it is in accordance with the platform’s Guidelines.
If your Instagram account gets reported many times for posting objectionable content, the platform may shadowban it.
Instagram may also restrict or shut down accounts that get reported for other reasons, such as:
- Pretending to be someone else or account impersonation
- User being under 13 years of age
- Spreading false information
- Using hate speech or symbols
- Selling illegal or regulated products, and more
Reports related to spam, abuse, or anything that violates Instagram’s Community Guidelines can result in a shadowban.
Instagram has imposed certain activity limits to check the increasing number of spam and fake accounts created to get more likes, comments, shares, and followers.
Exceeding Instagram’s activity limits includes:
- Posting too much content within an hour or a day
- Creating and sharing many Stories within an hour or a day
- Liking multiple posts within a short span
- Commenting on many posts over a short period
- Posting the same comment on many posts
- Following or unfollowing many accounts in a day
- Sending Instagram direct messages to multiple accounts in a day
If you are found overusing the platform or engaging excessively within a given time frame, Instagram can shadowban your account.
Check the ideal number of posts per day and try not to exceed that. Remember that posting several times a day can make your account look spammy and force Instagram to impose restrictions.
Although Instagram has not published an official list of banned hashtags, the ones that violate its Community Guidelines and contain inappropriate words or posts are considered banned.
For example, a simple hashtag like #thought is banned on Instagram.
The platform bans hashtags that get reported by users for containing inappropriate content. Hence, it is important that you check all hashtags before adding them to your posts.
Adding one or more of these banned hashtags to a post will restrict its visibility to your audience. The platform may also punish your account or shadowban it.
Although Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags for Feed Posts and Reels and 10 for Stories, do not engage in hashtag spamming.
Sharing unnecessary hashtags or using the same ones for every post can make them appear spammy to your followers and Instagram ranking algorithms.
Multiple hashtags can also distract your audience and keep them from interacting with your page. This can harm your brand/business. If you’re not sure how many hashtags to use, there are plenty of hashtag guides online.
Fake followers and engagement can hurt your credibility on the platform. Instagram can easily identify these activities and shadowban your account.
Fake engagements on Instagram include the following:
- Purchasing followers
- Using bots to increase your follower count
- Paying to get likes, shares, and comments on your posts
- Joining Instagram pods
Also, if you use auto-posting websites, you are at risk of an Instagram shadowban. The platform does not entertain these activities and has already shut down some auto-posting websites or bot platforms like Instragress and Mass Planner.
In most cases, a shadowban lasts about 2 to 3 weeks, but its effects may last longer. If you are a business owner or influencer, getting restricted on this social media platform will disrupt your Instagram marketing strategy. It can take you several weeks or months to regain lost momentum.
Some users have also claimed that their accounts were shadowbanned for several weeks to months. While the restrictions were probably lifted after 2 to 3 weeks, it took them longer to regain engagement.
There is still a lot of uncertainty around this question, as Instagram has neither confirmed shadowbanning accounts nor the duration of the ban.
Shadowbans are also important for restricting fake engagements and spamming.
Even if spammers continue to post inappropriate content, no one other than their followers can see them.
Shadowbans are also important for the following reasons:
- To restrict Instagrammers from using bots and third-party apps to manage their accounts, inflate follower counts, and boost engagement.
- To prevent the platform from losing its credibility.
- To prevent content and hashtag spamming.
- To remind Instagrammers to adhere to the platform’s guidelines.
There is no surefire way to know if you are shadowbanned, as Instagram never notifies or warns users before restricting their accounts.
The platform has also claimed that “Shadowbanning is not a real thing”, so you never know if it is a shadowban or an algorithm change.
One thing is for certain – Instagram does remove violating content to control the spread of misinformation.
So, if you are thinking how to know if you’re shadowbanned on Instagram, you can try doing the following to get a fair idea.
- Check Your Account Status
- Search the Hashtag Pages
- Compare Instagram Insights
- Use Shadowban Testing Tools
Let’s talk about each of these points in detail.
Your Instagram account status will tell you if you posted anything that went against the platform’s guidelines. If you did, you will see the objectionable content listed here. This can indicate an Instagram shadowban.
To check your account status, go to Instagram Settings > Account > Account Status.
A clear account status report indicates that you have not violated the platform’s rules. This is a good sign if you are suspecting a shadowban.
Do not stop here, though. Check the hashtag pages and your Instagram insights as well to get a better picture.
When Instagram shadowbans an account, it restricts the visibility of its hashtagged content on the platform.
So, in case your account is shadowbanned, your hashtagged content will not show up on the hashtag pages to anyone but your followers.
Here’s how you can check this:
- Create a new post on Instagram and publish it with a hashtag. Choose a less common hashtag to make things easier. (If you choose a common or popular hashtag, your post will get lost amongst the tens and thousands of other posts.)
- Ask 2 or 3 of your friends to unfollow your Instagram account (if they are following already) and then search for the hashtag you have added to your latest post.
For example, you have added the hashtag #naturelandscape. Your friends can search for the hashtag and then tap the Recent tab to find your post.
- If they can see your post, you are not shadowbanned. If your post is not visible to them, it is likely that Instagram has shadowbanned your account.
You can check the Insights of your Instagram account and compare how your content is performing with your audience.
A simple way to do this is by comparing two posts. Take an old post and compare it with a recent one. If there has been a substantial drop in Profile Visits, Web Clicks, Follows, Reach, and Impressions for no obvious reasons, Instagram may have shadowbanned your account.
Here’s an example:
The above image compares the insights of two blog posts of the same blogger. From being discoverable to 32% non-followers, their reach dropped drastically to 4%. The analytics also shows a significant drop in Follows and Impressions.
The Heist can analyze your Instagram posts and identify the issues. You can also use their analysis report to create algorithm-friendly Instagram content and avoid similar issues in the future.
Triberr is a great tool to check Instagram posts for banned or problematic content and hashtags. All you need to do is enter your Instagram username and hit the analyze tab.
The tool checks the last 10 Instagram posts and shares results at the right-hand side of each post.
The above image is an example of Triberr’s analysis report for posts that look good.
Triberr also checks the hashtags you have used in your last 10 posts and marks the banned ones in red.
If you are noticing a decline in your Instagram engagement and followers, try one or more of the methods I have shared above to check if the platform has restricted your account.
If you are shadowbanned on Instagram, it is obvious that you will want to get rid of the restrictions at the earliest. However, there’s nothing much you can do about it. In most cases, Instagram lifts the ban on its own within 2 to 3 weeks.
However, on suspecting a shadowban, you must remove the controversial posts and hashtags that could have led to the ban.
Suppose you have made the changes, but your posts are still not visible on the Home Page, Explore Page, and Hashtag Feeds of non-followers.
Here’s what you should do next:?
- Identify the Effects of the Ban
- Report the Issue
- Remove Unapproved Automation Apps
- Remove Fake Followers
- Check Your Hashtags Again
- Take a Break from the Platform
Firstly, check how the ban has affected your Instagram account:
- Has there been a sudden and steep decline in your account engagement?
- Are you losing followers every day?
- Are your posts not visible on Instagram Explore?
- Are your hashtags not showing up on the Hashtag pages?
Keep an eye on your Instagram insights for a few days, maybe a week, to see how your page is performing.
If the engagement rate continues to decline and your content is not visible on the Explore and hashtag pages, go ahead and report the issue.
You can report the issue by following the steps below:
- Go to Instagram Settings and tap Help.
- Tap Report a Problem and select Report problem without shaking.
- Next, you can choose to include the logs and diagnostics of your Instagram account or continue without including them.
- Lastly, type the issues you are facing with your Instagram account and hit Send. You can also upload reference images and screenshots in this step.
For example, you can mention in the report that your Instagram Stories views are down or there has been a notable drop in your reach, engagement, and number of new followers.
Remember not to use the term shadowban anywhere in the report.
Go to Instagram Settings > Security > Apps and Websites and check if you are using any unapproved automation apps or tools. Scan the list of Active tools or apps here and remove the potentially dangerous ones from there.
The automation tools are third-party apps that help you manage your account. The Instagram scheduler is a good example.
Instagram is not totally against automation and you can use any of the approved Instagram automation or marketing tools, such as Kicksta, Inflact, Combin, Later, and Hootsuite. However, linking the unapproved or spammy ones to your account can lead to shadowbanning on Instagram.
If you have bought followers on Instagram or some fake accounts are following your page, remove them right away. Also, scan the accounts you are following and unfollow the ones that appear fake.
These activities violate the platform’s rules and can result in a shadowban.
- How to identify fake accounts?
Most fake accounts have a weird username (usually a mix of alphabets and numbers), no profile name, a couple of followers, and a long list of following.
- How to remove fake followers?
To remove fake followers, click on the Followers tab of your Instagram account, and you will see two tabs – Accounts You Don’t Follow Back and Less Interacted With.
Tap the Remove tab next to the accounts you want to remove from your list of followers.
You can also tap Manage in the top right corner of the screen and remove multiple accounts at once.
- How to unfollow fake accounts?
Although unfollowing fake accounts is an annoying Instagram problem, the right tools can do the work for you.
For example, you can use the Instagram-approved tool Combin to check the accounts that are not following you back on Instagram. These are probably the fake accounts you should unfollow. Tap Select All and unfollow them with one click.
While the right hashtags can boost your reach, impressions, and engagement, the wrong ones can result in an Instagram shadowban!
In addition to the obvious ones, some not-so-obvious hashtags are banned on Instagram.
For example, #desk #date #brain #dm are some simple hashtags that are banned on the platform.
Hence, make it a point to review your hashtags from time to time and check if you are using any banned ones.
Here’s how you can review hashtags:
- Run a search on Instagram and enter a hashtag you have used for your post. For example, #homedesgin
- Check if there is any message on the top of the page.
- If everything looks good, the hashtag is safe to use.
On the other hand, if you search #brain, you will see a message at the top of the page. This is what a banned hashtag looks like.
Although not an inappropriate term for a hashtag, #brain is banned on Instagram.
You can check all your hashtags the same way and remove the banned, broken, or abused ones right away.
Once you have reported the issue and made the necessary changes to your Instagram page, take a break from the social networking platform.
Instagram often mistakes too much activity within a certain amount of time for bots and shadowbans accounts. Hence, it is best to log out of your Instagram account or deactivate it for 2 to 7 days. This can help you get your account back on track.
Here are some tips that can help you avoid an Instagram shadowban.
- Do not post or share anything false, unlawful, misleading, or inappropriate.
- Do not impersonate others.
- Post or share only the content you create or what you have the right to use.
- Avoid hate speech and anything that can tarnish someone’s reputation or image.
- Maintain a positive environment.
- Use Hashtags Wisely: Be careful when you are adding hashtags to your posts, as the wrong and irrelevant ones can result in a shadowban.
- Do not use banned or broken hashtags.
- Add only 4 to 5 most relevant hashtags per post to avoid hashtag spamming.
- Review your hashtags from time to time and remove the prohibited ones
- Don’t Engage in Bot-Like Activities: Instagram neither entertains bots nor bot-like activities. Even if you are not using bots, behaving like one can force the platform to restrict your account.
According to Meta’s spam policy, users should not post, share, or engage with content on Instagram too frequently.
- Stay Away From Bots or Unapproved Automation Apps: Using bots or unapproved automation apps on Instagram can result in a shadowban. The platform could flag your account and shadowban it eventually.
Hence, do not use bots for:
- Liking posts and commenting on Instagram
- Viewing Instagram Stories
- Gaining followers
If you want to use automation apps, go for official Instagram partners, such as Kicksta, Inflact, and Combin.
- Never Buy Followers: Gaining followers the wrong way can harm your reach and popularity on the platform. Fake followers will only follow your account but never interact with your brand/business. And it won’t take Instagram long to realize that you are buying followers.
What’s more, high following and low engagement will hurt your credibility and work against the algorithm. Instagram may also shadowban your account when it detects fake followers.
For example, an Instagram account with over 10000 followers but an average of 2.5% to 3% engagement screams fake followers or bots.
- Don’t Buy Likes and Comments: These are spammy activities that Instagram does not entertain. A high like count and some inappropriate bot comments will do no good to your Instagram page.
Most of these fake comments are in a different language, impersonal, poorly written, and irrelevant to the post shared. They are generic and lack interaction.
Instagram can easily detect these activities on your account and shadowban it.
These are some important points to keep in mind to avoid an Instagram shadowban.
Most importantly, be consistent on the platform to gain organic followers and engagement.
Plan your content wisely, post several times a week, interact with your followers, and respond to their comments regularly.
Shadowbanning on Instagram is an unofficial ban and there is no direct way to know its status. The best you can do is check your Instagram Insights and hashtag feeds to get a fair idea about the status of an Instagram shadowban.
- Keep an Eye on Instagram Insights
- Check Hashtag Feeds
Let’s take a look at each of these points in detail.
Check the insights of your recent Instagram posts and Stories every day to see how they are performing.
If you notice a slow yet steady increase in engagement and following, Instagram has probably lifted the shadowban.
If the numbers continue to drop, it is likely that you are still shadowbanned.
Take the help of your family or friends and do a hashtag search again. Ask them to unfollow your Instagram page and check if your recently published hashtagged content is visible to them in the hashtag feed.
If they can see your content, Instagram has lifted the ban. And if your posts are still not visible in the hashtag feed, you may have to wait a bit longer for your ban to be lifted.
If you have got shadowbanned, be careful once the restrictions are lifted. Follow the platform’s rules and work to grow your presence again with good content and engagement.
From my experience, I can say that posting at the right time is a smart way to boost your Instagram reach and engagement. So, you can do some research to find the best time to post on Instagram and schedule your posts accordingly.
Now that you know what shadowban means and how to avoid it, make sure you follow the rules and refrain from spamming the platform with objectionable content and unnecessary engagement.
A lot of uncertainty still surrounds Instagram shadowbans, as the platform has never confirmed restricting accounts. You may not even realize you are shadowbanned unless you notice a sudden and drastic drop in your reach and growth rate.
The best you can do is check the rules and use the platform responsibly for better engagement. If you have posted anything objectionable, remove it right away.
Have you ever been shadowbanned on Instagram? What did you do to come out of it? Do share your experience and tips with us in the comments below.