We’ll give you a rundown of what shadowbanning is, why it happens, and how to check to see if it’s happened to you. We’ll also give you some simple steps to fix it and other tips to boost your lost engagement.
If you live and breathe Instagram, seeing a decrease in your engagement or reach can be truly alarming. With so many people out there working diligently to grow their follower base and engagement rate, finding that it’s actually gone in the opposite direction is not good news. When users see a sharp decrease in engagement, they wonder, “Have I been shadowbanned?”
How To Know If You’re Shadowbanned On Instagram
There are lots of services out there that say they can check and see if you’ve been shadowbanned, but don’t bite. These services are typically trying to use scare tactics into selling you something that you don’t really need; they want to offer you the “quick-fix” and promise results that either aren’t delivered or fake.
That’s why we’ve created this guide– you don’t need a service to tell you whether or not you’ve been shadowbanned because you can simply do it on your own!
What does Shadowbanned really mean?
Basically, if you’re shadowbanned, it means that you’re blocked without you actually knowing. It’s a technique that platforms can use to hide unsavory content unethical accounts from gaining reach.
On Instagram, hashtags are one of the main ways that posts can expand their reach and get their content out to a wider audience. If you’re shadowbanned, however, those hashtags won’t appear to any users that don’t already follow you. That’s to say that unless they’re current followers, no one is going to view your content.
This severely hinders many people from gaining new audience members to their content since their exposure is effectively cut off.
How To Check if You’re Shadowbanned
There’s a simple process that you can follow to see if you’ve been shadowbanned. You’ll need to enlist the help of someone, or create an account to test against.
- First, find someone that has an account that doesn’t follow you on Instagram, or create an account to do the test.
- Create an IG post and post it normally using your typical hashtags.
- Instruct the person who doesn’t follow you to review the hashtag feed results and see if your account pops up.
On hashtag feeds, posts appear in the order that they were posted. This may take a minute depending on connectivity; if you don’t see your post on one of your hashtag feeds immediately, refresh and check again.
Alternatively, if you are using a mega-popular hashtag that populates thousands of posts in seconds, this may be one of the reasons why your helper hasn’t been able to see your post in the feed; it’s simply being pushed down too fast. Make sure you’re testing with somewhat niche hashtags, and we recommend that if you aren’t regularly using ones like that, you should consider it. If your posts aren’t able to be noticed because of the sheer quantity of posts going out with that hashtag, your strategy isn’t effective anyway.
So, to sum up:
- If your post appears under the hashtag feed from the non-follower account, you are not
- If your post does not appear on the hashtag feed, you ARE effectively shadowbanned.
Let’s take a look at some possible reasons why you may have been shadowbanned and what you can do about it.
Why does Shadowbanning Happen
Reason 1: You use(d) an Instagram automation service or settings that flagged your account
Since the boom of Instagram, buying followers or using bots became very popular. At one point, cerca 2018, Instagram realized that this was damaging the platform and put new rules in place that effectively warn users against using these types of services.
Using an Instagram bot or automation service isn’t a 100% guarantee that you will be blocked, but if the bot or automation service is poorly run or managed, or exposes the account to risks or security issues, actions will be taken. Another reason you may be flagged is because you are surpassing the engagement limits set by Instagram. These numbers are not public, but they do have a cap number that is considered an acceptable number per hour, and if you go over that number, you’ll be flagged as suspicious.
What to do if you’ve been shadowbanned due to bot/automation use:
If you think this is the problem, and you started to see a change since you started using it, stop using it. If you really want to use an automation or bot service, look into different services that can offer you these features with more safety and consistency, or ones that have more reputable account managers that ensure your accounts stay within the threshold. The whole purpose of flagging is to make sure that accounts are remaining safe, so if the automation service has account managers to monitor this, it’ll be less likely that you’ll encounter problems.
You can also try lowering your engagement rate if you have your automation service set up with specific engagement numbers if you feel this has had an impact but you’re happy with the service.
Reason 2: Your audience is reporting your content
There are many guidelines that Instagram has in place to keep the community a safe and savory place. Reported content is one of the ways that Instagram keeps eyes on what is being posted in the community and then is able to remove content that is harmful.
If your content is reported multiple times, it will then come into the radar of an account that is perhaps spam or harmful. When this happens, Instagram will have a reason to limit the reach of your content, as it has been proven to be negative for those in the community.
Some of these factors include content that is violent, bullying or harassing, misinformation, related to the sale of masks and medical goods (update for COVID-19), as well as photos related to sexual activity with nudity.
What to do if your audience is reporting your content
If your audience is continually reporting your content, stop posting that type of content. While one thing may not be violent or inappropriate to you, it may be harmful or harassing to others. Always be sensitive in your content and make sure that you are not contributing to a negative community environment.
Each account is different, but Instagram takes inappropriate and hateful content very seriously, so avoid it at all costs.
Check Again To See If You’re Shadowbanned
Reasons Why Engagement Decreases Without Shadowbanning
If you aren’t shadowbanned but find yourself baffled as to why you’ve seen a noticeable drop in engagement, let’s take a look at a few other reasons why that might be happening.
Your Content Isn’t Pulling Engagement
It’s not uncommon for accounts to get a boom of engagement of followers at the beginning, and then somewhat burn out because they were unable to keep up with the excitement and newness in their content. While we don’t like to accept the fact that maybe our content isn’t standing the test of time, it’s important that we’re constantly measuring analytics and seeing how content is performing.
Typically users become accustomed to seeing your posts, and the less they engage with them, the less likely they are to pop up in the feed. This is how the algorithm determines photos that have high priority to appear in the feed of users.
The Instagram algorithm tailors to posts that are likely to pull engagement because they’re looking to bring in those advertising dollars. It will compare the engagement your posts are getting against other similar style posts, and it will then show your content to either more or less people based on how much engagement it is getting. This is how posts are given top priority in new feeds and on the Explore page.
What to do:
It’s absolutely necessary to stay up to date with all of the features that Instagram is using. If you’re not using things like stories, polls, live feeds, carousel posts, story highlights, and other applicable features that Instagram has launched, you’re really behind the curve.
Also, make sure your posts include some kind of relevant information for your followers. If they’re always finding new and exciting information through your posts, they’ll be more likely to stay engaged. You can also use tactics like asking your followers to participate through call-to-action posts like contents, tagging friends in the comments, or responding to questions that you pose. All of these strategies will help to boost your engagement.
It’s important to keep your posts varied, on-brand, informative, and engaging for users to stay in the circulation of the feed. Stay on top of your analytics, see which post style is performing best, use the features available to you for a well-rounded account, and that will also help you to change course and find a more effective posting strategy.
Wrap-Up on Shadowbanning
One thing to keep in mind about Instagram and other social media platforms is that posts are based on algorithms. The more engagement you get, the more likely your posts are to be featured and gain a higher reach to your target audience.
Make sure you have a clear social media strategy that has measurable goals, use Instagram analytics like Instagram insights (on the platform itself) or other third party analytic apps, test your content, and listen to your followers. When you see that posts are performing well, keep going with things like that.
Take a look at the top accounts in your niche that typically perform very well. What are they offering their followers? Engage in conversations in your niche’s community and make your presence strong. This will help you to regain the traction that you lost, and will boost you up to the next level.