Have you heard of Shadowban? If you have an Instagram account, you may have noticed recently that your hashtags are not working properly. You see your own posts, but your posts are not being displayed to others who perform hashtag searches. You’ve experienced a notable drop in engagement.
Has this happened to you? You may have been shadowbanned.
Instagram users take advantage of hashtags to increase visibility of posts, likes, comments, follower numbers, and overall engagement with their profile. This has been standard practice on Instagram for many years and a primary way follower numbers and visibility are built.
But recently, Instagram has made some changes.
What is a Shadowban?
Shadowbanning has, in the past, been a tool used for silencing annoying or undesirable social media users. It was targeted towards those who spammed, as well as trolls, bots, and others posting content that was meaningless and did not contribute to the site in a valuable way.
Other users of the platform would be screened from all activity by the shadowbanned party – all posts and content was hidden from view.
Users who had been shadowbanned were not notified of their status as such; they would see no difference in their own experience using the platform – they’d literally be in the dark as to what has happened to their account (hence the term “shadow”).
Some users who had been shadowbanned would continue posting to their profiles for months or even years without becoming aware that nobody else was seeing their content. They might be confused as to why interactions had stalled, but had no idea why.
Shadowbanning has been used on Facebook and Twitter for some time.
Specific comments on a Facebook page can be hidden by the page administrator, and troublesome or undesirable users can be blocked from a Page altogether.
When a comment is hidden on a Facebook page, only the page administrator and the commenter’s Facebook friends can see it. It’s a way to hide annoying or offensive comments without banning or blocking the culprit.
Instagram’s update and shadowbanning
Instagram has recently updated some of its features, and some users as a result of this are unfortunately experiencing a shadowban.
It means that users who rely on hashtags to increase engagement, as well as their followers, can still see posts within a hashtag search, however anyone who is not an existing follower of the profile will not be able to see said posts.
New audiences are effectively blocked from discovering a profile via a hashtag search.
Why would Instagram make this change?
It could be part of a strategy to move the platform from one that is purely organic to one that works on a pay-to-play basis. It may be that, in coming months, business owners and marketers will be encouraged to pay to promote and advertise specific content via Instagram.
Why shadowbanning as opposed to regular bans?
One might ask, why not simply ban openly? This has been done for a long time.
The issue is that when one is banned and informed of why the ban has been imposed, some banned users react angrily and behave in an even worse way.
Banners may be harassed via new accounts created specifically for this purpose. It is of course very poor form on the part of the banned user, but it happens all too often.
With a shadowban, all of this potential for trouble is avoided – because the banned user is unaware of their “persona non grata” status. They are free to continue doing what they do, trolling, spamming, and generally being unpleasant while their actions have absolutely no impact on other social media users.
With no new engagement, many will eventually give up and stop.
Unfortunately, with shadowbanning, some non-abusive users are targeted. At this stage it is something of a mystery as to exactly what triggers the new Instagram shadowban, and whether it is actively put in place by a moderator or is triggered automatically by the platform’s algorithm.
Am I shadowbanned?
The clearest sign of being shadowbanned is a sudden drop or cease in new likes, comment, and interaction. Follower numbers may stall or even diminish, and there will only be interaction with content from existing followers.
No matter what you do, nothing, even the most outstanding and captivating posts, will trigger new interactions.
When you are shadowbanned, none of your content appears in hashtag searches, no matter how popular or effective your chosen tag is. Your posts and tags are simply not being indexed.
In effect, Instagram, when it triggers a shadowban, eliminates your ability to use hashtags while at the same time hiding this fact from you. Exposure, visibility, and growth of an account are disrupted – and this can disrupt your business. The worst part is that you may well be none the wiser.
When you have been targeted by this practice and you have no idea why, it’s very difficult to correct the issues that caused it.
How do you know if you’ve been shadowbanned? Search for a post using the hashtags you attached to it, using your account. Can you see it? Now search in the same way but from a different account that is not following or in any way linked to yours.
If you have been shadowbanned, your post will be invisible.
What can I do?
First and foremost, avoid any activity that is likely to get you banned!
- Spam – following or unfollowing copious numbers of people; searching hashtags and liking copious numbers of posts; etc
- Be impolite
- Use profane language or upload content that is inappropriate
- Buy fake likes
- Use too many hashtags
- Be a troll – ever!
You can try using the “Report a Problem” feature on Instagram to ask directly – there may be no response from Instagram, but it’s worth a try.
Ultimately, the only answer may be to create a fresh, new Instagram account from scratch. Yes, this is a huge nuisance and not great from a business perspective, however it is better than being invisible for ever after.
Create a new account using a new or different email address and phone number – the ones you used before may be tied to your old account. You may even need to use a different or new device. Inconvenient? Excessively.
You should also deactivate your old account – let existing followers know you are shutting down your old account and provide details of your new one.
Shadowbanning is not all bad – as long as it doesn’t happen to you. If used effectively, it frees social media from toxic elements like trolls and spam which undermine the entire point of it.
The balance must be struck by moderators between proper use of shadowbans and those who would abuse the power the tool permits. When used as a last resort to punish in extreme circumstances, they work well and are valuable for all who use a platform. The practice should only ever be used by moderators as a last resort, after warnings.
Sadly for business owners, this is not always the case – so remember that prevention of being banned in the first place is the key to remaining visible and relevant.
We have written plenty of other stories on Instagram…you can check them out here!
Want to know more about Instagram? Here are our 5 best blogs!
- Instagram Stories – what are they and why do you need them?
- When images matter most – 19 marketing tips to using Instagram.
- 9 steps to build your brand with Instagram – yes, you can do it!
- Promote Your Small Business Locally on Social Media – Instagram is one way, but there are plenty of others.
- Advertising on Instagram: Everything you need to know – how to get the most out of your Insta account!
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