Fact or Fiction?
Are you falling victim to the Mythical Content Killer?
For the average user, Instagram is a place to share the odd photo of their cat, access and online community or spend hours lost in endless scrolling.
However, for the small, handmade business owner, Instagram offers the chance to reach a wider audience and reach their perfect customers. All you need to market your products is a Business Account, good scheduling practice and an awesome sauce photo. You can easily set up business accounts in the settings menu and with a few tweaks, you’re up and running.
If you’re using Facebook and Instagram to promote your small business, gain likes and share content, then I’m pretty sure that you will have experienced the sudden drop off of engagement, the dip in followers, and maybe you’ve even noticed that your content is suddenly failing to show up on the hashtags search.
When these things happen, most small business assume that the Instagram or Facebook algorithm has shifted, or changed in some way to cause their content to suddenly become a lot less visible. You may however, have fallen victim to something far more mysterious.
Known online as “the Instagram Shadowban“, some people believe that you can become a target of the ban for something as innocent as using the same hashtags repeatedly. It has been suggested that the Shadow Ban can cause all of your content to be hidden from anyone not following you, making it nearly impossible to promote your business and grow your audience!
So what Exactly is the Instagram Shadow ban?
The term “shadow ban” was first bandied about by Twitter, back in 2006. Back then Twitter was in the habit of filtering out content that directly breached its terms of service, in an attempt to tackle online abuse and bullying. Should you fall foul of a Twitter shadow ban, they will actually inform you that this has been the case… not so with Instagram.
A shadow ban on Instagram literally hides your posts from any user who isn’t following you and you’ll not even realise that this has happened. Only your current followers will be able to see your posts, even if you’ve been using the most popular hashtags. The ban extends to your hashtags too, and only users who follow you will see your content when they search the specific hashtags used in your posts. So if you’re working hard to grow your following and get your business “out there”, even the hottest hashtag marketing strategy will fall flat on it’s face!
The ban can last anywhere from a few days to weeks, with some user claiming to have been a victim of an indefinite ban for posting what Instagram considers to be inappropriate, even when you user fails to see these posts as offensive content.
So what Causes a User to be Shadow banned?
To understand the cause, you need to get to grips with the reason behind the Instagram shadow ban. Lets face it, no one like spam and scammy content cluttering up their socials. The internet can also be a scary place, with an increase over the last few years of trolls, online bullies and abuse. The ban seems to target this sector of the community directly, and also deters users from any inappropriate behaviour. All of this is a good thing right? So it begs the question as to why they do not inform the user that the shadow ban has been put in place on their account. Surely it would be much more effective as a deterrent if the user is aware that they have crossed the line?
Would it surprise you then that the following behaviours can get your content shadow banned –
- Using the same hashtags repeatedly
- Using automated posting software or third party apps
- Using a banned hashtag (would you believe that #book was a banned hashtag in 2020!?)
- Paying for followers
- Like for like campaigns
- If you have breached Instagram’s terms of service
Failure to follow Community Guidelines
When challenged, Instagram refuses to admit that shadow banning users is even a thing, preferring to blame the algorithm or “improvements to our system”. Some users feel that shadow bans are directly linked to the amount of money made by paid advertising. Banning the repeated use of the same set of high performing hashtags would certainly force influencers to spend and invest in ads as an alternative to audience growth.
Instagram marketing expert Alex Tooby recently published an article on her blog with a ton of great points explaining why your account was shadow banned and how to avoid being shadow banned in the future. Here are 4 tips to keep in mindTips & Tricks
Avoid using Banned or Broken Hashtags on your Posts
It’s hard not to take it personally, when the Instagram shadow ban tanks your engagement for the use of the wrong hashtag, but it really isn’t personal. With millions of active users daily a relatively innocent hashtag can become infested with scammers and inappropriate content, like #kansas for example.
For some weird reason, #kansas became the target of a hashtag ban, after it was linked to inappropriate behaviour and abuse of Instagram’s terms and conditions. I am pretty sure that the awesome sauce influencer and business coach Renae Christine would be utterly flabbergasted to hear that #Bestie was also on the banned list in 2020!
Some findings by the Automated Posting Giants Tailwind
“Shadow ban is not an official term, and certainly a term that Instagram refuses to use. They’ve never used it, they’ve always denied it was a thing. It doesn’t mean that the things included in the shadow ban label are not happening. More reports, theories, and complaints pouring onto social media every day, even as Instagram denies the existence.
So is it a cover-up, or is there a much simpler explanation? Looking at statements and articles over the past three years, we think there is a pretty straightforward reason. And, some tips on what to do if you are shadow banned.” – Tailwind
What do Facebook & Instagram say About it All?
Instagram and Facebook have both denied the existence of an Instagram shadow ban. Here’s a timeline of statements from the company on shadow ban.
- 2017: Instagram for Business published a message about hashtag search, hinting that this was a result of issues with the system.
- 2018: Instagram hosted a group of reporters at its headquarters to explain the Instagram algorithm. They were told the shadow ban does not exist.
- 2019: Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri answered at least two questions
- related to shadow bans.
- Q: Shadow banning: It’s not a thing, right?
- Shadow banning is not a thing . If someone follows you on Instagram, your photos and videos can show up in their feed if they keep using the feed.
- Being in Explore is not guaranteed for anyone. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, sometimes you won’t Adam Mosseri
- Q: Why I don’t see my post under hashtag?
- A: “Some people don’t realize this but we don’t actually show every post with a hashtag under that hashtag . We try to show people the ones that they might be the most interested in. This is to try and keep hashtag pages interesting but also to avoid spam and abuse”
Source – Tailwind
What do You Think, Real or Make-Believe?
With the denials from Instagram, and the endless debates that rage around the topic, it’s hard to say which steps to take to recover your account, should things go squiffy with your engagement rate. How do you remove the ban and gain access to your audience again, and was this the actually cause of your drop in engagement? Some suggest a two day break can reverse the ban, yet others cast doubt on this time frame, which is certainly bad news for small business.
Here are a few awesome sauce articles I’ve found, to fully explore the topic and get advice regarding the measures, if any, you can take to avoid this unpleasant experience.
Rest assured that the Guild has your back, when it comes to your marketing strategy. As a Silk Purse Guild Member, you can find a full list of banned Instagram hashtags in your VIP PORTAL. If you are struggling to find them, or anything else for that matter, get in touch.