Being shadowbanned is definitely one of the more annoying things that can happen to your Instagram account, especially if you have no idea that it’s actually going on. A shadowban may be the result of some suspicious activity on your account, and the Instagram algorithm may decide to make your profile less visible via hashtags and the Explore page, really limiting your organic growth on the platform.
What does it mean when you receive a shadowban on Instagram?
It’s definitely a cool term, but what exactly does a shadowban mean? When someone is banned from Instagram, it just means that their downright blocked from the platform and won’t be able to access any of it anymore. The account will be suspended and all content will be removed.
A shadowban, on the other hand, is a lot less aggressive but still pretty serious. All of your content will still be there and you’ll maintain full functionality of the Instagram app and all it has to offer, but your profile has taken a reputation hit and won’t be shown to as many Instagram users as before if it is even shown to external users at all.
The “shadow” part of the word implies that this soft block actually happens in secret, in the dark. When someone is shadowbanned, they won’t be notified by Instagram themselves. This Is in stark contrast with a regular ban, where it immediately becomes painfully apparent that your Instagram account has received a penalty.
In short, you don’t actually get notified of a shadowban and the Instagram algorithms handle all of this behind the scenes, making it unclear for some people if something happened to their account or not. Think your account might’ve been shadowbanned? Let’s take a look at the common symptoms below.
What are the symptoms of being shadowbanned?
The “symptoms”, so to speak, of an Instagram shadowban, is the fact that you may suddenly lose a lot of traffic and interactions only our Instagram content, mainly via the explore page. Noticing a lot fewer hearts and comments from new people on your posts? Perhaps your visibility isn’t what it used to be, and you’re dealing with a shadowban.
The people who follow you won’t notice a thing – they will still see all of your posts as they used to and will also still be able to like and comment. Shadowbanning only has an effect on the visibility of your content for people who aren’t already following you or deliberately looking you up.
Why does Instagram shadowban?
The short answer is that people generally receive a shadowban on Instagram when they’ve violated the platform’s community guidelines. This includes but is not limited to the posting of inappropriate content (think of excessive nudity, pictures of weapons, promoting addictions, gambling., pyramid schemes/multi-level marketing scams…) or the use of illegal tools such as bots, follow for follow mechanisms, purchasing fake followers online, spamming your posts with hundreds of hashtags that have nothing to do with the actual post and are irrelevant, among others.
It should be absolutely clear that buying followers, fake comments, or fake likes are absolutely a bad idea. It’s very likely that the Instagram algorithm will pick up on this unusual behavior, with all the consequences it may bring. The platform only wants relevant and genuine content to be found on the Explore pages, so that’s what it will prioritize. If it finds things that don’t fit into that spectrum, a shadowban will likely be thrown around.
Sometimes, Instagram does shadowban hashtags instead of profiles.
Posts with these hashtags will receive limited visibility, even if those posts aren’t really breaking or bending Instagram’s rules and policies. When a hashtag received numerous complaints or reports, Instagram may decide to lower the visibility of all posts with that hashtag. This is another reason why you shouldn’t just spam or copy-paste hundreds of hashtags into your posts, as some may have a negative effect on your content’s reach.
Does the Instagram shadowban exist or is it a fake hoax?
As it is with many things on social media, algorithms, and policies can get really complicated, really quick. Instagram, or rather Facebook, the parent company of the photo and video sharing platform, has never officially confirmed that the shadowban was a real thing – but they’re not required to either. Does the Instagram shadowban exist or not?
One time, they’ve actually mentioned the problems that are associated with shadowbanning in a Facebook post for the Instagram for Business branch.
We understand users have experienced issues with our hashtag search that caused posts to not be surfaced. (…) When developing content, we recommend focusing on your business objective or goal rather than hashtags. Having a growth strategy that targets the right audience is essential to success on Instagram.
To us, this seems like a clear confirmation that the Instagram algorithms at least take these fake hashtags into account. It’s pretty much admitting that their algorithms work in this way, without actually confirming that shadowbanning really exists. However, with thousands of users across the world all experiencing the same issues after doing things that didn’t adhere to the Instagram policies, it’s pretty much a given that the shadowban is anything but a hoax.
Do keep in mind, however, that social media is ever-changing, including its algorithms.
We’ve updated this article to be up to date in the year 2021, but the algorithms could operate in a completely different way in a couple of years. However, it’s safe to assume that shadowbans will likely always be a part of the Instagram reviewing process, just like it is with plenty of other social media platforms.
How to test if you’re shadowbanned on Instagram for free
There are a lot of websites and tools out there which claim that they can check whether or not an account has been shadowbanned, but in this case, it might be worth investigating yourself. After all, most of these social media analytics tools are inaccurate, or sometimes even outright don’t work.
Luckily, there’s a pretty easy way to tell if you have been shadowbanned on Instagram, and it doesn’t even have to cost you money. Even better – it won’t even take you long.
Step 1: Publish a new Instagram post, and use a hashtag that is not popular at all
The last step is very important because this will make it easier to check if you’ve actually been shadowbanned. If you’d pick a super popular hashtag (such as #shotoniPhone, #throwbackthursday, #summer…), it would be pretty difficult to spot your content among all of the others anyway.
Pick something more specific, just for the sake of this small shadowban experiment. You can always delete this post later if it doesn’t fit into your profile’s aesthetic.
Step 2: Ask some of your family, friends, or co-workers if they can see your post
It’s important that these people do not follow you on Instagram yet, or simply ask them to quickly unfollow you for a second. A good number would be to ask five people to search for the specific hashtag you’ve used in the previous step. Ideally, all five of these people should easily find your post by searching through this hashtag.
Is only one or two of them seeing your post? Then your profile is likely hit with a shadowban and has been set on limited visibility. Sometimes, not even a single one of those people will be able to come across your post, making you pretty much invisible from the outside world.
Don’t want to bother people? You can check via Instagram Insights as well
We can understand that it’s annoying to ask people to help you out with this small experiment, although we do definitely recommend this as it’s a perfect in-practice method to test a shadowban.
Via the app’s built-in analytics tool, Instagram Insights, you can easily check for anomalies in your audience’s reach. Notice a rather abrupt and sudden decrease in visitors and engagement on your posts? That’s not a very good sign and an indication that you’ve been shadowbanned.
A very interesting part of the Instagram Insights tool is the ability to see the number of accounts reached that don’t follow you, expressed in a percentage. If this percentage is very low, that’s a sign of being shadowbanned.
Is it rather high and in the double digits, that means your content is being seen across the explore page and is performing healthy, bringing in organic traffic and engagement. Nothing to worry about in this case.
Do online Instagram shadowban testers work?
When you do a quick Google search, dozens of websites pop up that claim to be able to analyze your profile and determine whether or not it has been shadowbanned. While we can’t possibly check every one of those tools out there, it is our experience that doing the experiment above yields much more accurate and representative results than whatever an online shadowban test would get you.
Your mileage may vary, but we’re of the opinion that the many shadowban testers on the internet aren’t really useful.
How long does an Instagram shadowban last, is it permanent?
If you’re worried about being shadowbanned, there’s actually some good news: Instagram shadowbans usually are not permanent. The algorithms are constantly learning and analyzing content on the platform, and if you do things the right way, chances are that your shadowban will be lifted within a week.
In other words, an Instagram shadowban by no means has to be permanent.
There is not really a clear timeframe you can put on this, although one week seems to be the average. If your account heavily infringes on Instagram content policies, however, it can take longer to regain your organic visibility through the explore page.
At the time of shadowbanning, Instagram believes that you are a spammer or using automated tools – so it’s important that you stop doing those things immediately.
What to do when you’re shadowbanned on Instagram?
You don’t have to worry right away and create a new account, as your shadowbanned account will still be completely salvageable. However, there are some things that you’ll definitely want to do to get your profile back in the ‘good reputation’ zone again so that people can find you more often via hashtags and the Explore page.
Speaking about hashtags, don’t overdo it. The maximum allowed hashtags in a post are 30 hashtags, and there’s also no point in spamming hashtags in the comments – the algorithm does not appreciate this and you’ll get a penalty for it.
It’s also a good idea to remove all of your hashtags from your recent posts. This gives them a clean sheet and lets Instagram know that you’re focussing on content rather than spamming hashtags.
Next, you’ll also want to switch to a personal profile for a little while. You can always switch back to your business profile after a couple of days when you’ve noticed that your engagement has increased again.
Following and unfollowing people will likely result in a shadowban as well and is one of the more popular reasons why Instagram is penalizing accounts. Don’t use these shady tactics to gain followers. People are also using the follow-for-follow method on TikTok, for example, but with mixed results.
But the most important step is yet to come.
Patience. That’s it! You’ll want to wait a couple of days – ideally a week – with uploading content on your profile. Don’t post anything and keep your comments to a minimum. Instagram will see this as a bit of breathing space where your account will adhere to all the rules, which will likely have a positive effect on your shadowban situation.
Have you tried all of the above and it’s still not working out for you? Maybe it’s time to get in touch with someone from the Instagram support team themselves. Head over to the ‘Help’ section in the app, press ‘Report a Problem’, and click on ‘Something Isn’t Working’. You’ll be able to write down your issue and the support team will try to help you out as best as they can.
Dealing with the action blocked error, or you can’t follow any users? These two issues are actually closely related to shadowbanning and might even be the cause of it, as we’ve discussed above. Feel free to dig into our tips and tricks to resolve these issues.
Being shadowbanned on Instagram is anything but fun and clearly very annoying, especially if you’re trying to build an audience. You can easily test if you’ve been shadowbanned or not, but even if you are, it’s definitely not the end of the world!
Simply ease up on the hashtags and don’t post for a little while, and chances are your Instagram account will be back to normal before you know it. If you use spamming techniques or automated following systems, you’ll want to get rid of those right away in order to rectify your shadowban.
Also make sure that you’re not using banned hashtags, as your posts can also get shadowbanned for that, even if your post is perfectly fine.
Increasing your audience should happen in a genuine and organic manner, there’s really no easy way out of it.
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