I'm perhaps a little late to the table in discussing shadow banning. Sara Tasker from Me & Orla broached the issue a few months ago but I have to be honest, I didn't really pay that much attention as there were a lot of people saying it was a myth or it very rarely happens and I just happily carried on posting my images with pretty much the same hashtags. I've now been the 'victim' of shadow banning and thought I'd bring the issue to light again.
What is Shadow banning?
Shadow banning is effectively a means of Instagram trying to filter out spammy accounts. Lauren Aston puts it well in her recent blog post about the issue, "To try and prevent all this it seems Instagram are policing their platform so that we can happily scroll through innocent hashtags without being confronted with penis pic's, and we can actually talk to likeminded humans rather than being spammed by automated apps. A great thing, thank you Instagram." As she says, it's great that Instagram is trying to stop spam accounts and inappropriate images but in doing so a lot of us are getting caught in the crossfire and becoming 'invisible' to all but our followers. Obviously it's great that our followers are still seeing our posts as we wouldn't be where we are without them BUT if you are a small business trying to make a living it's integral to keep building your following and reach as many people as possible.
How do I know if I've been Shadow Banned?
It can be tricky to work out but if you've seen a dramatic decline in followers and likes on your posts chances are you may have been shadow banned. A good way of checking is to check your recent hashtags from an account that doesn't follow you to see whether your posts appear. As you'll see below, I've even been hit on my own #rosieharbottle hashtag. On the left is what I see under my hashtag feed and on the right is what a user who doesn't follow me sees - a few of my posts are missing. Now if you can imagine that happening on popular hashtag communities where your post just doesn't appear, it can very frustrating, almost like talking to a brick wall!
Why have I been hit?
Basically there are a few reasons why you may have a ban on your account.
1: Always posting images with the same hashtags ~ If like me, a little bit lazy and always use the same hashtags on every photo you need to stop and mix things up a bit. This is an example of where Instagram thinks your a robot and is considered spammy behaviour. Do your research on up to date and relevant hashtags to your post.
2: Using banned hashtags ~ Some very innocent hashtags - such as #dogsofinstagram (!) have been banned because of inappropriate posts spamming the feed. Planthat writes, "Did you know that by using ONE banned hashtag in your Instagram post, currently makes ALL of your hashtags undiscoverable for that post?" So you can see why it's important to do your research. The Preview App also gives some good advice. For a full list of banned hashtags head here though more are being banned all the time...
3: Acting 'spammy' ~ Do not use an app or website to like, comment or follow on your behalf. Instagram seriously frowns upon the use of any automated bot and even if you don't use anything like that, resist going on 'liking sprees' and keep your comments in check. We are all guilty of just leaving a few emoji's on someone's post but try and add value with words too. Also don't follow people to only unfollow if they don't follow back ~ try saying that quickly three times!
4: Posting inappropriate photos ~ Self explanatory really!
How can I lift the ban?
No one 100% knows the answer as Instagram has been so ambiguous about it but from my research you may need to take a break from Instagram. "Nooooo!" I hear you cry, but it may only need to be for a few days. You can try following the advice above and be on your best behaviour but if you find that doesn't help then a week off may be the answer...
Really Lauren Aston has it all covered in her post so I suggest you head their but I wanted to briefly go into it as a lot of you have been asking about it.
Happy posting xx