Have you noticed your follower count plummeting, your engagement dropping and your photos not showing up in hashtags? You may be a victim of Instagram’s “shadowbanning” feature without even knowing it.

Shadowbanning is a controversial feature of Instagram that stops the hashtagging and discoverability functions on some accounts. Many users are blaming it for their decreased engagement. So, what is a shadowban? What causes it to activate? How can you avoid it?

Let’s unravel the mysteries of Instagram’s shadowban:

WHAT IS A SHADOWBAN?

A shadowban subtly blocks a user from an online community in a way that they may not realise they’ve been banned. On Instagram, a shadowban will hide your post from those who don’t follow you. If you use hashtags on your post, only you and your current followers will be able to see those posts when exploring the hashtags you’ve used. This defeats the point of using hashtags for strategic Instagram growth or community-building purposes. Basically, being shadowbanned means you are unable to reach people beyond those who already follow you. Your growth and engagement and number of followers could stagnate. With the closure of Instagress many users are looking for an alternative, or even decline. If you use Instagram for business, this could mean fewer customers and less revenue.

WHAT ACTIVATES A SHADOWBAN?

The shadowbanning feature was implemented to steer users away from certain kinds of behaviour – that which is spammy, inappropriate or abusive. However, other seemingly innocent behaviours, such as using the same hashtag over and over again, have also been seen as a way to get shadowbanned.

Repeatedly using hashtags doesn’t seem like the kind of user behaviour which should incur a shadowban. Hashtagging is a tool to engage and grow your community. Consistently tagging your posts with hashtags relevant to your industry or niche is all part of an effective Instagram marketing strategy. This feature may be a way for Instagram to decrease influencer marketing by hindering the ability of influential accounts to reach a wider audience through hashtags. This would make Instagram’s paid advertising programmes seem more attractive to businesses.

HOW CAN YOU AVOID A SHADOWBAN?

Don’t use banned or broken hashtags:

With millions of active users on the app each day, Instagram can’t completely control what people share and the hashtags they use. Sometimes a completely innocent hashtag can be invaded with inappropriate content which causes it to be banned. If a user includes a banned hashtag, a shadowban may prevent any of their post from showing up in the hashtags they’ve used.

Don’t use software that violates Instagram’s terms:

Instagram has cracked down on liking, commenting and follower-boosting bots. If you use any automated or bot software on your account, you are likely to be shadowbanned. Also, some apps that schedule your posts, or post for you, may get you shadowbanned. When using these apps, make sure they align with Instagram’s terms of service and research them thoroughly.

Avoid big surges in your Instagram activity:

There are limits on how many photos you can like, comments you can leave and accounts you can follow or unfollow. Spread out your liking and commenting activity out over the course of the day. Try not to exceed 150 likes, 60 comments and 60 follows/unfollows per hour. As part of Instagram’s crackdown on bots – excessive activity may make you look like a bot and cause you to be shadowbanned.

Craft your content carefully:

As a visual platform, Instagram’s algorithms read and reward high-quality images and unique content. Make sure your caption matches the image and they both reflect the intentions and niche of your account. If the Instagram algorithm can understand what your post is trying to achieve, it will expose you to relevant accounts.

Be nice:

Another way to avoid getting shadowbanned is to avoid getting reported by other users. You can be reported by posting content or engaging in a way that is mean, inappropriate or spammy. Getting reported will not immediately activate a shadowban against your account – Instagram will first have to prove that you’ve violated their terms of service. If you’re at fault you will be shadowbanned, or worse – completely banned from Instagram.