Shadowban: An increasingly common phenomenon on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Shadowban as part of the "Cancel Culture

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By now, everyone has heard about the rumour of the mysterious shadowban of Instagram, Twitter or Facebook Don't know what "shadowban" is? That weird thing where your engagement suddenly decreases, you loose countless followers and your posts no longer show up in hashtag search results. And all this without you getting a notification that your account has been suspended.

Instagram users have struggled over the past few years to understand the shadowban and its causes. Why does it happen? How can it be prevented? And most importantly, why won't Instagram just admit that shadowbans do exist?

Despite overwhelming evidence from users that their accounts have been blocked, Instagram keeps saying that it does not block its users' content. So what does it mean when Instagram says there are no shadowbans, but thousands of users believe the opposite? Perhaps there is a much simpler explanation.

We hope to get to the bottom of it today. At best, we can shed some light and show what you can do to avoid the Instagram shadowban.

What is the Instagram Shadowban?

Shadowbanning is when a social media platform blocks a user's account in such a way that the user is not aware of it.

This means that if you have been the victim of an Instagram shadow ban, you probably didn't know it had happened. With a shadow ban, your content only appears in other users' feeds if they are already following you. And even that is difficult: very often, however, your content comes at the very end of followers' feeds.

If you are shadowbanned, your visibility on Instagram or Twitter will be drastically reduced. So you can imagine that your engagement rate can and probably will drop. Marketers, content creators and influencers have been the biggest opponents of the shadowban. Lower engagement and loss of followers can literally impact their business or their ability to drive results for a business client.

Instagram's Shadow Ban can have a very negative impact on your business

What Instagram says (or doesn't say) about shadowbanning

As already mentioned, Instagram strictly rejects shadowbanning. The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, frequently answers questions about shadowbanning. In 2019, when asked about the practice of shadowbanning, Mosseri said, "Shadowbanning doesn't exist. If someone follows you on Instagram, your photos and videos may show up in their feed if they continue to use the feed. Inclusion in Explore is not guaranteed for anyone. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't."

Mosseri also spoke about hashtags that are often associated with shadowbanning. Typically, users who believe they have been shadowbanned from Instagram complain that they cannot find their content under the hashtags they tagged with their posts. Mosseri says: "Some people don't know this, but we don't show every post with a hashtag under it. We try to show people the posts that might interest them the most. That way we try to keep the hashtag pages interesting, but also avoid spam and abuse."

Despite such communications from Mosseri and others in charge at Instagram, what worries many who believe the shadowban is actually real is a simple understanding of the terminology. As Carolina Hadas said in 2019, "Shadowban is a term Instagram doesn't use. They've never used it, they've always denied that such a thing exists. But that doesn't mean that the things that fall under the term Shadowban don't happen."

Just because Instagram doesn't use the term "shadowban" doesn't mean the practice doesn't happen. In fact, a few years ago, Instagram specifically talked about some of the causes of "shadowbanning" without using the term. Further proof that shadowbanning exists in some form, even if Instagram doesn't define it the way others do.

Why is there shadowbanning?

Shadowbanning has actually been around since the dawn of social media and the beginning of the blog era in 2006, but more recently shadowbanning has become a point of contention on Instagram and other social media platforms. However, the term first appeared in the context of Twitter, not Instagram.

However, because Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms and arguably has the biggest financial impact, shadowbanning simply has a bigger impact when it happens. But why does it happen? Let's look at a few of the possible causes:

  • You use Instagram pods: The new algorithm does not give as much value to followers as it does to their interactions. In other words, even if you have millions of followers and they don't interact with your posts, the algorithm won't classify them as relevant and rank them. This is why Instagram pods came into being. This is a strategy that consists of creating groups of users who help each other by liking and commenting, thus encouraging engagement with the posts. But these actions are not natural and are agreed upon in advance to trick the algorithm. The way it works is simple. When a user or group member posts a photo, the rest of the group is quickly notified (e.g. via Whatsapp or Telegram) so they can interact with the post by either liking, commenting, mentioning, re-posting or saving it. Furthermore, a post on Instagram is only considered relevant if it generates engagement in the first hour after publication, especially in the first 20 minutes. But if you are caught doing this by Instagram, you face a shadowban.
  • You use Bots or services that violate the Instagram terms and conditions: If you are not the one doing the main actions, Instagram will assume that you are not using a legitimate method to increase follower numbers and will penalise this behaviour. Using bots is a spam-like tactic and can lead to a shadow ban from Instagram.
  • They share content that is labelled as "fake news".
  • Your account is reported for violations: When users repeatedly report an account, Instagram assumes that their posts are inappropriate or do not comply with the terms of use. In this case, they can deactivate the account or use shadowban tactics.
  • You are using invalid or banned hashtags: Using banned hashtags can affect the visibility and reach of your posts, so you should be very careful not to include them in your strategy. Originally they were considered inappropriate, but now Instagram has become a bit stricter and you can find "everyday" hashtags among the banned ones (ex: #models).
  • They have large spikes of activity that could indicate fraudulent activity: If you follow 200 new people within 10 minutes, Instagram will think you are spamming and your account will be penalised.
  • They abuse Instagram's daily or hourly limits: Although it is not widely known, there is a daily action quota on Instagram. Simply put, there is a limit to the number of actions you can take on Instagram per hour and/or per day. This includes the number of posts you like, the number of comments you post and the number of accounts you follow or unfollow, but that's not all.

Instagram and the Shadow Ban

How to find out if you are blocked

You might be asking yourself now: How do I find out if I've been banned from Instagram if I don't even know it's happening? Unfortunately, it's not that easy, but there are ways to check if you have been affected by an Instagram ban.

Use another account - one of the quickest and most effective ways to check the shadowban is to create a new Instagram post and use a few unpopular hashtags in the caption and first comment. Then ask a friend to use their account and unfollow themselves. Finally, search for these hashtags and check if your post appears in the search results - either under "Top Posts" or "Recent Posts". If your posts don't show up in either search, you may be the target of the Instagram shadowban.

Use an Instagram Shadowban Tester - there are several tools you can use to check if your account has been shadowbanned. One of the better options is Tribeer. Simply enter the name of your account into the shadowban analyser of Triberr and it will show you which hashtags your posts are not displaying.

The best ways to get around the Instagram Shadowban

While the debate about the validity of the Instagram shadowban will continue long after this blog post, the key today is to take the necessary precautions to ensure you don't fall into its clutches, whether you believe in its existence or not. Here are some of the best ways to avoid being affected by the shadowban:

  • Follow all Instagram community guidelines
  • Avoid using bots or services that are not official Instagram partners. If you have used an application/app that is considered spam, delete it. To do this, go to the "Approved apps" option and check which of the apps could have caused the shadowban. After detection, simply click on "Remove access" and that's it.
  • Don't spam with similar hashtags in all your posts
  • Do not use prohibited hashtags
  • Do not follow and unfollow numerous accounts frequently
  • Do not post illegal or inappropriate content
  • Do not harass or spam other Instagram users
  • Do not buy followers

Take a 2-day break

Many users reported that not using an Instagram account for 48 hours allows the system and its normal functioning to reset (besides, we all need a little break from social media from time to time).

When it comes to working with your Instagram strategy to shine, it is important to remember that there are no shortcuts. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can beat the algorithm, because that's a game you can't win.

If you want your strategy to grow organically and smoothly, you should check Instagram's terms of use and community guidelines and make sure you comply with them.

The most important thing when it comes to growing your audience is that your posts contain useful and authentic content that is in line with best practices. You may think this is the longest and most difficult path, but it is a safe and steady process that will give you many benefits in the long run and prevent your account from being shadow-banned.

Instagram Shadowban: Great confusion

Much of the confusion around the Instagram shadowban is based solely on the fact that the company never actually admits to it, and most likely never will. Instagram simply adheres to its community guidelines to protect the platform from abuse. These community guidelines can then be adapted at will by Instagram. Accordingly, users are at the mercy of the platform. This is why it is very important that your online marketing strategy never focuses solely on social media, as you do not actually own these platforms, and your account can also always be deleted (or shadowbanned) by the platform operator if it suddenly adjusts its guidelines.

But whether or not Instagram accepts "shadowbanning" as a term or even a practice, it's clear that something is happening - and it's a consistent problem for many users. A shadowban can be frustrating and have a negative impact on engagement, follower count and more. So avoiding this altogether should be high on your priority list.

Protect your Instagram brand with the best practices above to make sure you neverget shadowbanned.

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