A small drop in Instagram engagement can happen to any user from time to time. However, when your business profile suddenly sees falling numbers that aren’t recovering on their own, even for types of posts that always perform well, something bigger may be at play. The notorious Instagram shadowban may be the reason you’re not hitting your goals. But luckily, there are ways to avoid this engagement killer for good.
We’ll explain what exactly the Instagram shadowban is, how it can affect your Instagram account, and how you can grow without getting shadowbanned.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Instagram Shadowban?
- How Shadow Banning Affects Engagement
- How Long Does the Instagram Shadowban Last?
- How To Build Your Reach Without Getting Shadowbanned: 4 Tips
Though Instagram doesn’t officially use the term “shadowban,” the social network does admit that inappropriate content is demoted on the platform. If your account posts content that is close to violating Instagram Community Guidelines—which ban content that’s spammy, unlawful, threatening, and otherwise harmful—it’s possible that you’ll get shadowbanned.
While the shadowban sounds like fair game—we all want a safe online community for creators, influencers, and brands to share—it can cause problems for anyone who’s aiming for Instagram growth. The shadow banning (also known as stealth-banning) system is far from perfect. For years, creators have reported major drops in engagement, even when their posts don’t even come close to breaking Instagram’s rules. (Frustrating, we know.)
Luckily, over the years, Instagram users have identified two common innocent mistakes that can result in shadow banning, so you can start avoiding them.
1. Using Banned Hashtags
One of the ways that Instagram identifies problematic accounts is by figuring out who is using hashtags that they’ve banned. You can instantly get shadowbanned for using a banned hashtag just once.
It may sound easy to avoid banned hashtags—just avoid the inappropriate ones, right?—but it’s a little more complex than that. Instagram sometimes bans hashtags that have been abused for no apparent reason. Bad news for elevator maintenance brands, even the hashtag #elevator is banned!
Other seemingly innocent hashtags that are actually banned include #desk and #brain, as of 2020.
To avoid the shadowban, simply do some Instagram hashtag research before you post. Use the Instagram search box to look up each hashtag you want to use. If you come across any banned or broken hashtags—you’ll see a note like the one in the screenshot above—replace it with an active hashtag.
2. Using Unapproved Third-Party Apps
When you find a third-party app you want to use, make sure to search for it on the Facebook Partner Directory before you connect your account. If it isn’t listed, it’s best to choose an approved alternative. Approved scheduling tools currently include Planoly, Buffer, and Sprout Social.
In addition to avoiding unapproved apps, never use bots to comment, like, or otherwise engage on Instagram. The social media site is always cracking down on bots, and if your business account is tied to one, it can spell trouble for you.
When your account gets hit by the Instagram shadowban, your posts will be filtered out of hashtag search pages and the Explore page, which are two key areas. Your posts will primarily be visible to:
- Your current followers on their main feed
- Anyone who visits your Instagram profile directly
This can slam the brakes on your growth by greatly limiting your reach, which prevents you from gaining new followers and maximizing engagement on your new posts. You’re sure to see a change in your Instagram analytics—and not for the better—which can impact your ability to make money on Instagram and market your products or services.
Keep in mind that a poor engagement rate isn’t always a sign that your account is getting shadowbanned. Instagram’s algorithm is always changing, prioritizing different types of content that it deems most relevant for users. Algorithm changes aren’t limited to Instagram—they’re always happening across social platforms, from Facebook and Twitter to TikTok and YouTube.
After all, a big part of social media marketing is updating your strategy based on what’s trending and what’s working for you, so don’t be quick to blame the Instagram shadowban before you consider other possible issues.
The Instagram shadowban isn’t permanent. Most users agree that the shadowban typically lasts 14 days.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that the effects of this temporary penalty can last much longer. Two weeks is a long time on social media, where millions of images are posted each day, and it can take a few extra weeks to build that momentum back up.
The best thing you can do is avoid the Instagram shadowban altogether.
We’ve already discussed a couple ways that you can avoid getting shadowbanned: steering clear of banned hashtags and using approved apps. However, these two tactics won’t give your engagement a boost.
In this section, we’ll give you four tips to help you grow your reach without fear of the Instagram shadowban. These tips can also help you rebuild your Instagram engagement if you’ve already experienced the ban (and don’t want it to come back).
1. Focus on Creating Engaging Content
Great content marketing should always be engaging on its own. If you want to get your content shared and boost your engagement rate and follower count (without getting too many unfollows), it’s important to focus on creating content that’s built for success. When you’re confident in your content, you won’t have to rely on hashtags to get the reach you need.
Here are two ways you can create posts that really engage your audience.
Create Visually Appealing Graphics
Whether you’re posting from a personal account or a business account, the posts that perform the best are the ones that grab users’ attention. Great lighting and high-quality visuals are always a must for photos and videos, but if you want to impress your audience with graphics, make sure you’re following the basic principles of design.
Spark’s Instagram templates can help you design stunning Instagram posts and Stories in a matter of minutes. Tap below to choose a template of your choice, then start customizing it with your favorite colors, fonts, images, icons, and more to ensure your brand shines through.
Add Calls To Action
Calls to action (CTAs) are prompts for users to do something after seeing a post. They can be super persuasive, as Instagram users may be ready to act but just don’t know what to do. In your caption, make a reach-boosting ask—for example, “Tag a friend who could use a vacation,” or “Share this post in your Story if it inspired you.”
Sharing a video-based post, IGTV video, or a Reel instead of a photo? You can even add a CTA at the end of your video in case users miss the caption.
2. Engage Consistently With Other Instagram Users
A great way to get seen by new audiences and encourage users to interact with you is by engaging with other Instagram users. When you like and comment on new posts, or even follow new accounts, your profile will be visible to their followers. High-quality comments in particular can be great for generating interest in your brand.
Even shadowbanned users can still comment on and like posts. It’s an easy way to continue building your follower count, even if you want to take a break from posting until your potential reach jumps back up.
Consistency is a must when it comes to engaging with other users. Instagram has been known to penalize accounts for massive spikes in engagement by putting them in a 24-hour timeout. For example, liking 100 posts in the course of an hour, if that’s not normal for you, may look suspicious. This timeout isn’t technically a shadowban, but it could make you susceptible to one. Constantly following and unfollowing a large number of accounts can also make Instagram suspect you are a bot.
3. Use Geotags on Your Posts
Want an alternative to hashtags that still helps you show up on Instagram search results? Use geotags!
Before you publish any post, make sure to tap “Add Location” to tag your city, your company headquarters, or wherever your photo or video was taken. When people use Instagram search to look up the location, you’ll show up at the very top of the recent posts section, so you can spread your reach without risking an Instagram shadowban.
Geotags are also available on Instagram Stories—just use the “Location” sticker.
4. Vary Your Hashtags
Instagram won’t shadowban you for using all 30 hashtags, but using the same 30 hashtags on every post can make you look like a spammer to Instagram. Make sure to switch up a handful of your hashtags every time to make them as relevant as possible to your post. This can even help you better target your audience, since they’ll get served the exact type of content they’re searching for!
With our tips, you can use hashtags and engage on the platform safely, without risking an Instagram shadowban. All the while, you’ll be able to build your reach and engagement based on your content quality alone!