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What Is Shadowbanning & Is It Real?

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The word shadowban sounds mysterious and ominous and it can be both for your Instagram. Perhaps you have been putting in a lot of effort into your account but, for some reason, you just aren’t seeing the rewards of your work? 

You don’t know why but your content is not making the impact you’d like to, your reach is poor, your engagement takes a nosedive and you lose tons of followers… 

Chances are, you’ve fallen victim to the Shadowban.

What Is Shadowbanning? 

When a social media platform bans you, your account faces suspension or they will make you aware of the repercussions or circumstances of that ban. The act of banning is overt and decisive – there is no secrecy about it and you know about the ban. 

If your account is disabled for failure to follow the Instagram Community Guidelines, for example, you will be unable to access your account. On Twitter, you cannot engage other accounts or tweet. So, you can’t reply, comment, retweet, or pretty much do anything other than watch the action happen around you. 

A shadowban is the exact opposite of this.

Shadowbanning involves banning or restricting social media activity without explicitly telling the person that they’ve been banned. Shadowbanned users can still engage on the platform, but their users may not be able to interact with their content. Your account might be functional but it will not appear on other users’ feeds unless they follow you.

Thus, shadowban is a term (used as a noun or a verb) that describes the secret removal of an account from the platform. A mysterious and hidden form of banning that prevents you from reaching more people on the Explore Page of Instagram.

Why Do Shadowbans Happen? 

Shadowbanning is no new thing. Platforms have used it for a while now since the growth of social media use. Although the term was first used to describe this restriction on Twitter accounts, in recent years it has grown in ‘popularity’ and become a topic of debate for Instagram and Instagram users. 

No matter the platform, social media has come to form an integral part of people’s day-to-day lives, brands, and businesses. This means everybody wants to avoid this undetectable form of punishment as it can affect connectivity, your business and finances, and your reputation. 

Black phone

Instagram enforces shadowbans if you:

  • Use banned hashtags 
  • Overuse hashtags or use the same hashtag too much
  • Use a broken hashtag (a popular tag that has become corrupted with incorrect content)
  • Violate the site guidelines or terms and conditions of use (ie: using bots or fake accounts)
  • Have irregular activities or activity surges
  • Are repeatedly and often reported by other users for inappropriate behavior, posts, etc.
  • Lastly (and this might surprise you because many people do not know Instagram has a daily action limit), surpass your action limits often.

How To Avoid Getting Shadowbanned

The purpose of the shadowban is to reduce inappropriate accounts and behavior that go against the values of the platform itself. Thus, it makes sense that the above causes are the reasons why Instagram might shadowban an account. 

The easiest way to avoid getting shadowbanned is, of course, to avoid doing the above. Comply with the terms and conditions or guidelines of the platforms like Instagram’s Community Guidelines. 

  • Do not use banned hashtags. Instead, read up on existing banned hashtags so that you know what not to use.
  • Don’t overuse hashtags. It’s easy for brands and businesses to promote content in one niche and, as a result, overuse the same hashtags. Make sure that you mix things up and diversify your content. 
  • Do not use broken hashtags.
  • Stick to the community guidelines and terms of use.
  • Establish and use a trustworthy account.
  • Don’t engage in illegal behavior like buying followers.
  • Share appropriate posts. 
  • Avoid being spammy!

If you already think you’re shadowbanned, you can try out some of the above techniques like avoiding broken or banned hashtags. You can also take a short hiatus from the platform to let the admin guys cool off. Or, you can contact them and report your experience. 

Finally (this is not a surefire solution), you can try switching from a business account to a personal one to lessen the limits that Instagram places on things like the hashtags for business. 

So, Does It Actually Happen? 

We have to admit, the definition above sounds like a huge conspiracy theory. How can you get banned and not know? Does this shadowbanning thing really happen? 

Well, in 2017, Instagram released a statement denying that they were shadowbanning accounts that overused hashtags, stating that ‘improvements to [their] system’ was the reason why some accounts did not show up in searches. Beyond this, Instagram continued to deny the use of shadowbanning. 

However, their denial of the term does not mean that the act of secretly banning or limiting the reach and activities of an account does not take place. It makes sense why social media platforms would deny shadowbanning as many of these spaces are about freedom and expression. 

It does, however, also make sense why they would attempt to limit some actions like offensive or hateful behavior or posts. 

As hashtags allow users to get content noticed without using paid ad services, controlling the overuse of hashtags in this way benefits the platform. Platforms like Instagram can use shadowbanning to redirect influencer and brand marketing to their paid ad options. 

So, even though it’s denied by Instagram, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Closing Up

The Instagram Shadowban can affect the reach, engagement, visibility, and effectiveness of your Instagram strategy. So, it’s really not something you want to encounter. 

The best way to avoid this mystery punishment is to simply comply with the Instagram guideline and create a content strategy that is thoughtful, smart, and anti-spam. That way, you can keep your account of the dark and make sure you’re reaching that Explore Page. 

Adie Marais

Account Manager | Contentellect - Intelligent Content Creation

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