Influencer scuttlebutt: Is your Instagram shadowbanned?

Instagram screenshotsHere’s a troubling thought: Your Instagram pictures, which you carefully choose, edit, upload and tag, may be hidden from folks searching for the hashtags you’re using. 

It’s called being shadowbanned and you may be a victim of it without even knowing it. 

What is shadowbanned?

You tag a photo with a hashtag on Instagram — whether it’s #mymostawesomepic or #dontmissthis or whatever else you fancy. You do this so folks looking for pictures like yours can find them. But Instagram has changed its coding so some pictures aren’t found in these searches. You’ll still see it on your feed, so will have no idea it’s been shadowbanned.

Here’s a bit more to read on the issue.

How do you know if a picture is shadowbanned?

You may have noticed a dip in engagement, comments or likes. This could be in response to a regular algorithm tweak. Or it could mean that you’re shadowbanned.

There are sites where you can test the status of individual pictures. Here’s one: Put in several of your pics to test how they fare. 


Are You Shadowbanned on Instagram? This Website Can Tell You


One blogger’s experience of shadowbanning

One blogger and avid Instagrammer discovered the test link in a photography discussion group and to her surprise found out some images were shadowbanned. Her next question way why. It’s not entirely clear, based on Instagram’s response to the issue, featured in the Petapixel post above. 

“I’d used Grum, a really good app that posts to Instagram for you,” she says. “You go in, upload your photo, put in hashtags and it posts. They don’t like that. The posts that used Grum were shadowbanned.”

She loved the ease of using the tool, but ultimately, “I cancelled the service.”

What causes shadowbanning?

There are lots of different experiences, theories and opinions about shadowbanning on the Internet. The main reasons people say they are shadowbanned:

  • Using bots for liking, commenting, etc – Your engagement and interaction needs to be you, a real person, not an automated programme
  • Buying followers – Do we need to say more here?
  • Suspicious surges of activity – …Which might indicate you are using bots or a beneficiary of bots. It appears on Instagram that slow and steady wins the race. 

How to avoid getting shadowbanned on Instagram?

  • Obviously don’t use bots, buy followers or do some of these other practices that, let’s face, feel a bit dodgy from the start
  • Vary your hashtags. Don’t use the same ones over and over and don’t use too many. 
  • Report it to Instagram. If you think you have wrongly been shadowbanned, alert Instagram. If you have been banned it’s because of an algorithm and sometimes they get it wrong. While companies like Instagram are notoriously anti-customer service, it’s good to go right to the source

What does Instagram say?

What they usually say. They want people to focus on stories, to build their brand organically, be well-crafted. This can be a lot harder work and sometimes that hard work doesn’t seem to pay off. We know lots of bloggers whose Instagram followings have plateaued, and they’ve been tempted by some of the “cowboy” practices. In a word: Don’t. Focus on quality, engage with your followers and use best practices.

What’s your experience?

Have you been shadowbanned or heard of someone who has? We’d love to hear the story. Leave a comment in the section below.

Further reading

What is an Instagram Shadowban, and have you been impacted?

Homepage image: tulpahn, Shutterstock

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  1. 13 June 2017 / 09:49

    IG is driving me nuts at the moment. If I get others to check, or me when logged out, I can see my posts in hashtags, but the link says I’m shadow banned on posts. I already follow all of Alex’s advice, I no longer do instant threads, and I’ve now reverted back to a personal account in the hope that will work. But my engagement is down 50% (likes and %). I’ve got rid of spam followers, but I’m losing more than I gain, and although I love the platform to see and share photos, it’s demoralising when you see others still using schedulers that go against t&c, and who use instant threads who’re still doing well because of those things.

    What’s bizarre is my tiny account which is really niche and I use the same hashtags (many of which are large) pretty much every time compared to my main account which mixes it up more, has nearly as many likes and faster engagement as my main account which has about 3.5k x as many followers

    At the moment I’m not seeing a way to actually improve things to get them back to anywhere near as good as it was before…unless I just post flower or sunset pictures!