Have you ever posted new pictures or videos on your Instagram account, only to find out your followers can’t see them? Or, maybe your posts are suddenly getting fewer likes and comments?
One minute, everything is going fine and the next, it seems like no one can see your posts. It’s frustrating, especially when you’ve spent so much time preparing entertaining and engaging content.
You might think it’s just the platform’s algorithm playing practical jokes on you (if you happen to believe algorithms are capable of pranks). But, it’s more likely that Instagram has placed some super-secret restrictions on your account, limiting the reach of your content.
In other words, you’ve been shadow-banned.
What it Means To Be ‘Shadow Banned’ On Instagram
‘Shadow ban’ isn’t an official Instagram term and they have continually denied that it’s a thing. Still, it’s an apt way to describe the partial limitations on content visibility that Instagram places on an account posting content that ‘violates’ their terms.
The platform released a statement on their Facebook page back in 2019, addressing user complaints about their content not showing up under specific hashtags.
According to Instagram, “You should focus on your content goals and objectives instead of hashtags.” However, evidence continues to suggest that Instagram indeed restricts content visibility on accounts in certain circumstances.
It’s tough to know precisely when you’ve been shadow banned. It’s kind of like when you’ve got a piece of food on your face — you’re always the last to know! But, if you have your suspicions, the good news is there are some tests you can carry out to check if you’re in Instagram’s naughty corner.
How to Check if You’ve Been Shadow Banned on Instagram
Confirming that your account has been shadow banned can be tricky. It’s just one reason why you could have a reduction in your engagement and account visibility.
But we’re here to help you be an Instagram super sleuth with some basic testing.
Hashtag Check #1
One of the easiest ways to bring visibility to your account is through hashtags. So, it makes sense that you could be penalized through hashtag restrictions.
We suggest that you experiment by creating a post with your intended hashtag. Then, have some friends or co-workers search for your recent post under that particular hashtag. If they come up short, there’s a chance you’ve been shadow banned.
Keep in mind, though; the platform does some banned hashtags that could auto restrict your content. So, be sure to keep up with their restricted hashtags, so you can stick to the rules.
Hashtag Check #2
Another method is to review the search results page for the last ten hashtags used in your posts. If you come across an alert saying that the content under these hashtags is restricted, it means all your posts containing these hashtags will be, too.
Use Instagram Testers
With the proliferation of shadow ban complaints in recent years, new companies have emerged as professional shadow ban testers. If you can’t get to the bottom of your situation with hashtag checks, it might be advantageous to hire a professional.
Of course, you can also use the analytics function of Instagram-recognized tools like Plann to collate data on your account statistics. The data never lies.
What Causes a Shadow Banned Instagram Account?
Is there an exact set of circumstances that can lead to your account getting shadow banned?
Not really, as there’s some ambiguity with the guidelines. But some actions are known for increasing your chances of account visibility restrictions.
Using Broken or Restricted Hashtags
Instagram has a list of broken or banned hashtags (unofficially, of course) that they do not want people using on the platform. These hashtags might be deemed adverse or harmful such as promoting inappropriate content.
Whatever label they put on it, the short story is Instagram doesn’t like these hashtags. And when you use them in your posts, it doesn’t like you either.
If you tend to set engagements goals to grow your account (following 50 new people per day, for example), you might win yourself a visit from the shadow ban Santa.
Instagram tries to put a limit on how many people you can follow in a day, how many times you can comment, and how frequently you can like posts based on human limitations and attention span. Bots are often behind busting these limits, and Instagram isn’t a fan,
Using Bots or Other Automated Growth Tools
If Instagram bans ‘bot-like’ activity, imagine what they’ll do they catch you actually using bots (we shudder to think of it).
Bots and automated growth tools lead to an outright ban. But, even if Instagram doesn’t take it to the extreme, it’ll still likely give you a shadow ban in consolation. The same extends to Instagram autoposting tools that don’t have Instagram’s permission… so, make sure to stick to legit tools like Plann that use the official API.
Reports on Your Account
If your account gets too many reports of inappropriate or offensive content, Instagram can limit the visibility of your posts. They’ll only be available to those directly following you, keeping your content off the Explore page and hashtag search results.
How Do You Remove The Shadow Ban On Your Instagram
You now know what a shadow ban is, what causes it, and how to tell if it’s affecting your account. So, let’s turn things around with steps you can take to remove a shadow ban.
1. If the problem has persisted for more than a few days, consider contacting Instagram support for clarity on why your account has been shadow banned
2. Stop using bots or other automated ‘Instagram Growth’ tools. Focus on growing your account organically with genuine engagement, and using certified Instagram auto posting tools like Plann.
3. Steer clear of banned and restricted hashtags. When in doubt, refer to a source like Markitor’s 2021 list of banned Instagram hashtags.
4. Avoid spamming under all circumstances. You cannot bludgeon the algorithm into ranking your account higher. So, repetitive or irrelevant tags will do you more harm than good.
5. If you’re seeing restricted reach on your Reels, it may be because you’re repurposing them straight from TikTok. Instagram has confirmed that they limit videos with a visible TikTok watermark. So, if you want to reuse them, try cropping them out (or use a tool like SnapTik to remove it) and then use Plann to schedule them for your Instagram account.
Use Plann to avoid the ban
The easiest way to stay on top of your Instagram status is with API-approved social media management and analytics tools like Plann. They help you keep an eye on your account analytics and monitor any drastic change in engagement levels, so you remain in Instagram posting bliss.