As social networks have developed over the past years, they have needed to find a way to manage those participants who degrade the quality of the interaction. Trolls, spammers, and bots to name a few. Some are easier to deal with than others — spammers can have their accounts shut down — while others are trickier. So, how do social networks deal with the real people acting in bad faith and deterring other users from the platform?
- Instagram has over 800 million active monthly users
- 60% of adults online use Instagram
- 80% of the app’s user base is outside the U.S.A
- There are 25 million business profiles on Instagram
- 50% of Instagram users follow at least one business, and 60% say they’ve learned of a product or service through the platform
With stats like these, no wonder social networks have had to come up with undisclosed managing techniques!
What is shadow banning?
The term shadow ban is used to refer to situations where your posts are not appearing in the hashtag search results. This directly impacts the ability of potential followers to discover or search for your profile.
The currency of social networks is attention. A shadow ban is a way for the social platform to restrict how that attention is earned by quietly silencing the users’ posts.
Someone who has been shadow banned is not told anything has happened. Without actually letting them know, the social network can mitigate the damage done and maintain the network’s reputation.
The only hint that such a thing has happened would be a decrease in likes, favourites or retweets—or someone else alerting them to their disappearance.
How does shadow banning affect you?
Aside from the MAJOR fact that you cannot be discovered by new followers, here are some other ways your account will be impacted.
1. Fewer likes and comments. Tagging content with #hashtags is how you categorize the image so that it is easily searchable in the IG universe. For example, when posting for a personal trainer account you may tag it with #fitness #health #workout. This is so people interested in these subjects will be able to see your post, like, and comment. If your hashtags are not working, nobody will be able to find your content, hence nobody will like or comment on it.
2. No new followers. In addition to getting fewer likes and comments, you will not gain any new followers. As only existing followers are able to see your posts, the potential to grow your follower base has been kneecapped. In fact, you may see your follower numbers drop as some accounts go through their follow/un-follow strategy.
3. No features. Again, if IGers can’t see your posts, they cannot repost or feature your content. Besides hashtags, features are another way of people getting to know your feed, especially when you don’t have a huge crowd following your account already. This is basically a gallery dedicated to a specific topic or community or a profile committed to promoting great photography on Instagram.
How do I check if I am shadow banned?
There's an easy trick to figure out if your account is currently shadow banned. To complete the check you will need to have onboard five Instagram users who do not already follow you.
First, post an image with a hashtag that isn't often used. This is so you will be able to easily see if the content appears. If you use a highly posted hashtag for this test, you may not be able to see if your content is hidden because of the competition or simply because you are shadow banned.
Once you've posted something with the low-use hashtag, ask the five users (who don't already follow you) to search that hashtag. If none of them can see your post when searched, it's likely you've been shadow banned.
If you have run this check and believe you've been shadow banned, not to worry -- we have a remedy ready!
Why you got shadow banned
Before we talk about the fix, let’s get into why accounts get shadow banned.
There are a few different actions that can trigger shadow ban.
1. You use bots or another automated growth tools. If you aren't putting in the hard yards yourself, you're not developing a profile following organically or authentically. Instagram doesn’t like this. They encourage users to have a growth strategy that focuses on connecting with the right audience, not by using spammy bot tactics.
2. Using broken or banned hashtags. Occasionally, a popular hashtag will be overwhelmed with inappropriate content. As a coping technique, when this happens Instagram can remove the hashtag completely or just limit its use. If you use a banned hashtag, it will prevent your other hashtags from ranking or your posts from being seen. It could also result in a shadow banned account.
3. Your account is often reported. Having frequent reports on your account may cause Instagram to assume you are posting content which is inappropriate or in violation of their terms of service. They might deal with this by blocking your account.
4. Exceeding your limits. Instagram places daily and hourly constraints on how often you can complete actions. These include follow, unfollow, like, comment, or post within a certain time period. As a network, this makes sense. If you're following 100 people an hour, it's likely to be a bot doing all the work.
These growth techniques might help you build a following quickly, but they can't help you connect with the right audience, which is why you're on Instagram in the first place! In addition, these behaviours will likely result in the dreaded shadow ban, which profoundly restricts your exposure to new followers.
How to fix it
Get your account back to normal! Reverse the damage and get your posts seen again.
1. If you use a bot, get rid of it immediately. To make sure the accounts aren't still attached to your account, go to your desktop Instagram and click "Edit Profile", then "Authorized Applications". If you see any of your bot accounts in the list, click "Revoke Access" to remove them completely.
2. Take a look at Preview's list of banned hashtags for 2018, Remove all broken hashtags from your previously posted content. Going forward, be carefully selective and mindful with the hashtags you decide to use.
3. Take some time off! Some users have reported a full 48-hour break from their Instagram accounts can reset the system and get you back in business.
How to avoid being shadow banned in the first place
Avoid using the same hashtags over and over again. Do not use bots. Do not buy followers. Be cool, and use Instagram like a human being. Don't try to play the platform, instead focus on posting high-quality, engaging content.
Direct from Instagram for Business: “When creating content, focus on your business objective or goal rather than just on hashtags. Having a growth strategy that targets the right audience is essential to success on Instagram.”
Most importantly, it's critical you're posting helpful, authentic content, and abiding by best practices when growing your audience.
For help in this area, contact McMaster Digital for a free consultation. We work with our clients for a better outcome for their business.
Book a no obligation call to see if the team at McMaster Digital is the right fit for you.