Thousands of business owners and bloggers use Instagram for marketing purposes. If you’re like me and rely heavily on Instagram, then you’ve probably have heard about the shadow ban that has been affecting many accounts over the course of the year. I first heard this term in the Savvy Business Owners Facebook Group when one of the members posted a post from the Instagram business Facebook account.

It wasn’t long before I noticed my impressions and engagement had dropped significantly. But I wasn’t the only one. After reading a post from Alex Tooby, concerning the shadow ban, she states that Instagram has been implementing a variety of new algorithms since June 2016 and as a result, plenty of accounts have seen a drastic decrease in engagement of up to 50% or more!

To some, this shadow ban is something you’ve heard about via Facebook groups, comment pods or your influencer friends. I bet you’ve already implemented the necessary strategies to make sure you aren’t being affected. But if you landed here on to this post not knowing what a shadow ban is, what to do about it or just feeling overwhelmed by the constant changes that come with social media strategy, don’t fear. I’m here to help you get through this and explain what a shadow ban is and how to protect your account.

What is an Instagram Shadow Ban?

The Instagram shadow ban is where Instagram hides your photos from hashtags, making them undiscoverable by people who do not follow you. Your current followers will not be affected, and they will be able to see your content on their news feed, and in the hashtags, you use without a problem.  This is Instagram’s attempt at filtering out accounts that aren’t complying with their terms.

How Do You Know You’ve Been Affected?

I started to notice I was affected when my impressions and engagement was way off. To confirm whether or not you’ve been shadow banned, have a friend unfollow you and then ask them to check if your image is appearing within the hashtags you used on that post. In this case, I had Jeanelly of The Fashion Lotus help me out. She noticed that three of my recent posts was banned. Another good way of checking is using this Instagram Shadow Ban Checker. Type in your username or the link to a particular post to check if it is banned.

This is what it looks like if your account is not affected by the ban:

Instagram Shadow Ban Tester

Why did my post get shadow banned?

There are too many factors to count
– New Algorithm updates.
– You’re using software that violates Instagram’s Terms of Service.
– You’re using a broken or abused hashtag.

What Do I Do Now?

1. Remove broken or abused hashtags from your set & delete them from old posts- Go through all of the hashtags you use, one by one and make sure Instagram didn’t ban them. If they’ve been banned, you will see nothing at all, or you’ll see just one page of images followed by a notice that states the tag has been hidden due to abuse. If you find any tags that fall into this category, remove them from your hashtag set and make a note of not using them in the future. I have ten hashtag sets that I use consistently and now have to be switching them out with each post I do.  If you did find you were using a broken hashtag, go back through your old posts and remove the hashtag from those posts by either editing your caption and deleting the tag, or deleting the comment that contains your hashtags.

2. Stop using apps and software that violate Instagram Terms of Service- Let’s be real, buying your followers or using automatic bots is not an authentic way to build a business. When you leave automated comments on your potential clients feeds, they can tell. When you follow and unfollow the same person 5 times in 4 days, they notice, and those types of actions reflect really poorly on your brand or businesses reputation. Instagram has been cracking down on those violating their Terms of Service to get rid of spammy accounts. Those who use apps and bots to increase their following and engagement are being directly affected by this shadow ban.

3. Take a couple of days off from Instagram- I highly recommend taking a short break from Instagram. I found this very difficult to do because I did not want to lose followers for being inactive. But it was worth it and contributed to having the ban removed from my account. You can take a break from posting or do what I did and delete the app for the weekend. It’s up to you how you want to take your break and how long to take it.

4. Report the problem to Instagram- You can do this from inside your Instagram app – just go to your profile, select the cog icon in the top right and scroll down until you see “report a problem”. Click that, then select “something isn’t working” and type a short message about what you’re experiencing. Alex Tooby recommends saying that your posts aren’t being categorized in the hashtags you used (not that your engagement has dropped; that’s not a concern for them). Feel free to repeat this process multiple times a day.

The truth of the matter is, Instagram’s algorithm will always be changing, and you must keep up by doing constant research. In the meantime, be sure to clean up the tags on your account, and you should be able to get your account back to normal in no time.

If you’re in need of a solid social media strategy, or just want to learn more about my services, click the button below!

The Social Butterfly GalAbout The Social Butterfly Gal: I’m Christina, an event + social media strategist helping local businesses & lifestyle brands strategize + generate a buzz online! In between the sips of coffee, social media notifications and writing, you will find me living up to my brand name-being a social butterfly; attending various networking and local events around San Antonio, TX. You can follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.