Instagram has made a ton of changes to their algorithm over the past year and with that many of us saw a decline in our engagement and following. However, I was not worried initially because I knew that I had been using all of the proper strategies to continue to grow my account and engagement, including:
Although I had noticed a dip in my follower growth in the past few months nothing prepared me for what I learned just a few days ago. It all started with the below photo I posted to @VoiceOfHair. I knew that it was an engaging post because my audience has always liked photos of cute kids and because it received over 7,000 likes as seen below.
But something odd stood out to me.
A few hours later, after I went to look at the hashtags I used (posted in my comments) to see how the post performed, I realized that I didn’t see my post there. I knew that some of the hashtags I had used were popular and maybe I just didn’t see my post amidst all of the other photos/videos that were posted– bu that wasn’t the case. My photo had actually disappeared…as in…it wasn’t even there!
By then I started to panic so I turned to google for answers. It turns out that other people have experienced the same thing, what is known as the Instagram Shadow Ban.
According to the Urban Dictionary, a shadow ban is:
Banning a user from a web forum in such a way that the banned user is unaware of the ban. Usually takes the form of showing that user’s posts/profile/etc. only to that user; other users never see them.
The way Instagram’s shadow ban appears to work is that it does not allow people who are not following you to see your posts show up in the hashtag search. This is why I was able to still get over 7,000 likes, since my audience is over 312K. The issue is that Instagram limited my organic reach to new followers by banning my post from the hashtags.
After doing a little research I came across this website: shadowban.azurewebsites.net that lets you analyze your posts to see if they’ve been banned on Instagram. I then started to look through my previous posts to see if they have all been banned. The bad news was that all of my previous posts had been banned, but the good news was that Instagram did allow my post to show up in one hashtag consistently, and that was my branded hashtag, #voiceofhair.
The Instagram shadow ban doesn’t ban at the account level, it bans at the post level.
Why would Instagram allow my posts to be seen under #voiceofhair but none of the other hashtags? Thankfully, there is a simple answer. The way I typically post content is to put a description of the post in the caption and then put all my hashtags in the comments. However one thing I always do is put my branded hashtag (#voiceofhair) in the caption, as seen below.
After doing some deductive reasoning I realized that Instagram was only banning the photos where I had put my hashtags in the comments BUT my content was being published to all of the hashtags that I included in my actual caption.
After I realized this I decided to do a test and put my hashtags in the caption of my post and voila…the ban was lifted and I received strong engagement on my next post.
This #frohawk is super cute➰ Love this style on @itszitarose ? #voiceofhair . . . #naturalhair #teamnatural #honeyblonde #beauty #melanin #haircolor #curls #hairfashion #hairgoal #blackgirlmagic #curlyfro #hairinspiration #fauxhawk #twistout #hairjourney #healthyhairjourney #transitioning #hairoftheday #hairgasm #protectivestyle #naturalhairstyles #blackgirlsrock
Thank God! I had figured out how to avoid being banned. However, this begs the question: What did I do to get banned in the first place?
No one (other than Instagram) knows how the ban is applied: whether it be a manual ban by an administrator or an algorithm that causes the ban. Regardless of how it’s applied there are a few things that are frowned on by Instagram that could be the reason why your posts may not be showing up in the hashtags:
It’s a scary feeling knowing that Instagram is blocking your content from others. However, there are a few things I recommend trying to ensure future posts will not be banned:
I hope these tips helped. If you’ve been banned let me know if you’ve been able to get around it and if you know why!
Brandelyn Green is a social media strategist who has cracked the code on growing an online community. As founder of @VoiceOFHair, on online platform to help women of color find the best hairstylists and hairstyles, she was able to grow her instagram account from 0 to 100K in 1 year and currently has a community of over 500K+ women (Instagram, Facebook & Pinterest). She is a consultant and coach for business owners who are looking to grow their business through social media.