The Instagram Shadowban Explained, How to Fix It and Banned Hashtags

Instagram shadowban explained

What is shadowbanning on Instagram?

What Instagram shadowbanning means is that your content is blocked from being seen by anyone that isn’t following you on Instagram. Shadowban implies that you will not be notified of this whatsoever. This means you can expect a massive dip in views, engagement and follower growth. No one will see your posts in Discovery or from hashtags.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn money if you sign up for any Instagram software I mention. 

What happens when you’re shadowbanned on Instagram?

When shadowbanned on Instagram, only your followers and people going directly to your profile will see your posts.Most people lose followers while shadowbanned. If you’re gaining followers by directing them from websites or other social media, your follower growth rate would merely slow down rather than halt. It is also possible that your follower growth rate dips lower than your churn rate and you marginally lose followers during a shadowban period. If you can make it out of a shadowban without losing followers (or losing a significant amount), I would call that a win. It is possible to come out positive and I’ll go over how to gain followers on Instagram while shadowbanned if you read to the end.

Another notable observation I’ve found is that your posts may appear lower in the feed of your followers than normal, assumingly as a penalty of sorts. Mechanically, I think this is done by placing lower weight value on your account in the content distribution algorithm or there’s a completely separate account status variable.This is potentially valuable intel for those with massive amounts of Instagram data, as it could potentially reveal patterns in how to optimize reach to existing followers during a shadowban.

what Instagram shadowban feels like

How to Check if You’re Shadowbanned on Instagram

Instagram Shadow Ban Test

The Instagram shadow ban test is very simple:

All you have to do is make a new post using only a handful of hashtags that aren’t so popular. I would recommend hashtags that have been used 25,000 times or less. After this, ask family, friends or colleagues to search the hashtag and see if they can find your post. The account cannot be already following you to perform the test. 

1. Make a new post with an unpopular hashtag to make searching for it easy.

2. Search for the hashtag from an account not following the potentially shadowbanned account.

3. Look for the new post. If found, you are not shadowbanned!

Why You May Have Been Shadowbanned on Instagram

Shadowbans happen when Instagram flags an account as spam. It’s important to note that moderation on Instagram is handled by 2 coordinating parties: the automated moderation system and the human content moderation team. The algorithm may think you’re a spammer when a human wouldn’t, so playing it safe in the eyes of both is important to avoid a shadowban.

How can you avoid Instagram shadowban? To put it simply: don’t appear “spammy”. Terms of Service violations are obvious grounds for shadowbans but you need to at least appear to be legitimate to both Instagram and those who see your content. If enough people report your posts as spam (or for other reasons), it can trigger the automated moderation system to dish out a shadowban or other penalties.

Am I shadowbanned?

Using the Same Hashtags Too Often

I highly recommend using a variety of hashtags, as hashtag research is a core part of my Instagram growth strategy. But the practice has another benefit as well – avoiding Instagram shadowbans and reach penalties.

Hashtag generators are the most cost-efficient solution to constantly coming up with new hashtags to use. They can create lists of 30 different hashtags for each of your posts in a jiffy. Randomizing the order of your hashtags and waiting between posts to use the same hashtag will help you out a ton. It boosts engagement, follower growth and defends your account from shadowbans.

IG hashtag generator

Using Banned Hashtags

Instagram has banned over 70,000 hashtags and the list will continue to grow over time. Censorship on social media is a bittersweet, necessary evil. Preventing the spread of harmful content is imperative of those running our communication platforms and banning hashtags is a simple solution that cuts out some of the fat.

Hashtags are banned on Instagram typically for abusive behavior or directly violating terms of service. On the other hand, there are boatloads of seemingly harmless banned hashtags that would shock you. #Skype is a great example. Yes, you can get shadowbanned for using #Skype. Here’s a handful of banned hashtags you’ll want to avoid using, courtesy of Ingramer:

banned Instagram hashtags 2020

I don’t want to sound like a broken record but it’s in the best interest of hashtag generators to exclude banned terms, so it’s usually your safest bet when content planning for growth.

Using Instagram Automation without TLC

Posting and Engaging Over the Limits Gets You Shadowbanned (or Banned)

Like all things in life, there are limits placed on you. Instagram is no different, where every account has limits to abide by.

Instagram bots especially have to abide by these limits, lest you have no attachment to your account.

There are hard limits and there are soft limits. The hard limits of Instagram are the maximum amount of requests the API will allow. I won’t cite specific numbers, as these values are adjusted over time and not always for the worse. The soft limits are the sweet-spot range where marketers roam free posting and engaging to just below the point where Instagram flags them as a spammer. Deeply understanding of hard limits versus soft limits is an important skill in using Instagram bots effectively.

In short, Instagram puts limits on each action you can take.

There are limits on commenting, liking posts, upload posts, DMing, following and unfollowing. Instagram has security measures in place to prevent bot networks, spammers and nefarious marketers from abusing their platform at scale. Avoid the hard limits at all costs and stay at a safe level below the soft limits. Keep that as your rule of thumb and you’re golden.

Ingramer has default automation settings that will keep you well within the safe zone, so I’d recommend giving them a try if you’re just starting out.

Whether you’re automating activity or doing it manually, the limits are the same.

Here is what is generally accepted as being soft limits of Instagram activity:

  • Using more than 30 hashtags per post*
  • Commenting on 60 posts per hour that aren’t your own
  • Following or unfollowing more than 60 people per hour
  • Following or unfollowing more than 250 people per 24 hour period
  • Liking more than 250 posts per hour
  • Liking more than 1,000 posts per 24 hour period

*There is a common “growth hack” that’s just a glitch allowing people to use 60 hashtags on a single post rather than the normal 30 hashtag limit. It’s effective but risky, putting your account at risk of a shadowban or even worse: a permanent ban.

Using Instagram Scheduling Software

All Instagram scheduling software breaks their Terms of Service. At the time of writing this, the Instagram API does not allow 3rd party software to create posts on your behalf. But there have been a handful of savvy Instagram bots that have leaped bounds over this obstacle, offering Instagram scheduling services to the masses. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it’s common knowledge that this puts your entire account at risk.

Buying Followers

Are you surprised? It should go without saying by now that buying social media followers is a bad idea. To anyone remotely tech-savvy, fake followers can be spotted from a mile away.

I’ve also theorized that % of your followers that engage with your posts is one of the most important variables in getting your posts seen by more people. I’ve recently started experiments with purging inactive and unengaged followers to increase engagement and have seen positive results so far.

When bot networks are identified and mapped out by Instagram, they’re quickly stomped down with bans en masse. What happens to the accounts the bots followed? Penalized, of course. Buying Instagram followers can get you shadowbanned or permanently banned.

Getting Reported By Many Users

Instagram isn’t the only one that weighs in on what’s spam and what isn’t. You can’t ignore the eyes of the public on social media, after all. If your profile or post(s) have been reported by users, you can get shadowbanned. 

How to Fix or Lift a Shadowban on Your Account

Check if you’ve used banned hashtags and delete them.

The easiest way to check if a single hashtag is banned is to search for it on Instagram. Banned hashtags won’t have Most Recent posts, only the Top Posts grid.

Instagram banned hashtag test

Stop all automated activity on your account.

Misuse of automation is hands down the most common reason I see marketers getting their accounts shadowbanned. This doesn’t just apply to Instagram, but other platforms as well. Facebook and LinkedIn are most notable.

Take a break from automated activity when shadowbanned. If you still want content going out to your followers, do it manually to avoid shadowban extensions.

Continuing automated activity during a shadowban may extend your shadowban for longer periods of time, indefinitely or get you banned altogether.

Take a break from all Instagram activity for 48 hours.

For first offenses and  minor offenses, the most common penalty is a 48 hour shadowban. Wait 48 hours, try to post and check to see if you’re still shadowbanned using the methods outlined at the start of this article.

If you’re still shadowbanned after 48 hours, it’s time to really test your patience – can you handle a full 7 days of 0 activity on your Instagram account? Because that’s your best bet at this point.

Contact Instagram support.

Does this even work?

It’s an option that works in rare cases, so treat it as a last ditch effort. Success stories in Facebook and Instagram support are unicorns, so if you’ve had luck with this I urge you to share your experience in the comments below.

Instagram shadowban support form

How can I gain followers while shadowbanned on Instagram?

Earning new followers while shadowbanned is a tough challenge to tackle but it can be simplified in one word: comments. Content is king, but when your posts are only seen by your followers, comments are king.

How can you get more views while shadowbanned, when only your followers can see your posts? Get them to tag their friends in the comments!

“People respond to and are deceived by the same things they were 100 years ago.”

Ricky Jay, Magician

I’m sure by now you’ve run campaigns encouraging people to comment on your posts – to enter a contest, to get feedback or to participate in discussion. Use these same Instagram comment bait strategies to get people to tag their friends in the comments and hope for the best.

If you’ve been building towards 1,000 true fans, you’ll have at least a few diehard hopefuls to support you.

What to Do While Shadowbanned on Instagram

  1. Create as much content as you can while waiting for the shadowban to end.
  2. Post on your IG Story and make posts with a CTA to tag friends.
  3. Run promotions catered towards and only applicable to your Instagram followers.
  4. Wait.
  5. Breathe.
  6. Hope.
  7. Pray🙏
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