This week on The Chic Pursuit I wanted to discuss something that has been causing quite a lot of frustration in the blogger community in the past weeks. If you ae a blogger yourself or very active on Instagram, chances are you have heard of this phenomenon already. I’m talking about the Instagram shadow ban. So, what is it and how can you find out if you have been shadow banned by Instagram?
Recent Changes in Instagram’s Algorithm – Hashtags are now irrelevant?
I wrote about the changes in Instagram’s algorithm a few months back, where I described how bloggers have lost engagement on their pictures because Instagram limits the exposure of professional images (read: anything not taken on an iPhone). The newest change to Instagram’s algorithm is that now, hashtags don’t work on these images either! What do I mean by this? Literally what I have just said. Hashtags may be irrelevant for professional quality images. The phenomenon has been dubbed the “Instagram shadow ban” because Instagram has not come forward with it officially, and you won’t know you have been shadow banned unless you check your own profile through a different account.
What is the Instagram Shadow ban?
If you are serious about your Instagram and are using it for professional purposes, chances are you are using hashtags to increase your reach and audience. Every single “How to grow your Instagram” article on the web tells you that hashtags are important, and not just any hashtags, but specific and niche tags that take lots of time to research. Except that they aren’t. With the new changes on Instagram, hashtags that are attached to images that are shot on a professional camera do not rank in the algorithm AT ALL according to some photographers. The images cannot be found in the explore page by users who aren’t already following you. What do I mean? Check this out:
(Images courtesy of PetaPixel)
Crazy huh? I know Instagram can do whatever it pleases with its own platform, but I can’t help but feel this is somehow unethical. Instagram has responded to the questions with an official statement here, however they don’t give any solution to the problem and are only referring to the issue as a bug with the algorithm. I don’t believe it – my theory is that they are be doing it intentionally in the hopes of selling more ad space. Instagram’s solution to the shadow ban is that creators should focus on creating engaging, quality images, but how can quality be enough if your target audience can’t even find you?! Hashtags used to be the “search engine” of Instagram, but it seems like creators have to come up with a new strategy to reach their desired audience.
How can I know if I’ve been Instagram shadow banned?
If you have noticed a significantly lower engagement on your images in the past few weeks/month, chances are your account has the Instagram shadow ban. There are two methods for verifying your ban. This website here is the quickest way to check if your images have been restricted, but reports say it might not be the most accurate method. The best way to check is to create a second account, NOT follow your primary account and then go under the hashtags that you have recently used and try to see if you can spot your image. If you have been shadow banned, you can’t find your image under the tag! The most accurate way is to repeat this with 3-5 acounts who don’t follow you.
What can I do to remove the Instagram shadow ban?
Move Hashtags Into Captions
If you follow bloggers, you may have noticed that a few of them have moved from putting tags in the comments to putting them in the caption. Will this alleviate the ban? It’s your best bet. From personal experience, smaller, more niche tags work the best if you still want to rank in the algorithm. Oh and, start using an iPhone for your images if you really want to get on Instagram’s good side. In Instagram’s eyes, Professional Images = Business Account = Limited Exposure.
Mix Up Your Hashtags
If you are constantly using a set of tags that you copy paste into your comments, try mixing them up. Check your tags to make sure none of them are broken or banned by Instagram. (If you click on a tag and see either a blank page or pictures flowing in a random order, don’t use the tag.)
Stop Using Bots, Engagement Pods and Third Party Apps
Other’s have also reported that any kind of account automation may lead to a shadow ban, so it is best to keep your interactions organic on the platform. Instagram’s guidelines are stricktly opposed to automation, and by giving up bots your account may return to normal in 24-48 h. Sadly, Instagram may also interpret any third party service as a ‘bot’. If you use any app to measure your Instagram analytics (other than Instagram itself), consider stopping this. This also applies for engagement pods like those found on Telegram.
An Instagram shadow ban may also be caused by over activity on the platform. If you’ve followed a lot of people at the same time or gone on a liking spree of 300 images per hour, chances are that Instagram will take note. Try holding back activity for 24-48 h and see if your account returns to normal.
What is next for Instagram?
So, what is the future of Instagram? Do you think it will become the next Facebook, which is basically a dead platform in the eyes of millennials? It’s a scary possibility for those of us who use it as their primary platform for their blogs. All I can say is that the age-old saying which stock investors use now becomes relevant in social media: diversify, diversify, diversify. The more platforms you use, the safer you are. Also, your blog is the only platform you truly own as well, so invest in that. (Although, if you rely heavily on traffic from Google’s search engine – be wary. You have no control over that either! E-mail subscribers are what you should be aiming for.
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Have you been Instagram shadow banned? Let me know in the comments!
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