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Instagram ShadowBan: What is it? How to avoid it? What to do if you get one?

By Arrow Photography, written 1525189767.

So you've decided to dip your toe into Instagram (IG). And why not? It's an awesome tool for reaching general joe public with your photographic, modelling, hair styling, Photoshopping goodness.

I'm not a particularly popular photographer on Instagram. In fact, I'm often not the most popular photographer in an empty room with just me in it, but I know generally when I post something how many loves I'll get on an IG post.  So imagine my surprise when my loves, new followers, etc, dropped like a stony thing into a very deep dark pit.

My IG reach and exposure had suffered a heart attack, it was near death. After some investigation I found this thing called a ShadowBan (SB). They totally are real and anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool!! I've had them 3 times and beaten them.

First, how do you know if you've been SB'd?

Try this little test

Have you noticed a sudden drop in views, loves, followers, etc?

Post something, anything really. Add a hashtag, go look at that hashtag page, and if you show up, awesome. You can stop reading and go do something more interesting. But, if you're not there....first make sure you're not just posting to something with 100000's of entries a day and your stuff is just vanishing off the page as soon as you post it up.    

Easiest way to double check (ignore all the websites that say they will tell you) just post something innocuous - a cup of coffee is my favourite - and use a very low used hashtag and see if it pops up. If it doesn't then, yep, you're Shadow Banned and that means people wont find your posts through hashtag searches. Plus your profile and images will get VERY limited views. They wont appear on peoples pages, but if they do they will be hidden away behind everyone else. In short it's Instagram invisibility. Only those who follow you or happen across you through other means (e.g. links from other sites, etc) will see your stuff.

These are the other reasons you will get a ShadowBan

Too many image reports that result in images removed. Really nothing you can do other than stop getting reported and getting images removed!  Getting reported a lot really doesn't matter, it's images being removed that count.  Also repetitive reporting of other people's images, having multiple accounts on the same phone and using them to love your images on your other accounts - SPAM and BAN !

Being TOO active. It's all basically Instagram thinking you are a spam bot of some kind - overuse of IG really is a thing! Liking hundreds of images in a short space of time for example, basically any repetitive activity over a short period of time.  Also having things like follower's apps linked to your account to follow and un-follow people automatically, buying followers in bulk: all a no no.  

Re-posting the same images. IG remembers what you post. Iif you want to re-post an image then change the crop slightly or the filter to make IG think it's a brand new image.

Using the same hashtags over and over. You HAVE to mix them up. You cannot repeatedly post the same 20 hashtags time and time again!

Using banned hashtags. How do you know if a hashtag has been banned? Take something like EROTICA. Check it out and you'll see something like recent posts have been hidden from the community...blah blah blah. That's a banned hashtag! If you've posted something with a banned hashtag your ShadowBan will remain until you've removed every image with every occurrence of that hashtag. If you use 20 hashtags and 1 is banned then none of your tags will show. Remove the offending tag and it's possible everything else will flow through. But use them too many times and whoops: ShadowBan.

Currently, there are over 114,000 banned Instagram hashtags! Some common ones are:

  • #bikinibody
  • #curvy
  • #desk (yes really!)
  • #humpday
  • #easter (i know!!!)

The list goes on...

So, how to overcome a ShadowBan?

Banned hashtags are the most likely reason so find which tags you are using that are banned and remove every offending post. Not just the tags - kill the posts, burn them, bury them, then burn and bury them again for good luck.

Remove and un-link any third-party follower type apps (Google search for how to un-link apps). IG hates these. You may love them, but unless you're already on 100000's of followers it will affect you.

If you have a business account change it back to personal. This can often give you a global IG reset.

Logging out completely of IG for 24 - 48 hours can help. No posting or anything of any kind.

One thing I've found is then just behave normally. Keep your activity down: don't overuse IG, stop using hashtags completely until your SB is lifted, make sure you engage with your followers, reply to comments, leave comments of your own of more than 5 words (and mix it up). Bsically you need IG to reset and realise you are a real person and not a spam bot.

Try not to get any images reported! Well, actually removed. Reports don't really matter, but removals do.

People do say report to Instagram. I've found this fairly useless, but it's worth a try. Click on your account, go down to support and select Report a problem.

DO NOT EVER MENTION SHADOWBAN!!! Put something like "Hi I've noticed my hashtags are not showing up on the relevant pages". Don't be afraid to do this a few times a day. It may help, it may not, but it's worth a try.

Follow the advice above and hopefully you'll be up and running again in next to no time

It can take up to 14 days for the ban to lift. Do the above, log out totally for 24-48 hours and you should be OK. 

If you've gone over 14 days then you haven't done everything above. Make sure you have no other apps linking to your account. If you need to create a new account then also try a new phone/device. It's little known, but if you've been SB'd too many times then IG can ShadowBan your device as well!! So try another phone if you have one or have access to one.

Hope that helps - happy Instagramming!