Something started happening about a month ago (for me). I saw a decline in interaction on my Instagram account and felt like I was in front of the same 15 people over and over again. It turned out; I’d been shadow-banned. Woot. Just what you need when trying to build an audience, not being able to reach people; so frustrating.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been chipping away to get myself off that blacklist and back to business. Within this post, I’ve shared a few ideas I have around why my account was shadowbanned, some other posts that may assist you identifying if it happened to you, the things that seem to have worked to get un-banned and how I’m going to be proceeding from here to keep my nose clean.
So, Instagrammer friends, this one is for you.
What IS the Instagram Shadowban?
The shadowban is your Instagram account being banned from hashtag listings (and therefore the reach that can come with them) for sketchy behaviour. Unofficially. But that is the gist of it. The Shadowban is detailed more at the “Plann That” blog. I’ve read a few articles and this one seems to cover off on the most things. Worth a read if you want to go more in-depth about Instagram’s point of view and the new hashtag algorithm. It’s interesting reading for Insta-geeks. Or that could just be me. Haha.
How did I get Shadowbanned?
From what I can figure out, there are a few key things to getting MY butt sin-binned. If it happened to you, your reasons may be different. You’re going to have to play around and find out what works. It’s not like Instagram will reply to your question asking why you have to guess using the information available to you. And when it came to my account, these are my best guesses.
Approve all the things!
The first reason I can find is that I had a ridiculous number of apps approved in my API section. Everything from apps I’ve tried to plan the layout of my feed, ‘influencers’ platforms to try to source work, scheduling programs and places to print my Instagram photos. Sheeesh. This was my reason one and it could be yours too.
Think about it; API approval happens every time you log into an app to track your followers or (you know who you are) if are using an app to follow/unfollow, comment spam or whatever. It has something to do with your IP address and multiple location logins and how that correlates with the increased possibility that your account is spam, being shifty or whatever.
Hashtag abuse, apparently.
I used the SAME hashtags all the darn time because I found it easy and convenient. What worked for me was using the Tags for Likes app with my own ‘custom’ options in there that I could copy and paste whenever I posted. A lot of these had close the 30 hashtags (the allowed max) per list, so I was pushing the boundaries hashtags wise. But, I’m not alone in doing that.
There are also grey and blacklisted hashtags that you are probably using that with repetitive use, combined with some of the other factors, may have caused the drop on your account. The best list I’ve found (and it’s updated regularly) is this one over at The Data Pack.
The naughty corner.
Thirdly, (such a weird word) I would time myself out. Have you ever been replying to comments or leaving comments and had them stop working? You post them, but they don’t appear? You’ve been sin-binned. And when you get blocked like this, it means you’ve done too much commenting in too short time (or liked or followed), and you are in the naughty corner. Whoops.
Getting sent to the corner is something I often did because I reply to my comments on my computer. As I whiz through them one after another, clearly I’m too efficient and BAM, momentarily blocked. It would happen to me once or twice when I am actively posting, but at least five times a week. It is TOO MANY. Instagram treats you like spam at this volume (even though I was replying to and liking comments on my account of any tagged images).
Just call me Spammy McGee. Ummah.
And finally, I participate on some hashtags that are considered ‘grey’ listed (easiest way to tell is that the hashtags don’t have a ‘top posts’ section or this list will help). So, what’s so risque that it got me banned? Curvy, is on the list. So are things like body positive and other (usually) NSFW tags. I know, I know, eye roll with me. Of course, the fat girls with their fashion are getting banned. Bloody hell Insta, you’re okay with naked, as long as it’s a ‘conforming’ naked.
But take heart, my friend was checking out the tags she uses, and beauty blogger is on the grey list; heck, I saw happy Thanksgiving and Easter too. It’s madness and to be honest; this is probably having the least impact of the four items I listed. BUT, still worth considering whether you want to incorporate those tags or not.
What I’ve been doing to get unbanned and increase engagement.
When it came to bouncing back, I took a few of the suggestions from Alex Tooby’s blog post. There are heaps of posts going around to help you out if these options don’t work for you. But, for me, I found that using a few of them and cleaning house, I was back in business. Here is a play by play of what I did.
Clean up your act.
First, I went into the settings of my Instagram and unlinked a HEAP of authorised apps. Anything I wasn’t using I removed (you can always approve them again later if you need them). Like I said in the previous section, I had YEARS worth of authorised apps in there, I would say close to 30 total. Now I have five.
Next up I removed a bunch of my ‘hashtag dumps’ from the first comment on my photos. I didn’t go all the way back to the start of my account, who has the time to go back over 6,000 images, but I did remove a few scrolls worth.
After that, I cleared my search history (someone said it works like a clear cache on your account, not sure if this is true). To do that yourself, the button is at the bottom of the “Options” listing (where you land when you hit the cog on the app). Click on it, and it does the rest. Easy peasy.
I tightened the App ranks.
Next up, to kick that instagram shadowban butt, I stopped using all the non-essential apps on my phone. I didn’t check the “Followers” app to see who unfollowed me for a week. Before that, I had been doing it daily. What can I say, I like to keep an eye on who is ditching me? Haha. As part of the no additional apps thing, I made sure I posted manually. I operated in a low-key way for a couple of days.
During this time, I switched up my Instagram theme; I’ll blog about in a couple of weeks once my feed is settled in and is something I love. Because heck theming your Instagram is TOTES fun. Yup, deliberate use of totes for ironic lols. I played around with it in Unum (a planning app) and started planning images, how they could work together and collecting more for my stash.
But I wasn’t done yet, what about switching from a business profile?
Some consideration went into the suggestion to change my account back to personal as a sort of ban reset. I decided against it, in the end, I like the analytics. The stats, snapshots, follower information analytics, are not available on a personal account. That’s a decision for you, but if there is no need for you to have a business account, why even deal with all this anyway? Personal accounts apparently get more rope than business ones, just look at Facebook Pages vs. Profiles.
EDIT/UPDATE: My research shows that reverting your account from business to personal WILL NOT improve your reach or impressions, and will actually make you look a little more suspect to Instagram who KNOWS you’re a business and what you’re up to. However, if you’ve never switched to business, there appears to be truth in the better reach/impressions thing. Per above.
Finally, after being ‘normal’ for a few days, I logged out of all my accounts and logged back in. Not essential, but I did it anyway.
Getting back in the game.
From there it was about winning back Instagram by being engaging and entertaining to the beautiful (wink wink, follow me, haha) people who came across my account. Being ‘engaging’ in the sense of Instagram means eliciting likes and comments, saves and shares. To me, it just meant that I just had to make sure my Instagram had the same conversations as my blog and my Facebook page.
Engagement is the secret to Instagram in general since the shift from the chronological timeline. If the people who followed don’t interact with it, they won’t see it (al la Facebook). So, every post needs to be a good one. Every single one needs to have a reason for being there otherwise it’s just one more opportunity for you to go to the bottom of the heap. All algorithms, bless their heart. Aren’t they just grand? Haha.
And since we are talking about such things. If you wanted more information about the changes to Instagram, I have a workbook, obvs. I created this from the content I cover in my workshops so you can tackle it online. Click the image to check out the sales page for the book. Suger News readers, your code from a while back will still work, you’re welcome.