Instagram remains one of the most important platforms for influencers, creators, and businesses looking to build their brand and connect with their audience. However, many users find themselves struggling with a sudden and unexplained drop in engagement and reach on their posts and stories. Often, this reduced visibility is chalked up to the dreaded Instagram "shadowban".
In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about shadowbans on Instagram, including:
- What is an Instagram shadowban and how does it work?
- Common reasons and causes for getting shadowbanned
- Symptoms and signs that your account may be shadowbanned
- Why low engagement doesn't necessarily mean you're shadowbanned
- Steps to diagnose if you are actually shadowbanned
- Solutions and best practices for recovering from or avoiding an Instagram shadowban
What is a Shadowban on Instagram?
The term "shadowban" refers to when Instagram intentionally limits the reach and visibility of an account or its posts, without notifying the account owner. There are two key criteria of a shadowban:
- It is an intentional act by Instagram to limit your exposure.
- It is undisclosed, meaning Instagram does not alert you that your reach has been reduced.
Oftentimes, people confuse other types of bans, like having a post removed for violating community guidelines, as a shadowban. But this is different, as Instagram directly discloses content takedowns to the account owner.
A true shadowban is Instagram covertly working against your account, making it difficult for your existing audience to see your posts without any warning or explanation.
Common Causes of An Instagram Shadowban
While Instagram is notoriously vague about what triggers a shadowban, these are some of the most common reasons why accounts get hit:
Violating Community Guidelines
Having your posts or stories removed for violating Instagram’s guidelines is the #1 cause of reduced reach. It doesn’t matter whether it was intentional or accidental. All Instagram cares about is that their rules were broken. Some common violations include:
- Offensive language or content
- Nudity or sexually suggestive posts
- Violent, graphic or shocking content
- Hate speech, bullying, or harassment
- Regulated goods like firearms, drugs, etc.
- Impersonating others or spreading misinformation
Keep in mind a single violation may just be a warning, but repeat offenses will certainly hamper your visibility.
Using Banned Hashtags
Some hashtags end up “banned”, meaning any posts using them have their reach severely limited. Instagram does this to cut down on misuse, like propagating harmful content.
You usually won’t find an official list of banned tags. If you regularly rely on hashtags, double check ones you use haven’t been restricted. You can test by searching the hashtag and seeing if recent posts come up.
Reusing content, images, videos or music you don’t have rights to use is a surefire way to get shadowbanned. Instagram is legally obligated to crack down on copyright infringement. This includes using songs without proper licensing, especially for branded business accounts.
Automation and Inauthentic Activity
Using bots, automation or artificial engagement services is strictly prohibited. Things like auto-liking, mass following/unfollowing, and bulk commenting are easy ways to get shadowbanned. Stick to Instagram’s platform policies and steering clear of shady growth hacking tactics.
Giving your password to third-party services, having multiple accounts, or logging in from many different devices leaves you susceptible to hacks. It also raises red flags with Instagram and makes them limit your reach assuming your account has been compromised.
Posting Polarizing Content
Controversial, divisive, and political topics tend to disincentivize engagement on Instagram. If you share strong opinions that alienate parts of your audience, the algorithm will begin to throttle your reach and visibility.
Symptoms Your Instagram Account May Be Shadowbanned
Here are some signals your account may be suffering from limited distribution:
- Sudden, unexplained drop in likes, comments and other engagement
- Seeing little to no profile visits or discovery of your account from hashtags
- Posts not appearing for hashtags they are using
- Followers reporting not seeing your posts in their feed
- Analytics show a sharp decline in reach and impressions
- Finding your own posts deep in hashtag search results, if they appear at all
Now keep in mind some other factors can cause these symptoms which I’ll cover below. But if you are experiencing multiple issues, it may indicate Instagram has intentionally limited your visibility.
Why Low Engagement Doesn’t Mean You're Shadowbanned
One of the biggest misconceptions around shadowbans is that low engagement alone equals being shadowbanned. In reality, having low likes and comments is normal as Instagram feeds get more competitive.
According to analytics from Later.com, the average Instagram engagement rate is only 2.88%. For an account with 1000 followers, that's around 30 engagements per post.
A recent study from Metricool found the average number of views per reel based on follower count:
- Less than 500 followers: 288 views
- 500-2000 followers: 750 views
- 2000-10000 followers: 1700 views
- 10000-50000 followers: 6200 views
- 50000+ followers: 47,000 views
So if you are in the ballpark of these benchmarks, even if on the lower end, it likely means your account isn't shadowbanned. Competition and saturation of content on Instagram means posts won't reach 100% of your audience.
Other Common Shadowban Misconceptions
Here are some other scenarios that are often falsely attributed to being shadowbanned:
Not Appearing in Search
With billions of users, search glitches happen all the time. Unless you have millions of followers, a search ranking drop is mostly just an algorithm fluke.
Hashtag Posts Not Showing Up
Instagram actually prevents you from easily finding your own posts in a hashtag. Check from another account to confirm your visibility. Also, they removed the ability to browse recent hashtag posts so you will only see top-ranked content.
Low Engagement After a Viral Post
If one post blows up, future posts will likely see lower engagement for a while. The algorithm picks up your viral hit was well received so keeps showing it to more users at the expense of your newer posts.
Using Small Hashtags
Niche hashtags with minimal volume won't have enough posts for Instagram to bother showing search results. Use more popular hashtags so there is competition and a "top posts" section generated.
Diagnosing If You Are Shadowbanned
If you are still seeing unexplained dips in your Instagram reach, here are some steps to diagnose what may be going on:
Check Your Account Status
Go to your profile > Settings > Account > Account Status. Look for any policy violations flagged by Instagram that could be limiting your exposure. Delete flagged posts and comments.
Review Your Recent Hashtag Usage
Scan hashtags used in your last few posts and see if any may have become restricted. Search them yourself and check if recent content comes up.
Switch to a Personal Account
Business and creator accounts seem to be more susceptible to restrictions. Try switching to a personal profile and monitor if your reach improves.
Log Out Of All Active Sessions
To rule out potential misuse, log out of all Instagram sessions active on other devices. Limit access to only your personal phone/computer going forward.
Start Engaging More
Ramp up genuine comments, likes and story replies on other accounts in your niche. Improving your engagement score may help regain the algorithm's favor.
Create a New Account
Ultimately, making a fresh account and monitoring its reach vs. your current profile is one of the best litmus tests. A clean slate makes restrictions from past missteps a non-issue.
10 Ways to Get Your Account Out of The Instagram Shadowban
If you confirm your reach is being artificially limited, here are some tips to recover and get your Instagram profile back in good standing:
1. Delete Any Violating Posts or Comments
Scrub your profile of any offensive content, copyright violations or terms of service breaches. The longer they are up, the worse the damage.
2. Take a Break From Posting
Give your account a 1-2 week rest from any activity. Let the algorithms reset and penalize you less for past transgressions.
3. Stop Using Prohibited Third-Party Apps
Remove any bots, paid services and other automated tools. These will only make reach issues worse in the long run.
4. Log Out of All Logged-In Sessions
Reduce chances of account misuse by logging out of Instagram on all devices. Change your password for extra security.
5. Switch Up Your Hashtag Strategy
Finding fresh hashtags that aren't banned will help your content get discovered by new audiences again.
6. Improve Your Content Quality
Evaluate if your posts lack value, originality or creativity. Good content breeds engagement and is less likely to be "suppressed".
7. Contact Instagram Support
Reporting problems through Instagram's help page or @Creators support on Facebook may help surface fixes for your issues.
8. Fuel More Organic Engagement
Ramp up genuine commenting and liking activity to demonstrate your value to the community.
9. Make Short-Form Video Content
Lean into Reels and video content which tends to be favored and promoted heavily by Instagram algorithms.
10. Start a New Instagram Profile
If all else fails, a fresh start can help eliminate any lingering account limitations or penalties.
How to Avoid an Instagram Shadowban Moving Forward
Here are some best practices to keep your Instagram profile in good standing and avoid future issues:
- Carefully follow all terms of service and community guidelines
- Vet hashtags to ensure they aren't banned or restricted
- Only use original images and licensed assets like music
- Stay away from artificial follower growth techniques
- Don't over-automate activity like commenting and posting
- Keep controversial or divisive opinions off your brand account
- Secure your account and limit third-party app integrations
- Focus on high-value, visually engaging content
At the end of the day, maintaining your integrity and playing by the rules is the best path to avoiding restrictions. But if you do get caught up in what seems like an unjust shadowban, this guide outlined steps to identify and rectify the problem.
Consistency, patience and high-quality content will always shine through in the end!