You know those scary chain letters you get in your inbox? You don't want to open it. But maybe you do. You just want to see what it's about. Then you do. And suddenly, you feel compelled to do what the letter says. Maybe just for a second. Maybe you don't follow through, maybe you do because… karma. That's kind of what the Instagram shadowban has turned into. Lots of rumors with lots of people passing (mostly false) information around.

I get it! It is scary. For most, including me, Instagram is their top traffic and a direct connection to their blog and business. You want to make sure you're playing by the rules so you don't get blocked or shadowbanned. Right? YES. But with the flurry of new information comes rumors that people are passing around like wildfire.

First up, what is the shadowban?

Basically it makes it so that your account becomes unsearchable. A big deal, since that’s how we gain new followers. For example, if you use the hashtag #photosinbetween you might not show up because your account is shadow banned.
I believe this is in response to many companies and users starting “Instagram automation” which allows bots to like and comment and even follow other accounts on your behalf. This is against Instagram laws, and ultimately, Instagram wanted to do something to stop this from happening. Hence, shadowban.
The exact problem with shadow banning is this: accounts that have been “shadowbanned” do not appear in the hashtag feeds even if they have used the hashtags in their post UNLESS you already follow them. So, if you try to find your own photos in a hashtag feed, you will see them, so will anyone that follows you. So if I follow you, I will still see you in #photosinbetween, but if I do not follow you, you would not show up for that hashtag. YOU are being hidden. This is a problem because now I can’t discover you.
Unfortunately, because of the hype around all of this, we don't know the exact issues. So that leads to lots of speculation. In my Facebook group someone posted an “app” that checks to see if you've been banned by Instagram.
Curious, I clicked the link. You put in your username and it magically checks if you've been banned. Surprise! I was. (PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS KEEP READING!)
I refuse to post the link because after extensive research, this app is pure bogus. There are LOTS of articles swirling around about this Instagram but the truth is we don't know everything. And I truly believe we should only trust what Instagram says.

Who is this affecting?

For the most part this is affecting Business accounts. I DO have a business account and also recommend you have a business account if you own a business, are a public figure, blogger, or are wanting to monetize your account in any way. The reason being is that you can see your analytics.

Let’s talk about Hashtags:

Just because you use a hashtag doesn’t mean that you’ll show up for that hashtag. Just like with your photos, hashtags have an algorithm. The “top” posts (meaning those with more interaction) show up at the top. It used to be that hashtags followed a timeline. If I posted my photo with a hashtag 20 minutes ago, it will show up BEFORE the hashtag that was posted 2 hours ago. Now, we have that to an extend, but we also have “top” posts. Those 9 pictures at the top with the most engagement.

What does this mean?

I’m going to quote directly from Facebook here, who owns Instagram when Kaitlyn, a woman who runs a blog called Pierce Social, when she spoke directly to them about Instagram:
“The most detail that I can provide is that there is a unique algorithm that determines what qualifies a post to be high volume. It’s a combination of Likes, Comments, Views, and about 6 other variables and factors that determine which posts go in the area for Top Posts. The Top Posts will show up at the very top and just under that is the section for Most Recent. Essentially, the algorithm contains countless factors and for each user, it is different.”
Please note, her article is THE ONLY one I'm linking here because it's the most logical. I suggest you read it and take a look at her perspective!

How do you know if you’re affected? 

Most people report a dramatic reduction in likes and comments on their images, and a quick look over those people interacting with your account are only those who already follow you.
The easiest way to find out if you’ve been hit is to post a picture then ask a friend to un-follow you (or someone who doesn’t follow you already), and check the hashtag feed to see if your picture shows up. *this is basically the only way.
If it’s not showing up in the gallery of images – then there could be a chance you have been shadow banned.

What Causes this to happen? 

1. Using Bots, Automated services and Buying Followers.

Instagram's terms of service are simple: do not use anything that automates, including using bot programs to comment as you, or automatic posting services, period. Those violate Instagram’s terms of service.
How would they know? 
Let's say you use a virtual assistant. She lives in Oklahoma and you live in Chicago. One minute your device is getting picked up in Oklahoma and the next it's in Chicago. That is suspicious because it signals that you could be using bots. AGAIN this is here-say. We do not have proof. All we know is that you should be the one to use your account. I personally think this isn't the problem, I think they are focusing on bots and automation and trying to prevent people from buying followers.

2. Surges of activity.

If all of a sudden you get 100 likes in 1 minute that’s pretty obvious! This is again a crack down on bots by Instagram. Sites like Instagress have been shut down because they were following, unfollowing, liking and commenting on users behalf.

Remember, Instagram has daily limits. This is to again, thwart any bots.  There are limits to how much you can like and interaction on Instagram per day. This is how it typically looks: 200 likes, 60 comments and 60 follows/unfollows per hour.

3. ‘Broken Hashtags’

Instagram is now getting tough about unsafe or abusive hashtags. For example, things that have to do with porn or suicide. You might be using a hashtag that could seem “innocent” but it could be affecting you.
How do you know if you’re using a broken tag?
If you click on this hashtag, there is no ‘top posts’ section, and you won’t be able to scroll passed the first page of images – you’ll find it has been limited.
Sometimes there’s even a message at the bottom that states the tag has been “limited due to abuse”.

My suggestion is to change up hashtags and check the ones you are using if you're really worried.

Instagram IS aware of this and put out the following statement:

How do you fix this?

1. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING. Do not buy followers, likes, anything. This is a big red flag.
2. Make sure you’re varying hashtags and check that you aren’t using anything broken.
To my knowledge, this is not affecting things like giveaways or comment pods. If YOU are seeing sharp declines in engagement I suggest that you change up your hashtags.
3. Take your account off business, switch back to personal, then you can go back to business. This seems to “reset” the system.
4. Edit your profile. I know this sounds odd and it's most likely a rumor but I'm trying to give you all the options. Make a tweak to your profile. You don't need to change it dramatically.
5. Report it to Instagram. Chances are you shouldn't have been shadowbanned. Remember a few years ago when Instagram did a cleanout of spam accounts? Some users were affected. This is because Instagram uses an algorithm and it doesn't always get it right. So report it and you should be fine.
This is happening because quite frankly, many users are using bots. The fact is that it isn’t fair to companies and brands that are sponsoring. We truly don't know everything, but we do know that Instagram is taking measures to stop the bots.
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