Instagram's a great place to interact with others and reach an audience outside of the people you already know—until it's not.
What's a Shadowban?
If you're scratching your head, here you go: A shadowban is when, even though you're using hashtags, your post doesn't reach anyone except your followers. Your list of followers begins to decline and your posts get no love. You're left frustrated and screaming at the void because you can't seem to figure out where you went wrong. I mean, after all, you follow the rules like a well-behaved Instagrammer should, right? And, it's not like Instagram contacts you with a shadowban notification, "Hey dude, you're shadowbanned!" Nope, nada. (Really, thanks for that Instagram!)
Still lost? Listen, here's the scene (I'm all too familiar with): submit your post, as usual, receiving plenty of interaction and followers. You post again later that day, only to hear crickets—actually probably not even that. As the days go by, you lose follower after follower and your posts only reach your current followers—who probably don't even see your posts thanks to Instagram's current algorithm that kills your organic reach. Again, thanks, Instagram—but, that's a different topic for another time.
So, you jump online, conduct a little research to find out the problem and if this has ever happened to anyone else. You finally come to the conclusion that you've been shadowbanned on Instagram and life has ceased to exist as you know it.
*I'm going to preface the rest of this with a disclaimer, take my advice for what you will because I'm not an "expert" on the matter but I have been shadowbanned and unbanned several times. Anything I've done has worked for me but it doesn't mean it will work for you. I was banned for an entire month because I manually unfollowed close to 200 people at the same time. I had no reason for following these individuals. Most of them were dead accounts anyway. Others have been banned going on 6+ months so I feel very fortunate that my longest ban was one month.
The second time was because I unfollowed more than 30 accounts at one time. That's when I knew the first ban was a result of unfollowing mass numbers of accounts. I contacted Instagram directly this time, and the ban was lifted about a week later. Plus, I did a lot of complaining about it on Twitter and on Instagram. The third time was also for about a week. I was experimenting with hashtags and my theory is that I used a bad hashtag. Anyway, enough about my account, let's keep rolling:
Don't buy your followers, likes, or account from someone. If Instagram catches wind of it, you're probably going to be banned. Why risk it? It's not worth it.
Don't post anything illegal—this should be a given.
Don't spam your followers. If you think you're going to grow your audience by spamming them with irrelevant content or fake comments, think again. Fake comments, from whichever auto commenter you're using, really irritate me because when I respond, I don't receive an answer. Seriously, that's not how you gain my attention.
If it's not your content, then either give credit to the person you borrowed it from or don't post it at all. Don't be a thief.
Yes, pictures of your half-naked children could get you banned. It's innocent but unfortunately, there are many twisted people out there who see it as anything except that.
Don't unfollow multiple people at one time. Instead, do it over a few weeks at a time. I know, I know! It makes more sense to get it all over with at once but apparently, Instagram disagrees.
Watch your hashtags. Some of them are banned. It's best to research every single one before using them.
If someone reports your posts, comments, account, then you could be shadowbanned. Not much you can do about this one except don't use an app that posts comments automatically to avoid offending/irritating someone with an inappropriate comment. You would think that if someone didn't like your posts, then they would simply unfollow you but that's not the case for some people.
Create a secure password. Suspicious activity, like an attempted hacking = shadowban. If someone tries to hack your account, post like you normally do. You should try to make your account appear as normal as possible. You don't want any reason for your account to trigger Instagram's spam alert.
Don't be a douche. Again, if people report you for being said douche, then you can be shadowbanned or banned permanently.
Speaking of suspicious activity, if you have a brand spanking new account, take it slow. Don't post more than once or twice a day. Even then, post once in the morning and again in the evening. If you post too often, with hashtags maxed out, then you might accidentally seem like spam and cause your shadowban. Slowly build up your posts and audience because making your account seem like a spam account will cause you to be shadowbanned. And yeah, Instagram's algorithm is ridiculous—I get it.
Let's say you're already shadowbanned, now what? Unfortunately, there is no solid method for getting you unbanned. If you look around online, you'll find advice that varies in opinion, like to stop all activity for several days. Well, I disagree with this because I did the exact opposite. I kept posting once a day and still used my regular hashtags (sans the bad hashtags). My theory is that if I maintained my account so that it appeared "normal" to Instagram's algorithm, then I would be unbanned again. Thankfully, for me, it actually worked!
A Few More Tips:
If you normally post once a day, keep it up. You can always delete the posts that didn't reach anyone and repost it again once your ban has been lifted.
Don't act like a spambot.
Be patient. Easier said than done, I know.
Start another account and start posting as usual but no more than twice a day. (I don't think it's beneficial to post more than twice a day anyway. It's not Twitter, where tweets have a very short life, and it's spammy when done on IG.)
Never use an app to auto post, like, or comment—ever.
Report it to Instagram, every day if you want. I reached out through the help form on the app, letting them know how much I loved Instagram (I really do love it!), that I wasn't a spammer, and I really wanted my account back to normal, etc... A few days later, I was unbanned.
Some say don't use the maximum number of hashtags but I use the max with almost every post. I never have problems with it. For example, my last post has over 200 likes and yeah, I used the maximum number. The key is to use good hashtags—not banned hashtags.
Unlike Twitter, Instagram hasn't come out and addressed this questionable banning method against users who violate their TOS (usually unknowingly), which makes it difficult to reach anyone to help you fix your account.
Also, if you're running a business account on Instagram, expect Instagram to throttle your organic reach in the same way that Facebook does. If you feel that your business account isn't reaching anyone, then that's probably the reason. Think of it this way, the more people interact with your post, the more people you're going to reach. More engagement=higher organic reach. (Another topic for another post, but I just wanted to point that out.)
If you want to share your story or have a tip/trick that worked to get you unbanned, please share it below and I'll add it to the post. Hopefully, this helps some of you become unbanned because being shadowbanned seriously blows.
As always, thanks for reading!