When it comes to building your brand online and growing your online presence, one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal is going to be social media. I’m not exactly saying anything groundbreaking here. You already knew that. Whether you’re in e-commerce, you’re an affiliate marketer, you’re a blogger or you’re an “influencer,” it pays to have terrific reach and engagement on such platforms as Twitter and Facebook. That all goes without saying.
And one of the platforms where the most successful marketers and brands are enjoying the greatest engagement is on Instagram. Instagram users are much more likely to “like” and comment on your content than on many of the other social networks out there, so while there may be some challenges in turning that engagement into conversions, the potential is certainly there and Instagram is a great way to extend your reach.
But in the past several months, many top Instagrammers have begun to experience what people are calling a “shadowban.” It’s nefarious and insidious in that you might not even know that you are being directly affected by it until it’s already too late. And at that point, you might be able to do much about it at all.
The Shadowban Is Real
Let’s clarify first that if you are affected by the shadowban, you are not being banned from Instagram outright like how you might if you defy the terms and conditions on Twitter, Facebook, Google AdSense, YouTube or any number of other platforms and services. You can still post your photos and videos, and you can still interact with your followers as you’ve always had.
The Instagram shadowban instead affects you in two other ways, both of which can be absolutely crippling to your total reach (and consequently, your engagement too).
Where Are My Likes?
First, it could affect how often your content shows up as part of the algorithm. You might recall a long while back now that the Instagram feed is no longer in simple reverse chronological order from all the accounts that you follow. Instead, just like Facebook, an algorithm is used to push content to the top that they think would be of most interest to the user. When you’ve got the shadowban, your content may not be seen as often anymore.
Second, your posts may no longer appear with the hashtags that you include in the caption or comments. Normally, when someone searches for a hashtag or they tap (click) on a hashtag, they’ll be shown all the content where that hashtag appears. The top content is highlighted up at the top, but everything else should be in reverse chronological order below that. If you’ve been shadowbanned, your posts may not show up at all. That really hurts, considering how powerful hashtags can be on Instagram.
There’s even one more level to this and it’s starting to sound a little evil. Have you ever confirmed with Instagram that you are using the platform as a business account, likely connecting it to your business page on Facebook? This seemed like a good idea, because you can gather all the analytics together and take advantage of the synergistic benefits, but Facebook (which owns Instagram) might not have been completely honest with you.
Time to Open Your Wallet
Remember how Facebook has become a largely pay-to-play platform where you need to pay to “boost” your content if you want it to be seen by the most people possible? It’s very possible that Instagram is moving in exactly the same direction and by identifying your profile as a business account, you’ve told Instagram that you make money through the platform. And if you’ve ever boosted an Instagram or Facebook post, you’ve also told them that you’re willing to spend money for business purposes.
All of this adds up to the potential shadowban, because they know that when you see a dip in reach or engagement, you’re far more likely to pay to boost those numbers back up than the typical personal account.
There’s a great article on Creator Hype by Zach Bussey that explains how and why this is happening if you’re looking for further discussion. At the end of the day, we can’t really blame Facebook for doing what it’s doing on Instagram. After all, if you’re not paying to use it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product.