Update: As of June 1, 2018 Instagram’s official statement is that they do not shadowban accounts.
We’ve talked about shadowbanning previously, but it remains an ongoing concern for business that are trying to grow their presence on social media. Basically, a shadowban occurs when a social media platform makes your posts invisible to everyone else, but doesn’t tell you about it – typically associated with Instagram.
This is particularly damaging for companies that are trying to use Instagram to reach more people and are already facing the challenge of a new social media platform (especially if you are also practicing your image-based marketing). Now they tell you that your posts might never be seen, and you might never even know it – the only clue you would have is suddenly
But wait! Don’t give up on Instagram: Shadowbanning is a largely automatic process, but it does follow increasingly strict rules set by Instagram. Most accounts are banned because of clearly shady practices that violate content regulations on the site. For the average company, especially B2B companies, that probably means that you’re choosing the wrong hashtags.
To help clear things, let’s look at hashtag practices that could be getting you into trouble, and what to do instead.
Repeating the Same Hashtags with Every Post
At first, repeating hashtags may seem like a good way of growing your brand. After all, if all the images you post are about #greatsupplies then it probably makes sense to tag every photo with #greatsupplies for continuity. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t really like these kinds of tactics. Repeating the same hashtags over and over again starts to feel a little spammy, and may indicate there’s no real human behind the posting. This is a greater danger when repeating very common hashtags, but you should be careful even when using your own unique brand hashtags too often. Give tags a break and let them breathe for best effect!
Listing a Whole Page of Hashtags
You don’t see this as much since Instagram started cracking down, but in the early days a lot of posts tried to use as many hashtags as possible to show up in as many searches and recommendations as possible. It was a cheap tactic that led to dozens of hashtags jostling for the same space.
Even worse, this led people to try using a bunch of unrelated “popular” hashtags that didn’t really have anything to do with their post. This led to a lot of clutter and poor recommendations, so Instagram update its algorithm to frown on such things. If you’ve been loading your posts with a ton of hashtags in a shotgun approach, it could be doing a lot more harm than good. Focus on a group of well-chosen hashtags that accurately describe your post and the value it provides. Don’t go overboard, and don’t assume you can game the system by listing a bunch of general hashtags like #news or #puppies or #greatdeals.
Using Banned Hashtags
This one isn’t as much of a concern for the average B2B company, but it’s still worth noting. Instagram has a list of banned hashtags, and they will quickly shadowban the accounts that try to use them. There are two issues here. The first that is that Instagram may permanently or temporarily ban hashtags, and gives no indication of which sort of ban it is, so you have to tread lightly.
The second issue is that many banned hashtags are common words or phrases that your business may use by accident. Often these hashtags get banned because of overuse, and Instagram is just trying to clear the air a bit. But there are over 100,000 banned tags, and it’s easy to accidentally use some of them, such as #desk or #workflow. This is an excellent article on how you can search for specific hashtags to make sure they aren’t currently banned.
Letting a Program or Bot Choose Your Hashtags
Auto-hashtag selectors can speed up posts, but it’s dangerous to depend on this data, especially if you’re too casual with it. Choose your hashtags by hand to help avoid any of the above mistakes. If you do depend on a list of hashtag suggestions, make sure your choices are not banned, and are directly connected to your post.
For some other tips on preventing shadowbanning, check out our post on key questions to ask if it looks like you’ve been shadowbanned.