What is the dreaded shadow ban?

Instagram does not formally claim to ‘shadow ban’ accounts, however, if you have been on the platform long enough you would have likely experienced a shadow ban at some stage.

A shadow ban is a temporary restriction on an account’s reach. Accounts that have been shadow banned will have a difficult time appearing in the hashtag search. The posts on these accounts will not be shown to their followers, hence the name shadow ban’. Your account will effectively be cast into the Shadow Realm.

Instagram does a terrible job of explaining to users why their accounts have been shadow banned, so figuring out the reason can become a frustrating process. I have compiled a list of common mistakes that accounts make leading them to becoming shadow banned.

You must avoid these at all costs if you want to maintain the health of your account. Remember that once your account has been shadow banned, it becomes easier for it to get shadow banned again. It’s like a criminal who commits murder! Every move they make after their release will be monitored with greater scrutiny!

5. Spamming Hashtags

In the past, ranking for Instagram hashtags was an easy process. All one had to do was keep using the same hashtags on every post until the search was saturated with their posts. Instagram has cracked down on this! They can detect accounts that use the same hashtags on every post and can kill the reach of those accounts.

Why on earth would you need to use all 30 hashtags for a picture of your dirty old shoe anyway?

More often than not, accounts which spam the same hashtags are accounts that use botting software. Instagram is actively against botting and will not tolerate anything that looks like automated activity that a human cannot do.

If you use the same hashtags on every post in the same order, you will get shadow banned very quickly! It might take more work, but try and use different hashtags for every post if you want to avoid the shadow ban. If you are too lazy to find new hashtags, you need to at least change the sequence in which you post your hashtags.

I did an experiment where I made a post on Instagram utilising all 30 hashtags and I documented the impressions and reach. I deleted the post and reuploaded it again the next day, this time using 12 hashtags and not 30.

Guess what happened?

The post with 12 hashtags got more likes and reach than the one with 30; it ranked for certain hashtags, whilst the post with 30 ranked for almost none.

Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself and see what happens!

4. Getting reported

One of the quickest ways to get shadow banned, and ultimately banned, is through getting reported frequently by the users of Instagram. This problem occurs mainly in the ‘babes’, and ‘fighting’ niches.

Keep in mind that Instagram is a gigantic platform with over 1 billion active users! They do not have a support team to process every dispute that occurs on the platformUltimately, they rely on reports from their users. If your page gets enough reports, they will shadow ban you and stop exposure of your content on their platform.

You keep messing up, and you join Banned Camp (nothing like Band Camp from American Pie). Only after navigating the notoriously unhelpful ‘help center’, you might get a chance to appeal the ban. You wait a couple of months and could possibly get your appeal reviewed by a human being (don’t take my word for it). Long story short, you do not want to get reported.

If you are posting sexy pictures of women, men, gorillas (or what ever strange fetishes people have), you need to be very careful that the posts follow the community guidelines.

I have found from experience that posts which show excessive violence or vulgarity are filtered out from the explore page and can give your account a shadow ban.

Tread carefully, my friends.

3. Simultaneous logins from different locations

If you and a friend are logged in to the same Instagram profile from two different locations in the same city, Instagram doesn’t bat an eyelid. You log in from Sydney, while your friend logs in from Los Angeles, then you are going to have some problems! Logging in to several apps that use APIs and connect to your account can also be disastrous.

Logging in to cloud-based software that take over your Instagram whilst you continue using it will send your ass to the Shadow Realm. Imagine that you are Instagram, and you monitor an account liking a picture in Thailand whilst simultaneously following another user from a device in Russia! You would suspect some foul play and shadow ban the account, because what ever this account is doing cannot be a good thing.

Be very careful regarding the apps you allow to use your Instagram account. If you play around too much with logins, your account will get flagged.

If you are constantly getting email/phone verification requests, your account is most likely under a magnifying glass. Don’t put yourself on the chopping block! Play it safe!

2. Too many account actions per day

If your account is following and unfollowing 1000 accounts, commenting on 300 pictures, and liking 2000 posts every day, it will get shadow banned. A normal human being might enjoy using the Instagram app, however, no one stays on the app 24/7. If your account is performing too many actions too frequently, Instagram will most likely assume that you are botting, and it will shadow ban you.

You don’t necessarily have to go over the hourly maximum allowances for account actions to get blocked. You just need to behave in a non-human manner.

Consider this. We all know that Facebook and Instagram are masters of collecting data. Old mate Zucks loves the shit! We all saw him in court.

At this stage, with over 1 billion users just on Instagram, one would assume that they would have a good understanding of what kind of activity levels are ‘normal’ for humans on these social platforms. Your $100 bot that you bought from some sketchy guy on a forum cannot trick a multi-billion-dollar algorithm.

I suggest you avoid botting if you do not want your account to get shadow banned. Grow your account organically! Don’t get me wrong, botting can have its benefits which I will discuss in later posts, but it will almost always cast you in the shadows.

1. Flagged links in your BIO

Have you ever wondered why Instagram allowed users to place active links only in one sacred place (now you can also place them in your stories), the bio? It’s because they did not want to become like Facebook where no matter where you browse you are bombarded by scams that want you to click something to become rich.

The link is a sacred privilege, because it has the potential to transport the user from the platform and into your world. Too many people have abused this privilege by spamming affiliate links in their bio to make a quick buck.

Times have changed, and many of these popular affiliate offers (especially the ones on Clickbank) have now been flagged. Accounts with no authority are the ones that are hit the hardest with shadow bans for having links in their bio.

If you create a new account and place your affiliate link in the bio, you are effectively telling Instagram that you are only on the platform to make money and steal their customers. Instagram doesn’t like that, so it will pack your bags for you, give you a kiss on the cheek and send you off to Banned Camp!

The more your account grows and gains authority on the platform, the more leeway you have in terms of putting links in your bio.

The final verdict

The shadow ban sucks and will ultimately ruin your growth on the platform. If you don’t want to be affected by it, make sure that you are not doing any of the things outlined in the list! Follow the rules and grow your account organically, and you will avoid being another casualty. I will be covering how to get out of a shadow ban in the future, so stay tuned!

Isaac Tinashe

Hi, I am Tinashe and I started delving into entrepreneurship in 2015. It started with YouTube, and I was drawn to having my own business even more as time passed. I am now the proud owner of digital marketing agency The Insta Hustle. My team and I work with clients ranging from dentists to real estate moguls and public figures. The world is changing and if you don't keep up you'll be left behind. Let me show you what is possible with digital marketing.