So, you think you may have been hit with the dreaded Instagram shadowban??
Well I was and let me tell you it’s been quite the adventure!
Actually, as I write this, it’s still affecting me. My posts are currently limited to my existing followers‘ feeds and I can’t be found through any hashtags. This means that, while I may show up on my followers’ Explore pages, I won't be shown on Explore pages of anyone not following me and I won't show up as people, followers included, browse hashtags. It's super frustrating and I know I'm not the only one who goes through this, so I thought I'd write a short blog series to share a little bit about what I’m learning and what I'm trying to do to get the shadowban lifted as quickly as possible (if possible).
This first post will give you a rundown on shadowbans, show you how to tell if you're being affected by one and talk about a rumored solution that I'll go ahead and try...the next post will tell you how it went!
First, to lay the groundwork of where I'm coming from I wanted to share my perspective and way of looking at things. I am stubbornly and passionately committed to the perspective that everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is here to serve us. No matter what shows up, we always have a choice in how we will look at it. This is easier said than done, and it sometimes takes me a minute to get the the place where I am willing to do this, but I usually get there.
So, this blog series is all about being proactive and moving forward...NOT complaining! I empathize, but I don't commiserate. There's a big difference in the two. Empathizing says "Yah, I've been there and I know how you feel. I'll walk beside you and/or give you advice from my experiences while you get through this." Commiserating (notice it's rooted in the word 'misery') says "I've been through that and it sucks. Let's talk about how much it sucks and how it should be instead. We're just gonna talk about it, though. We're not gonna make any meaningful changes in perspective or behaviors, because we're committed to problems, NOT to solutions." Which one of these feels more full of possibility and lighter? Definitely the perspective based in empathy, so that's what you can expect to find in this series.
That may sound a bit harsh, but it's actually very compassionate. I'm all about feeling the feelings, but with the knowledge that they are being felt deeply and fully in order to be released and not carried into areas of our lives where they don't belong. I’m not here to waste my time or anyone else’s and I’m not into spending my energy complaining and wishing things were different. I’ve found that it’s much more helpful for me to give myself a little time to be annoyed, angry, worried, whatever comes up and then let that shit go and get on with the business of doing what I do best, which is to do the work to get out of the way so I can listen to my intuition and let it guide my creativity.
So, now that I've laid the foundation and you know where I'm coming from, if it resonates with you, then it's time to dive into this topic! I’m gonna walk you through what I’ve learned (so far since I'm still going through this) and what I’m trying to do to get this thing lifted as soon as possible.
Alright, first things first...what is a shadowban??
It’s when an online platform, Instagram, Twitter, etc., partially blocks a user and/or some of their content so that it’s not obvious to that user.
Why would they do this?
It’s usually done in an attempt to limit spammy activity or to remove dangerous and/or illegal content. You post some nudes and you’re probably gonna get that content taken down very quickly and your reach limited. Same goes for spammy stuff...using bots, following or unfollowing too many people in a short amount of time or liking and commenting too much at once.
It's a practice that's meant to make the spaces that we share online safe and full of content and activity generated by real people. So, I believe that it really is a well-intentioned safety net, but like most well intentioned controls, it sometimes affects people who weren’t meant to get caught in the wide net it casts.
I don’t post anything illegal, aggressive or dangerous and I’ve never bought likes or followers or used those irritating bots that leave generic and cheesy-bordering-on-creepy comments on people’s posts. You’ve seen 'em... “Love this shot! Great composition and lighting! Check out some of mine and tell me what you think!” Not a chance!
So, yah…I got shadowbanned and I really don’t know why.
Now, since you’re reading this I’ll assume that you’re either proactively researching things that should be on your social media radar or you’ve noticed a sudden decrease in likes and/or comments that seems to have come out of nowhere.
You’re probably wondering “How do I know if I’ve been shadowbanned or if I’m just being affected by the latest round of dreaded changes to the algorithm?” I'll get to that, but, let me first back up and explain what happened in my situation to give some context.
My shadowban started with a notification from Instagram that popped up on my phone telling me that something of mine was being removed because it violated instagrams guidelines regarding ethical treatment of animals/endangered animals. I quickly skimmed the notification and navigated away from it to try to make sense of what I was seeing. I wish I had taken a screen shot of it, but I didn’t think to… When I tried to find the notification again it had disappeared. I couldn’t find it in my Notification Center or anywhere in my instagram app. I received no email from them explaining what had happened and I searched all of my mailboxes thoroughly! At this point I figured there’s not much I can do and I’m not about to start running around in circles when I don’t even know what’s up, so I need to get on with my day.
So I let it go. I thought that’s really strange, but whatever. I work with legal and ethically sourced macaw feathers and someone must have reported me without looking into my business practices, or maybe it was someone who makes similar designs who was looking to thin the herd, so to speak. It annoyed me but I refuse to dwell on unanswerable “what ifs” and “why’s”. I live by the belief that all things truly do work together for good, so there must be something for me to learn here. This takes a solid practice of reframing anything that comes up to line up with this way of thinking. My job is just to let shit go in order to give the lessons a place to land. So, why it happened doesn’t really matter to me. What I can learn and how I can share that with others does.
So, anyway, I soon noticed after that notification that my engagement tanked. At first, I didn’t think much of it, because lately engagement has been erratic for most accounts to say the least. I tried a few online shadowban tests and everything looked okay, so I chalked it up to the ever changing algorithm.
If you aren’t familiar with them, shadowban tests can be found online with a simple search and are meant to help you figure out if your reach is being limited. A popular view on shadowbans is that using banned hashtags will get you flagged and shadowbanned. So, based on this view, shadowban tests review the hashtags in your most recent posts and let you know if any of the ones you’re using are broken or banned. It helps you see if you’re unintentionally doing something that may be throwing up a red flag for Instagram. They are helpful for this purpose, but they don’t tell the whole story as you’ll see further along. As I mentioned, I ran a few of these, and everything looked fine, so I tried to let it go.
Something kept nagging at me, though, and when a fellow small business messaged me to tell me about her shadowban and ask if I was being hit with it, too, I looked further into it. That’s when I realized why my engagement was so low.
The first thing I did, which I wish I’d done sooner, was to search my two hashtags to see if I was showing up under them. My stomach dropped when I realized that the very hashtags I’d created showed none of my posts. My own hashtags, #shopamykae and #amykaeatelier , were showing NONE of my posts. My other very surprising, and honestly disheartening, find was that any hashtags having to do with electroformed feathers, my specialty, weren’t showing any of my posts either. This is very unusual because electroforming feathers is my specialty and prior to this I had the majority of posts, as well as most of the top posts, in these categories.
That's when I dug deeper into my post insights and realized that I was being hidden from hashtags.
So, how’d I figure it out? Let me show you…
First of all, to be able to view insights you have to have a business account. There’s lots of talk about which is better to have, but I'm not going into that since that’s not what this post is about. All that's important for our purposes here is that I have a business account on Instagram and it allows me to view my post insights. If you don’t have a business account and want to switch to one, here’s a quick pictorial run down of how to do that.
First, navigate to your profile and tap on the three horizontal lines in the upper right corner.
That will reveal a menu wit’s lots of options. Go to the very bottom and tap on ‘Settings’.
Then select ‘Account’.
From there you will see the option(s) you have for changing your account type. Please note that mine is already a Business Account, so it shows the option to switch back to a Personal Account or a Creator Account.
So, with Business Account selected you’ll be able to check out and track many different analytics. I’m not going deep into analytics here, but will talk about a few specific ones that can help you see how many new versus existing accounts are seeing your posts. I also found a quick and easy way to be able to tell if your posts are possibly being hidden. I say possibly, because since I don’t work for Instagram/Facebook, I’m not privy to the sort of information that could give me a definitive answer. But I’ll go old school and say that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it‘s probably a duck.
So, to check out the analytics, start with any of your posts. If you recently switched to a business account make sure to use a post from after the switch so that the analytics are available. I started with a post that had an above average, but not extremely high, amount of engagement. Choose any of your posts and tap on ‘View Insights’.
This brings up a screen that you can scroll through in order to view in depth info about the post. This one showed that 45% of the accounts that viewed this particular post weren’t following me and of the 9,390 impressions the post made, just over one third of those were from hashtags. This post performed very well in terms of reaching accounts that weren’t following me.
The next post I’m showing here has even higher engagement than the last one, but it is slightly different in an important way.
When you look deeper into the insights, you’ll see that 53% of the people who saw this post weren’t following me and of the 15,000 plus impressions it received, 888 of those were from the explore page.
Both of these examples show a healthy variety of traffic sources from followers and non-followers.
I‘d suggest, if you don’t already do this, to take a few minutes to get familiar with these analytics. Go back through some of your posts over time and look at the stats. Be sure to go through as many as you need to in order to get to know the numbers and get a feel for how they’re performing. You may start to notice trends or changes over time and with different types of content.
The next post tells quite a different story. This one is a picture of a collection I released soon after my shadowban began. You’ll notice some key differences in the numbers.
While this post had high engagement, it was strictly from my existing following. Over 99% of the accounts that interacted with this post were already following me. While this is great and shows the amazing support I am receiving, I, of course, want to share my art and work with more people. Reaching new people is very important to my business. People finding me organically through hashtags or their explore page has been crucial to my success. It’s very important to me to be genuine and caring and I work hard to post high quality content where these qualities come through. If something is hindering my reach it is just as important to my success to understand why and how it’s happening!
In analyzing the analytics, you’ll notice below that no one interacted with this post through either hashtags or their explore page. It was found either through existing followers’ home pages, from direct profile visits or from ‘other’, which is basically people sharing my post. (Thank you thank you thank you!!!)
As I checked all of my recent posts, I saw the reach from hashtags and explore were extremely low and they finally disappeared completely once the shadowban hit. All of my posts from the past week have shown the same lack of engagement from either hashtags or explore pages.
This is what I referred to earlier when talking about shadowban testers available online. They may tell you whether or not you’re using bad hashtags, but they won’t give you the full picture. I ran several of them, which all showed I was fine, all the while if I’d just looked at my stats more closely I’d have easily seen the signs that my posts were invisible.
What’s more, I’ve gone back through and realized that the same thing has been happening on and off throughout the year. Sometimes the hashtag and explore numbers take a dive very low, which makes me think it’s an algorithm thing, and other times they’ve been nonexistent altogether making me wonder if I’ve had shadowbans previously but just didn’t realize. It would certainly explain a lot.
Alright, if you’re like me, you’re eyes are glazing over and your brain is pretty much shutting down from all this info. It’s definitely time to stop for now!
Make sure to watch for my next blog post in this series. As always, I’ll announce it on my Instagram feed and story so follow me (@amykae_atelier) in case I’m still shadowbanned so you don’t miss it. 😉
You’ll definitely want to check the next one out because I‘ll be testing out a big rumor! Many sources claim that promoting a post will force the shadowban to be lifted. Out of principle, I hate to pay to lift a ban (that's a whole other blog post), but if it’s a small amount and it works, then it’s worth it in my book! I hope it’s that simple!! Fingers crossed!!
I hope you’ve found this helpful so far! Until next time, keep (un)learning!