I Tried to Get Shadowbanned on Instagram


The scariest story across the hearth at Social Media Camp? The Curse of the Instagram Shadowban.

Shadow banning is the very first thing each social media marketer’s thoughts goes to once they expertise sudden drops in engagement or attain.

It’s a scary thought that each one your nice content material could be secretly hidden from the very folks you need it to succeed in.

So despite the fact that Instagram CEO Adam Moserri not too long ago introduced to the world, in no unsure phrases, that “Shadow banning is just not a factor,” it’s laborious to not be suspicious when your engagement goes awry.

Nicely, I say no extra ghost tales! Let’s throw some mild into the shadow(ban) and discover out the reality with somewhat radical first-person journalism. That’s proper: I’m going to attempt to get shadow banned on Instagram. For the nice of society! For fact! And since Hootsuite requested me to!

Let’s do that.

What’s a shadowban?

Earlier than I smash my digital popularity, a fast primer: A “shadow ban” is when a person is blocked or muted on a social media website (or on-line discussion board) with out their information.

You haven’t essentially damaged any of the phrases of service explicitly, however you’ve been doing one thing that the admins or moderators aren’t proud of… and so they’ve quietly gone forward and punished you by hiding or obscuring your posts and feedback from different customers.

How is that this completely different from a straight up ban? It’s stealthy! Nobody tells you you’ve been shadow-banned, and you don’t have any strategy to enchantment a shadow ban.

(Do you could have chills but?)

On Instagram, that may imply your posts are now not showing (or showing far much less incessantly) in your followers’ feeds or on the Discover web page. Mainly, Insta is making an attempt to ice you out.

Not less than, that’s the speculation. Although “shadow-ban” is within the Oxford dictionary now, social media websites deny this follow is occurring. And nobody has actually been in a position to show it.

Nonetheless, loads of individuals who have skilled an uncommon dip in engagement or attain are satisfied there’s one thing extra taking place behind the scenes. Is their content material simply not interesting to their audiences anymore? Has the Instagram algorithm modified? …Or are there larger forces at play? (Cue the Serial theme tune.)


To get shadow-banned, I used to be going to need to behave like different individuals who declare they’ve been shadow-banned from Instagram previously — stroll a mile of their #sneakers, if you’ll.

There are a few frequent actions that customers are inclined to suspect are driving the shadow bans:

  1. Utilizing too many hashtags
  2. Utilizing irrelevant hashtags
  3. Writing generic feedback on a bunch of different folks’s posts

Mainly, behaving like a bot.

I made a decision that over the course of the week, I’d put up some content material that usually would get excessive engagement, however alternate between tagging it with 30 associated hashtags (e.g. #vancouver, #vancity), and 30 unrelated hashtags (#skateboarding, #elevator).

Instagram post of Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver BC

digital orca sculpture near the Vancouver Convention Centre

I’d additionally spend a while popping onto random Instagram posts I discovered on my Discover web page to do my finest bot impression, saying “Good put up!” over and again and again.

Nice post! comment on various Instagram posts

I chosen some lovely imagery of Vancouver from a free inventory photograph website to pair with my obnoxious tags. I believed that will be imagery that will usually get an honest quantity of engagement, so we may see if my tag-a-palooza actually had a unfavourable impression.

One caveat: I did write captions for every of my posts explaining that I used to be making an attempt to get shadow-banned, in order that my mates wouldn’t suppose I had been hacked by some gifted, Vancouver-obsessed photographer. Undecided if that impacted the experiment in any respect, since I used to be extra centered on the hashtag-and-comment impact, however I simply thought you need to know, as a result of I’m an sincere scientist (whom some say is mainly on par with Marie Curie at this level)?

Instagram post featuring view of Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver BC

Importantly, I additionally talked to my buddy who believes he’s been shadow banned, to mentally put together myself for this journey. He wished to stay nameless, as a result of now he’s petrified of Instagram, so we’ll name him… Bramp.

Trying to advertise a few of his paintings a number of months in the past, Bramp was copying the identical assortment of hashtags from an artist with an analogous model. “The primary put up did nice then the subsequent did worse after which the subsequent did worse than the final till it was solely getting at most 100 views from hashtags,” he says.

Bramp began experimenting. And when he eliminated these hashtags that he’d been utilizing, his attain exploded once more.

Bramp now tries to combine up the hashtags he makes use of and searches for tags to verify not one of the ones he’s planning on utilizing are banned.

Clearly this is only one anecdotal story, so we are able to take it with a grain of salt. And Bramp himself — pricey, candy Bramp — nonetheless isn’t 100% certain what, how or why his personal drop in engagement occurred. “I haven’t performed quite a lot of testing in that space as a result of I don’t like being shadowbanned,” he says. Honest sufficient.

So I assume that leaves me to take one for the workforce. Right here we go!


TLDR: I attempted to get shadow banned… and couldn’t.

In reality, in some ways, my shadow ban experiment received me an unbelievable quantity of engagement. Individuals have been asking me to elucidate what shadow banning was. And never simply my mother, I’ll have you understand: numerous Millennials in my life have been additionally very curious.

In the meantime, over within the digital realm, my followers have been being annoyingly energetic and supportive within the feedback.

supportive comments on shadowban post

I used Hootsuite Analytics to take a look at what my engagement charge has been for my regular posts over the past three months. Then I in contrast them to this week’s sequence of posts, which I’m calling “The Shadow-ban Classes” (working title). There’s undoubtedly a dip — however nonetheless, wanting fairly good.

My engagement this summer time has been at 17% (I’m common and now you comprehend it)…

post engagement rate 17.98% via Hootsuite Analytics

This previous week, although, it plummeted to 9.87%.

post engagement rate post-shadow ban experience 9.87%

posts table with likes and comments

Taking a look at Instagram’s in-house analytics, although, my attain gave the impression to be the identical.

Right here’s my attain for every of this week’s posts…

reach for each Instagram post in the past week

…and my attain for my posts from the previous three months.

reach for Instagram posts in the past three months

A few of my shadow ban posts are among the many high 10. So… I assume the hashtags really labored to assist me?

Nonetheless, after I regarded somewhat deeper into every put up, it looks as if the wrong hashtags actually weren’t doing me any favors. Whereas my #vancouver-themed sequence of hashtags have been nonetheless incomes me publicity…

post insights 21 actions taken

… my irrelevant hashtags (e.g. #teen, #kansas) have been bringing nearly no new customers to my account.

irrelevant actions post insights no actions taken

However actually, it makes good sense that irrelevant hashtags wouldn’t appeal to any new eyeballs. Why would somebody in search of #italiano click on on my photograph of Vancouver’s most effectively illuminated bridge?

I wouldn’t say I’ve been “shadow banned” a lot as I’ve been “accurately famous as being a liar.”

General I’m pissed off that I didn’t get banned or have a tough conclusion. However perhaps by having no clear reply… I’ve discovered the best conclusion of all?

I had a robust viewers who was already engaged.

I used to be posting high quality pictures, with enjoyable genuine captions (IMO).

Possibly I had made myself impervious to shadow banning by (by chance) utilizing good engagement practices.

What do the outcomes imply?

Probably, there is no such thing as a “shadowban.” Instagram is simply making an attempt to enhance the expertise for all customers by eradicating bots and bot-like behaviour. Should you’re not offering worth, it really does make a ton of sense that Instagram wouldn’t be dashing to bump you up within the algorithm.

I nonetheless don’t have chilly, laborious proof that shadow banning is actual. However the truth that I tried to get shadow banned and didn’t actually really feel any results appears to point that in case you’ve received nice content material (ahem) and a loyal viewers, utilizing quick-and-dirty hacks isn’t going to harm your engagement.

Should you’re simply beginning out although, abusing hashtags or spamming different folks in all probability received’t get you a lot consideration from the Instagram algorithm.

In different phrases: it’s in all probability finest to not act like a bot!

Should you’re making an attempt to develop your viewers shortly, I get why it’s tempting to go full-on with hashtags, attempt to faucet right into a trending subject or overdo it with the commenting. However true development on Instagram doesn’t come from shortcuts.

You’ll be able to’t purchase followers, and you may’t sport the system. To construct actual, significant engagement takes time, persistence, creativity and authenticity.

So put the hashtags down (slowly… rigorously… that’s it) and head over to review up on methods to extend engagement authentically. After which I’ll see you on the social media campfire, the place I’ll be telling my very own spooky story, of the Pals Who Had been Too Engaged On Your Experimental Instagram Submit and Ruined Your Knowledge Assortment, OoOOooh!

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