If you’re building your presence on Instagram, an Instagram Shadowban could ruin your account! And if you have a business account… things don’t look good.
The concept of an Instagram shadowban appeared back in mid-February. Many users saw their engagement drop dramatically, for no clear reason. While many thought it was a change in the algorithm, people dug into it. What they found was that their images were not showing up under the hashtags they were using. As more and more people reported the issue, Instagram addressed it… “We understand users have experienced issues with our hashtag search that caused posts to not be surfaced. We are continuously working on improvements to our system with the resources available.” What’s interesting about the statement is that they don’t admit something is wrong. Instead, their statement only acknowledges that users are having issues.
It’s important to know that Facebook owns Instagram and that ‘history repeats itself’. While Facebook never had a ‘shadowban’, what they did was cut page owners from their fans. Starting in 2014, the decline began rather mildly. If you wanted to reach ALL your audience, you needed to start to pay to promote your posts. Hubspot wrote a great post on the decline of organic reach on Facebook. Today, Facebook is a pay-to-play platform. The same thing appears to be happening on Instagram, and there is some evidence to support it.
Let’s bring it back to Instagram. Instagrammers either grew on the platform or they had an existing audience that followed them here. That audience enables them to do sponsored posts and make lots of cash. Instagram (Facebook) are on the outside of these deals. For a business, to see people making money on your platform – it has to be frustrating when you struggle to monetize. The only way Instagram can make ad money is by selling ads and forcing them into timelines. But, all good businesses need many revenue sources. Facebook knew their success with pay-to-play, so they had Instagram follow suit. First, they developed business profiles and made it easy to convert your page into one. They also added some extra features to entice creators such as a dedicated ’email’ button. Great for the creator right?
This gave Instagram insight into who they could make money off of. If you were a creator who turned their page into a business account, this signaled to Instagram that you were making cash from the platform. If you were currently making money, presumably you would want to grow and make more money right? So, all Instagram needed to do was replicate Facebook’s example. If they cut off your ability to grow on the platform, you would need to pay to grow. That appears to be exactly what they are doing. Cutting off organic growth, which users have called the Instagram Shadowban. If you had no way to grow ON the platform except for paying Instagram to help you reach new audiences – you’d have to.
Analysis and Evidence of the Instagram Shadowban
To test my theory, I looked at 100 different Canadian Instagrammer accounts. The group, picked randomly from a list, ranges in genre and niche. The list includes parent bloggers, YouTubers, Instagram models, and others. With my list in hand, I used an online tool that looks at accounts to find out if they are currently shadowbanned. The results are clear:
- 37% of accounts were business and they ARE shadowbanned by Instagram.
- 29% of accounts were business and NOT shadowbanned.
- 25% of accounts were personal and NOT shadowbanned.
- 9% of accounts were personal and they ARE shadowbanned by Instagram.
Of the 9% of accounts that are personal AND shadowbanned, 5 confirmed that they had at one time been a business account. When they saw a decline in engagement, they switched back to a personal account. Unfortunately, the shadowban remained. The other 4 have not yet responded, but it’s safe to assume they are likely in the same situation. If the majority of BUSINESS accounts are shadowbanned, that’s an indicator that it’s intentional. If the majority of business accounts no longer have any kind of organic reach to access new audiences – how are they expected to grow? Simple: They PAY INSTAGRAM. Ka-ching!
Avoid Business Profiles
If you’re wanting to build an audience on Instagram – DON’T make your account a business profile. With no ability to access new audiences via hashtags, you are stuck building from external sources. You can still reach your current followers – for now. But all it takes is another algorithm change, and your audience might not see your content. Currently, if you are under the Instagram Shadowban, you have two methods to access new audiences. One, you can follow accounts and hope they follow back. Two, you can comment on profiles, and hope they follow back. This directly explains why Instagram pods are on the rise.
Coming Soon: While doing this research, I looked at supplemental data on why an account might get shadowbanned. Hashtags used, the number of hashtags and account activity have an impact. There is some insight into the 29% of business accounts not under the shadowban. I also have looked into how to ‘escape’ an Instagram shadowban. Stay tuned for that post!