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I recently experienced an Instagram shadowban: when Insta hides your posts from anyone who isn’t your follower already. Here’s what I learned…

I knew, both logically and intuitively, that I needed to switch up my hashtags, but I kept putting the task on the backburner. As a small business owner, there’s just so much to get to in any given week, and my Instagram hashtags didn’t feel like that big of a priority.

And then…nothing.

No new follows. Substantially low likes (and only from people who I know already follow me). And really crappy engagement when I tapped into my Insights on my Instagram business account.

I’d been shadowbanned!


What is an Instagram shadowban?

Unlike an out-and-out ban, a shadowban happens without any notification from Instagram. Instead, you just start seeing a drop in engagement and growth. And of course, because they don’t just come out and tell you what you did wrong, it can take a little digging to figure things out.

How can you tell if you’ve been shadowbanned?

The most obvious sign that you’ve been shadowbanned are that you’re receiving fewer likes and less engagement. I had no new followers (I usually gain a few followers a week) and despite the fact that I was posting good content, it was as if I hadn’t posted at all. My engagement had completely tanked.

Besides engagement decreases, I also noticed that the only people who seemed to be seeing my posts were people who were already following me — a classic shadowban symptom!


An Instagram shadowban is annoying and inconvenient, but not the end of the world!
Photo via Unsplash

The problem with hashtags

Sometimes Instagram will hide a post from your non-followers if there’s a problem with the hashtag. This doesn’t mean you’ve been shadowbanned, though! So don’t panic just yet.

An amazing lady I follow on Instagram started using a new hashtag last week that was reported by someone and is now unsearchable. It’s likely that Instagram will also hide these posts from people in the search panel of the app and will — for lack of a better term — disregard them from the algorithm completely.

By the way, the hashtag wasn’t anything lewd or inappropriate, but someone obviously didn’t like the body positivity message it promoted and reported the hashtag. Don’t get me started on jerks like that on the Internet!

Surprising hashtags banned by Instagram

It goes without saying that some hashtags are too raunchy for Instagram to “ok,” and I get that. But here’s a list of some of the more surprising hashtags that trigger Instagram’s super sensitive hashtag sensors. I’ve borrowed this list from Markitors, although the commentary is my own. You can read more about these hashtags here.

A:
#adulting #alone #always #americangirl #armparty (this one sucks for all my jewelry friends) #asia #attractive

B:
#babe #bbc (seriously?!) #beautyblogger #beautydirectory #besties #beyonce (that’s just wrong) #bikinibody #boho #books (but presumably #book is safe) #brain

C:
#costumes (sucks at Halloween time) #cpr #curvy #curvygirls

D:
#date #dating #desk #direct #dogsofinstagram (as a dog lover, I am appalled)

E:
#easter #edm #eggplant #elevator

F:
#fishnets #fitnessgirls #followforfollow (honestly, very ok with this one being banned, it’s spammy)

G:
#girlsonly #gloves #goddess

H:
#happythanksgiving (no…seriously?) #hardworkpaysoff #hawks #hotweather #humpday #hustler

I:
#ig #ilovemyinstagram #instamood #instasport #iphonegraphy #italiano

J:
There aren’t any!

K:
#kansas (this seems wildly unfair for Kansans…) #kickoff #killingit #kissing

L:
#l4l #lean #leaves (give the basic girls their autumn leaves!) #like #likeback #likeforlike #livinforalivin #loseweight #lulu

M:
#master #mileycyrus (????) #milf #mirrorphoto #models #mustfollow

Worried about using banned hashtags? Check this list out!
Photo via Unsplash

N:
#newyears #newyearsday

O:
#overnight

P:
#parties #popular #prettygirl #publicrelations #puppydogmondays #pushups

Q:
None!

R:
#rate #ravens

S:
#samelove #selfharm (glad to see this ban, actually) #single #singlelife #skateboarding #snap #snapchat #snowstorm #sopretty #stranger #stud #sunbathing #swole

T:
#tag4like #tagsforlikes #tanlines #tgif (like, for real?) #treasurethesemoments

U:
#undies

V:
#valentinesday

W:
#woman #womancrushwednesday (#wcw is still ok, though!) #workflow #wtf

X, Y, Z:
Nada!


Photo via Unsplash

So you’ve been shadowbanned, now what?

First of all, do not panic. Your posts aren’t being hidden from your followers, so while you won’t be reaching new people, take this opportunity to nurture your current followers. Keep posting, but definitely change things up.

I gave my feed a break for 24 hours and didn’t post anything new. Then when I did, I used completely new hashtags and inserted them in the actual caption with a few skipped lines in between my content and the hashtags.

Like this:

caption content
.
.
.
.
.
.
#hashtags

It’s less pretty than putting the hashtags in the comments — something I’ll probably go back to soon — but a couple of different resources online suggested that Instagram may dislike the hashtags in the comments. One of my biz coaches and an incredible Instagram expert maintains that this isn’t an issue, but I wanted to play it safe for a couple of posts.

I also used the Report a Problem feature on the app but was careful to not use the word “shadowban” in my message. Instead, I noted that I’d seen a reduction in my engagement for no discernable reason to make sure it seemed like a legit message instead of a spammy, gross one.

And then, I just sat back and chilled out. After a few days, I was no longer shadowbanned and my engagement is back up to normal numbers again.


Ultimately, a shadowban isn’t the end of your Instagram world. Keep posting, but don’t be spammy. And stay present on your Instagram stories — they have an amazing reach to your audience and beyond.

Remember, the point of Instagram isn’t to rack up the followers. It’s to foster relationships between you and your customers/clients. So even if you’re just posting to people who already love you, they’re your audience, so keep sending them love!

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