The Shadow Ban: Are Influencers Going Ghost?
Instagram’s Latest Tactic to Minimize Community Guideline Violations Has Influencers Creating Content with Authenticity
What is a Shadow-ban?
“Shadow-ban” is a new phrase sending a buzz around the influencer community. A shadow-ban is when content, in this case Instagram hashtags, becomes “undiscoverable” on a social media platform. Users still have the ability to include hashtags but they appear invisible to viewers. The content is then only visible in the feeds of those who follow the influencer, drastically reducing engagement and impressions.
What Causes Shadow-banning?
The shadow-ban is a way for Instagram to crack down on what they see as spam or abuse. A shadow-ban can be triggered on an account by being extremely active (i.e. full-time influencers), using bots, using the same hashtags repeatedly, using broken hashtags, going above Instagram’s hourly and daily limits, or by acquiring reports of abuse from other users.
On February 28th, Instagram released a statement encouraging users to create content with “a distinct visual presence” and to put some “thought into [their] creative”.
In other words, they never directly responded to the shadow ban controversy, rather they emphasized the importance of creativity as a way to engage with users as opposed to using hashtags to boost their content’s presence. Instagram wants users to become “storytellers” again.
How to Avoid the Shadow Ban?
To avoid being shadow-banned, Instagram users should avoid using bots and automation, remain beneath Instagram’s usage limits and take a break from engaging. If you think you have been shadow banned, you can use an external app such as this one to determine if you have been affected.
What Influencers Are Saying
The influencer community has had surprising thoughts on the situation. While some are taken back by the whole situation, many are viewing the shadow-ban as a way to bring things back to basics and create more of the captivating content that they are known for.
We spoke with Ashley Kane of Brunch on Chestnut to get her take on the controversy:
The topic of shadow-banning seems very gray to me. Not everything I’ve read adds up, but I have noticed a slight decrease in engagement. I’ve experimented with using hashtags and not using them and just like Instagram engagement itself these days– it’s the wild west.
I think the best thing we can all do is to put more thought into what we are posting. An image that tells a story vs. a perfectly curated flat lay. A caption that is relatable, engaging, or funny. Thoughtful hashtags. I think if people respond well to what you’re sharing, your account will see more love and will stay afloat in a very saturated feed…I ditched the generic hashtags under images to start. Quality over quantity right? Instead, I’m including a niche handful within the caption.
To get a better idea of how the influencer community is feeling about the shadow-ban, we also spoke with Jessica Wang of Not Jess Fashion who’s been focusing on the positive side of the shadow ban situation:
Instagram started out as a platform for a creative community so I think it’s great that they are trying to protect that and allow genuine users to foster. Hopefully it will also remind people to focus on creating and sharing content that is useful and inspiring to others than worrying about numbers of followers, likes and comments.
Other bloggers like Melis of Fashion Mews have taken a more strategic approach to dealing with the shadow-ban:
I don’t believe shadow banning affected our business or Instagram strategy directly. The blogger scene is a oversaturated market. So it’s natural to see a slow down in growth and engagement, especially in locations where too many bloggers exist. Some of the things we’ve done to make sure we avoid shadow-banning is using more relevant hashtags for the posts. Our main focus is to create the best unique content we possibly can. We’ve been so lucky to have a hardcore audience.
While Instagram’s intentions of the shadow-ban are good willed, it’s hard to conclude what the long term effects will be. Perhaps the shadow-ban will cause users to create more carefully curated content. Or alternatively, it could cause some to be wrongfully forced into the shadows.
Many thanks to Taylor Dean for his contributions to this article.