Does Instagram (IG) “shadowban” accounts? Our sources say yes—but Instagram doesn’t officially use this term to describe what happens when it limits your reach because it has flagged your account for posting inappropriate content.
A limited reach translates to less visibility, engagement, and eventually fewer organic sales from the platform.
It’s not hard to see how this can be a nerve-wracking concern for business owners who’ve built a loyal following on the platform over time. If you think you’ve been shadowbanned, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about it and how to recover.
Table of contents:
- What is the Instagram shadowban?
- Instagram’s take on shadowbanning
- How to test if you’ve been shadowbanned
- How to remove a shadowban
What is the Instagram shadowban?
Instagram’s shadowban policy affects accounts by limiting their reach. It “deprioritizes” specific profiles, making them harder to find through hashtags or the Explore page.
A limited reach also affects overall engagement, which makes it harder to grow your account organically. Users who were accustomed to your presence on their feed no longer see your posts and your brand will no longer stay top of mind.
Instagram accounts like @skatingizessentialmg have gotten creative to test the bounds of their shadowban.
Regardless of whether Instagram officially recognizes the term, it still enforces a shadowban on many accounts without a clear explanation why.
Instagram’s take on shadowbanning
Instagram has stated it only “shadowbans” or limits content when it deems the content inappropriate. In 2019, Instagram’s parent company, Meta announced:
“We have begun reducing the spread of posts that are inappropriate but do not go against Instagram’s Community Guidelines. For example, a sexually suggestive post will still appear in Feed if you follow the account that posts it, but this type of content may not appear for the broader community in Explore or hashtag pages.”
Now, while this doesn’t apply to the majority of businesses growing an audience on Instagram, the problem is Instagram uses machine learning to decide which content to deprioritize.
As we all know, machine learning isn’t perfect. This policy leaves a lot of businesses vulnerable to becoming victims of an erroneous shadowban. Even if you manage to remove the shadowban, the damage can still be substantial.
How to test if you’ve been shadowbanned
You may suspect you’ve been shadowbanned—your audience might even be DM’ing you to let you know they don’t come across your content as easily as they used to—but, unfortunately, there isn’t a foolproof shadowban test to determine if you’ve truly been affected
Regardless, here are some tips that can help you make a reasonably educated conclusion on whether you’ve been shadowbanned.
Check IG Insights data
Check for abnormal drops in your IG Insights numbers. If you’ve been posting and engaging with your usual frequency and nothing on your end has changed, a sudden drip in your numbers may signify a shadowban.
Test your posts’ visibility
Experiment by posting easy-to-find Instagram hashtags you regularly use, then ask a handful of friends who don’t follow your account to look for that hashtag and to try to find your content within a few minutes of posting.
If they can’t find you through a hashtag search with ease, this might indicate you’ve been shadowbanned.
Review your hashtags
Double check for hashtags you might have used without realizing they are deemed “controversial.”
Some hashtags on Instagram are banned; if you use them, your audience won’t see your posts and you won’t be discoverable on the Explore page. Here’s a list of hashtags to avoid that might signal inappropriate content to Instagram’s algorithm.
Ask your Insta friends for help
One of the more creative ways to test for a possible shadowban is to engage your audience to help you figure it out. How? You can do this through your Instagram Stories or you can create an image with text asking for help.
It can be as simple as creating a post with text in it asking your audience for a specific action to test whether you’ve been shadowbanned or not.
Check your account status
Did you know you can check your account status in case any of your posts have violated Instagram’s rules and Community Guidelines? Here’s how:
- Tap on your Instagram profile picture to navigate to your profile
- Click on the menu icon on the top right, then click Settings
- Click on Account, then click on Account Status
Once there, you’ll be able to:
- See any content you’ve posted that Instagram removed
- Learn more about why that content was removed and access Instagram’s Community Guidelines
- Request a review of Instagram’s decision to remove your content
Read through the Instagram Community Guidelines
The Instagram Community Guidelines go into detail about what is and isn’t allowed. It’s worth reading through it carefully in case any of your content happens to fall under what isn’t allowed.
With this knowledge in hand, you can erase a bad post or dispute it by contacting Instagram support.
Once you’ve determined that you have been shadowbanned, you can start taking steps to resolve it. Next, we’ll dive deeper into the steps for getting a shadowban lifted.
How to remove a shadowban
Once you’re fairly sure you’ve been shadowbanned, it’s time to do some legwork. Here are some of our best tips for removing a shadowban.
The most obvious first step is to seek support directly from Instagram. You might not get an answer the first time, so it’s important to be persistent and keep contacting them until you receive a response.
There are two ways to contact Instagram about your account:
- Contact Instagram support directly:
- In your Instagram app, click on your profile icon to navigate to your account
- Press the menu icon at the top right side of your profile
- Navigate to Settings, then Help, then Report a Problem
- Click on Something Isn’t Working
- Write a short message on the issue you’re experiencing and press Send
(2) Ask for a review request:
- In your Instagram app, click on your profile icon at the bottom right to get to your account
- Click on the menu icon on the top right of the screen
- Tap on Settings
- Click on Account, then click on Account Status
- Click on the content that was removed and tap Request a Review
- Click Submit, then click Done
Once you’ve contacted Instagram, wait a few days to get a response. If you don’t hear back within a week or so, don’t be afraid to reach out again.
Ask your audience to help you
Some Instagram accounts enlist the help of their followers to contact Instagram about why they aren’t seeing your account’s content. Asking your audience to contact IG might be worth a try if you’re not receiving any answers from Instagram support.
You can do this through a post or a Story. If you’ve done the work and you’ve provided your audience with value, making the ask shouldn’t be too hard.
Give it time
Sometimes, giving situations time to play out is the best course of action. While it might not be ideal if the majority of your sales come from your Instagram presence, it might be best to continue posting content on the platform and use the time to test out different formats.
If you’re used to exclusively creating static posts, try posting more Stories and engaging with your audience that way. Additionally, you can experiment with ways to bring other types of traffic to your Instragam posts.
It’s important to remember to not abandon your account and stick to a long-term strategy as you try to move through a shadowban. Use automation if you have to.
Take a break
Log out of the app and leave it alone for a few days. The world won’t end and your account will still be there once you’re ready to hop back in. Don’t worry about posting or commenting at all. Then try again and check out how your engagement performs.
Make sure you’re only using third-party Instagram partner apps
Are you using third-party apps that monitor your Instagram activity but aren’t official Instagram partners? If so, it’s better to err on the side of caution and work exclusively with apps that are official approved partners of Instagram.
For example, you’ll have peace of mind when using ManyChat’s Automation tool to grow your Instagram since we’re an official Instagram and Facebook partner. Therefore, if you use any of ManyChat’s Instagram tools in your account, you won’t run the risk of getting penalized for it.
Take the time to check through exactly which apps use your Instagram data.
Clean up your account
While there is no concrete proof that “cleaning up” your account works, it may be worth the effort if nothing else helps. Try to clean up your Instagram account by:
- Checking thoroughly for banned hashtags
- Looking through old posts for potentially offensive content
- Reading through the Instagram Community Guidelines to make sure you didn’t miss any content on your account that could possibly be flagged as inappropriate
Start a new account
This might not be the best course of action if your account has acquired five or six figures’ worth of Instagram followers. But if your account is relatively small and you haven’t been successful in receiving an answer from Instagram, consider starting a new account as a last resort.
This way, you’ll start with a clean slate. However, moving forward you should ensure you’re familiar with Community Guidelines and what not to post so you can avoid being shadowbanned in the future.
How to prevent getting shadowbanned
Getting shadowbanned and digging yourself out of it is one thing; it’s another to adopt best practices to ensure it never happens to you. Consider some of these pointers as you work on your Instagram strategy:
- Avoid shady bots and fake followers
- Familiarize yourself with Instagram’s terms
- Stay away from spammy posting
- Never give access to non-Instagram partner apps
- Don’t use irrelevant hashtags
- Make sure you’re using a business account to monitor engagement rate and growth
Getting shadowbanned isn’t the end
While the term isn’t officially recognized by Instagram, it’s important to know Instagram has and does deprioritize Instagram accounts, sometimes for unclear reasons. Yet, even though being shadowbanned on social media isn’t desirable for anyone trying to grow an audience, it’s not impossible to recover from it.
In the long run, it’s more important to stay consistently active on the platform and nurture the audience you’ve already built. Shadowbanned or not, your long-term strategy matters.
Hopefully this guide has shed some light on the shadowban phenomenon and how to test for it. Check out the rest of our in-depth guides to learn more about Instagram growth.