If you’re remotely plugged into the Instagram creative community, you’ve probably heard whisperings (or more often, temper tantrums) about the “shadowban.” For those who aren’t so familiar, here’s the quick and dirty: many creators have reported major drop offs in engagement in recent weeks. Some discovered that their posts weren’t appearing in the hashtag feeds for the hashtags they were using, which theoretically makes it a lot harder for new followers to find them. Their own followers were seeing their posts, but non-followers were not seeing their posts.
Some people have tried and suggested a number of tactics to get their ban “lifted” including:
- Stop using bots and automated services
- Stop copy and pasting the exact same hashtag cloud in for every post
- Stop posting for a few days
- Stop using the follow/unfollow method
- Identify and remove “broken” hashtags (flagged for inappropriate use)
- Switch from a business account back to a personal account
Notice that a lot of these suggest that you stop doing things that might be considered spammy.
I know you want to keep gaming the system for your own benefit, but I’m sorry to say that that won’t work for much longer. You’ve probably spent the past few months or years reading up on social media hacks that will help you grow a following and make money on Instagram, but what Instagram has always been about at its core is original content creation and authentic engagement. We got away from that core purpose for awhile, but Instagram is returning to its roots, and your bots, hashtags, and follow/unfollow methods are now obsolete.
You want to know how to succeed on Instagram? Instagram literally just told us exactly what your content strategy should look like. Here’s the sparknotes:
- Create a strong, unique visual brand.
- Be a storyteller.
- Quality of content matters more than quantity.
Instagram wants you to focus on targeting the right audience, not by using hashtags but by creating quality content and proactively engaging with your audience.
Why you need to stop relying on hashtags.
So take a moment to think about who your target audience is. Is it a normal human who might be shopping around for some home decor? Or maybe someone who is looking for some outdoorsy IG accounts to inspire their wanderlust? Regardless of the niche at hand, the likelihood that said users spend very much time searching hashtags, or even know about those popular industry hashtags (#finditstyleit, #seekmoment, #creativityfound, #thehappynow, #adventureawaits, etc.) is very very low.
So let’s just be logical for a second. If your target customer is an “ordinary” person then generally hashtags will be ineffective for capturing them. If your target audience is entrepreneurs, marketers, small business owners, etc. then hashtags will be more useful to you because those people speak the same language of hashtags that you do. But again, the ordinary user-- not so much.
So the solution to your hashtag “shadowban” dilemma? Better, more in depth engagement with your target audience.
Adaptability is key in the rapidly evolving digital world.
Instagram, like any other social media platform, is a business and they profit off of our use of their product. So they will change algorithms and features to suit their business objectives, NOT OURS. Complaining is useless. Instead, it’s important that you demonstrate flexibility and adaptability (that’s an all around key life skill if you aim to be a resilient human).
It seems like Instagram is making moves towards stifling spammy accounts and rewarding authentic accounts. So if you believe you were “shadowbanned”-- frankly it doesn’t matter whether or not you were. If your engagement is suffering, you need to stop relying on hashtags and take a look at the way you’re using the platform. If you aren’t spending a good chunk of time following, liking, and commenting on other people’s posts, then moving forward you may have a harder time getting your content in front of eyes. I’m not positive, but it appears as if Instagram is putting a cap on the reach of accounts that aren’t engaging much with other accounts.
So the solution is actually pretty simple: Be less spammy. Be more authentic.
And maybe, just maybe, you should stop worrying about gaining more followers, and spend more time on fostering engagement with the ones you already have. After all, these days with a few thousand followers and really good engagement, you can score badass brand partnerships with a lot of legitimate brands.
Do you think you’ve been “shadowbanned”? Do you think I’m totally off the mark? Tell me your thoughts on the whole debacle. Email me at sarah[at]snapfluence.com and let me know!
Photo Credit: Unsplash.
Creative Community Developer at Snapfluence.
I'm the Oxford comma's biggest fan.