Has your Instagram account’s reach recently dropped like a stone? Has your referral traffic disappeared overnight? Has Instagram just “stopped working” for you? If so, you’re probably a victim of the dreaded “shadow ban”.

In this article, we’re going to explain shadow bans – and tell you how to avoid them. By the end, you’ll know if you have been shadow banned, as well as how to avoid or recover from one. So let’s dive in!

The Instagram Shadow Ban

So, what is a shadowban? Well, it’s easy to understand what a “ban” is. Basically, if you get caught doing terrible things on Instagram, they’ll delete your account and all your content. A shadow ban is a little harder to recognize.

When you get a shadow ban, your account still exists. You can still post content and interact with other users – or so it seems.

In reality, Instagram secretly cuts your reach. People just don’t see your content – it doesn’t show up for its hashtags, it isn’t shown to your followers – in effect, the only difference between a shadow ban and a “real” one is that you don’t know it’s happening to you.

Instagram isn’t the only site that uses shadowbans. It’s a common tactic to fight spammers. You see, it’s so easy to create a new account on most social sites, so banning users won’t stop a professional spammer. They’ll just ditch the banned account and create a new one.

If they don’t know the account has been banned, it takes longer for them to make a new spam account. In fact, they may just give up and leave Instagram alone.

Of course, all of this applies to spammers. But it’s easy to get yourself accidentally lumped together with that crowd.

There are certain actions that put you at risk – we’re going to examine some of the worst culprits right now. If you avoid these actions, you can dodge the “shadow ban” hammer – and you can recover an account that has already been shadow banned.

Don’t Use Auto-posting Bots or Apps

If there’s one sure way to recognize a spammer, it’s through automation. Spam and automation go hand in hand – it’s just not economical to run a huge spam empire manually.

There are bots that automatically post content for you. There are ones that interact with other users to increase your follower count. And most of them are fairly hands-free once you’ve set them up.

Spammers are not the only people who use Instagram bots, and it is possible to use them in a community-friendly way.

But here’s the kicker – it breaks Instagram’s terms and conditions. Most of these bots are completely forbidden, and if you get caught, your account will be shadowbanned. It doesn’t matter if your intentions are as pure as the driven snow – if you break the rules, you’re guilty and you will be punished.

So the question is, will you get caught? After all, the makers of these Instagram bots claim they’re undetectable.

Here’s the thing – Instagram is very good at detecting unnatural behavior. With hundreds of millions of legitimate users, they have all the data they need to understand normal behavior.

Bots don’t act like normal users (if they did, what would be the advantage of using one?) That’s how Instagram can detect bots. The behavior doesn’t line up with the actions of a real human.

Whenever Instagram discovers a bot, they work out how to detect it. If you or I can buy a bot, a huge company like Instagram certainly can. Once they know how to recognize the bot by its behavior (it’s not hard), their next step is to hammer every account that used it with a shadow ban.

Bot developers do work hard to stay one step ahead of Instagram’s anti-spam teams, but it’s a constant battle – and often, they fail. After all, most bots are made by small teams, and Instagram is a huge company.

So the lesson is simple – don’t use an Instagram bot! You may get away with it for a while, but ultimately, you will pay the price.

Avoid Forbidden Hashtags

Some hashtags are a clear sign of spam. For instance, highly commercial hashtags like “#loans” and “#playpoker” are often used by spammers, and rarely used by legitimate users.

These hashtags make it laughably easy to catch spammers. Think about it – Instagram doesn’t need a fancy algorithm to find bad content when the spammers go out of their way to label it!

With this in mind, take a look at the hashtags you use regularly. How many of them are blatantly commercial? Those are the ones you should stop using right now.

These hashtags put your account at risk – they’re also mostly worthless. After all, if someone was looking for a loan or if they wanted to play poker, do you think they’d search on Instagram? Probably not.

That’s not to say you can’t reach legitimate users through hashtags. You just have to be creative, and post content your users will be genuinely interested in. But that’s a topic for another article, read more about Instagram Hashtags here.

Act Like a Real Person

If you’ve read through the sections above, you’ll understand why Instagram wants to catch unnatural behavior. Spammers don’t act like normal users – like people who use Instagram for fun.

Instagram is a place for normal users to hang out and have fun. That’s its appeal. Anything that hurts that atmosphere is bad news for the Instagram team – and it’s bad business for the parent company, Facebook.

Nobody wants to be bombarded with commercial messages on Instagram. If Instagram didn’t take action against spammers, they’d lose their user base overnight.

But businesses are welcome on Instagram if they play by the rules. Some of these rules are written – they’re the terms and conditions. Other rules are “common sense”.

But what is common sense? All too often, it’s hard to put into words. It often boils down to a lot of assumptions and arbitrary rules that only make sense to the person making the rules.

The only way to ensure your account avoids a shadow ban is to play it safe. That means don’t act in an unnatural way. Don’t do things a regular user wouldn’t do.

The shadow ban algorithms are trained to recognize unnatural behavior. Unnatural behavior, in this case, means doing things that a normal user wouldn’t do.

For instance, a normal user wouldn’t stay online for hours following complete strangers. They wouldn’t like and comment on every image or video they could find. And they certainly wouldn’t post hundreds of images per day with a call-to-action in the description.

If you use a bot, your account will get flagged for unnatural behavior. If you manually do all the things that bots do, the same thing will happen.

The solution is to always act like a real person. Fortunately, you ARE a real person! So all you have to do is ask yourself “would I do this in real life?”

Keeping your account safe is easy – just follow these three rules. Instagram can be a great source of traffic for your site and a great way to build brand recognition. And you don’t have to put your account at risk to do it!