In this post I'll show you exactly what I did to lift my Instagram shadowban, how I managed to return my account back to normal in just a few days and how I continue to use Instagram daily for my business without any fear.
Read on to find out exactly how I got rid of my Instagram shadowban after my account was affected.
How my Instagram shadowban started
I started using my Instagram account in December 2016, whilst providing brand advice to bloggers. After a quick Google search, I downloaded a free hashtag guide from an industry leader.
(I won't be naming any names here, because there were no bad intentions on the leader's part by giving out foul hashtag suggestions; it was simply a matter of good hashtags going bad over time)
I started to use them all right away, hoping to grow my account. I never checked them. It didn't even occur to me that hashtags can go bad.
In March 2017 I picked up my Instagram game.
This time, I researched which hashtags to use to reach my ideal audience of female entrepreneurs wanting to build their brand on IG.
I posted roughly the same 30 hashtags with every post, with 3 lines of space separating them from the image caption (I'll explain later why that is important).
My posts received up to 100 likes and 10 - 15 comments in one day, easy. My follower count grew slowly and organically, and I was happy with the engagement from my community.
Suddenly my Instagram account engagement dropped to zero
I remember the moment when I posted a super cool post, and waited and waited and nothing... no likes, no comments rolled in, no engagement... ZERO.
It was in this moment that a dark suspicion started to creep up inside me that I had fallen victim to the shadowban too.
After speaking to a few people and googling for answers, I decided to take action and beat the shadowban.
If you don't know what a shadownban is, read this blog post here and come back.
How I got rid of my Instagram shadowban (part 1)
1. First, I googled a list of banned hashtags and compared those to the ones I had used. Immediately, I spotted 3 banned hashtags: humpday, instamood, womancrushwednesday.
Please bear in mind that I got ALL of these hashtags recommended by influencers in a free hashtag guide.
Humpday was recommended by the industry leader to celebrate the middle of the week. I thought it was odd but, then again, it was social media, so I didn't want to overthink it and be the only one not using it.
Same for wednesdaycrush, which was recommended to introduce another female entrepreneur to your audience.
Instamood was recommended to express your mood when getting up, grabbing a coffee, sitting at your desk, getting the day going etc.
2. I immediately deleted the banned hashtags, hoping this would get rid of my Instagram shadowban.
3. Then, I researched EVERY SINGLE hashtag on all my posts by clicking on them, and seeing what images had been tagged. If there was any sign of nudity in the top search results, I would delete the hashtag (and report the photo/ account to Instagram).
Over the next few days the ban seemed to have slightly lifted, with only my followers liking my posts.
But I had a feeling it wasn't over...
How I got rid of my Instagram shadowban (part 2)
4. Not ready to give up, I decided to go though my old posts one more time.
And there I found it: another banned hashtag had been sitting unnoticed on one of my old posts back from December 2016 - TGIF
(I have to admit, I didn't even know what it stood for. I had followed the industry leader's recommendation, and used it for a Friday introduction.)
So first I deleted the hashtag, and then I decided to delete the post. (I just didn't want to take chances.)
5. Next I skipped posting for 2 days. Based on many sources I read, I decided to give the algorithm a chance to reset. After all, IG is based on numbers and machines and we all know that sometimes you need to wait a bit after a restart.
6. I switched my Instagram business account back to a personal one and unlinked my Facebook page.
At first I wasn't sure about this step, but in my desperate situation I was willing to try everything. In the end it was this article that persuaded me to switch back.
I can't say for sure if switching back from an IG business account to a personal account had any effect, but after a few days, my engagement started to pick up and my post received around 30 likes - except including some new people this time.
How I got rid of my Instagram shadowban (part 3)
7. After a 2 day break, I started by posting again, but without using any hashtags at all.
8. After 3 days, I introduced hashtags back into my posts, but only 10 - 15 max. per post.
9. I kept checking with my old account, and started to notice that my posts wouldn't show up if I used the same hashtag two days in a row. I did some more Google research and followed the advice to mix up hashtags. Mixing up your hashtags signals to IG that you are a real person and not a bot.
And this, girltribe, is how I got rid of my Instagram shadowban.
Also check out Alex Tooby's post here. She has some amazing tips, as well as advice on getting rid of your Instagram shadowban.
How I got rid of my Instagram shadowban - My conclusion
- Don't panic.
- Take some time to research ALL your hashtags.
- Remove any banned ones, and research every hashtag before you use it. And remember, what is a good hashtag today can be a bad one tomorrow.
- Mix up your hashtags for every post. It has helped restore my account back to normal.
Now I scan EVERY hashtag EVERY DAY. Yes, it takes for ever to craft a post now, but I've learned my lesson.
Lately I have warned my tribe to stop using the hashtag girlboss because I have spotted serious nudity going down associated with this hashtag. I'm now on a mission to report any IG account that violates IG community guidelines. Here is my blog post about why girlboss is no longer a safe hashtag to use and how to report nudity on Instagram.
(And boy, there is a lot of nasty stuff hiding behind harmless hashtags.)
I also offer a free Top 50 Hashtag guide for creative female entrepreneurs, bloggers and small business owners and I constantly make sure this guide is up to date and safe to use. You can download it here.
Why you can't rely on hashtags to grow your brand any more
At the end of Feb Instagram released an official statement saying that you can not rely on hashtags to grow your brand any more.
Think about it like this, what would you do if Instagram removed its hashtags tomorrow? How would you be able to attract the right audience to your brand?
I'll tell you. With the right content.
Content is the currency of the future.
And it's your content that will give your audience a reason to come back to your brand. Having gone through the painful experience of being shadowbanned myself, I have written an eBook to help you find your tribe without using hashtags, and rather to develop the right content + visual strategy to attract them to your brand.
Sarah Voss of @boem_jewlry had this to say: "This was really educational and FUN to read! I think it will be very successful and useful to other entrepreneurs!!"
Tyler J McCall of @tylerjmccall calls it 'AMAZING'.
I hope you enjoyed my tips about how I got rid of my Instagram shadowban, and hope they will be useful to you. Let me know in the comment section if you have tried any, and what results you got.