The situation: you’ve built the perfect social media strategy. You are really excited about your content and from what you know about your audience they should be too… Yet, your posts are underperforming. How can this be? If your strategy is as foolproof as you believe it to be, then shadowbanning may be the culprit.
Never heard of a shadowban before? That’s because the term shadowban is not officially used by any social media platform, but it is a term that is recognized within the social media industry. In this guide, we’ll explain what a shadowban is, how to diagnose if your account has been shadowbanned and what to do about it.
What is a Shadowban?
A shadowban is when a platform has limited the visibility of an account’s posts. Think of it as putting an account in time-out for bad behavior. When your reach is limited, you get much less engagement around your posts. This can be very hard for businesses and influencers who rely on their online community for business.
Facebook and Instagram have both denied practicing shadowbanning, however, some common actions taken by these social media platforms would result in the consequences following a shadowban.
For example, Facebook has a moderation policy called, “remove, reduce, inform”. This policy could explain some of the effects users see and identify as shadowbanning.
Have I Been Shadowbanned?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before we start determining whether or not your account has been shadowbanned, there are a few factors to consider. Social media algorithms are ever-evolving. When the algorithm shifts, it could increase or decrease your visibility without the platform taking any specific action against your account specifically. Keep up to date with platform algorithm changes to understand if these effects are happening amongst the entire social media network. If an algorithm change is to blame, take the time to study the new best practices and apply them to your strategy.
If it seems as though your account is the only one affected, then it’s time to start troubleshooting. Each platform has a way of limiting visibility. We’ve listed some helpful insights for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to determine if you’ve been shadowbanned:
As mentioned earlier, Facebook has a moderation policy called “remove, reduce, and inform”. If any content violates Community Standards, it is removed. Less appropriate content will be less visible or have a warning label.
Content that does not necessarily break the rules but is deemed socially appropriate includes:
- shocking images
- sexually suggestive
- posts with false information
This content is likely to turn people away from Facebook, so the platform has taken measures to reduce its frequency. If you have posted any content that crosses the boundaries of their community standards, then it is possible you have been shadowbanned.
Instagram moderators flag borderline content while reviewing policy violations. Instagram’s algorithm then uses those labels to identify borderline content and suppresses its reach. Borderline content are those that fall in line with Facebook’s community standards mentioned above.
If your hashtag content is not showing up on the Explore page, you may have been shadowbanned. This is the indicator that gets the most attention around the term shadowbanned.
Instagram claims that being in the Explore page is not guaranteed for any account. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t.
One reason Instagram limits the reach of questionable content is to lower the chance of users seeing spam. Shadowbanning lets spammers continue to post spam without realizing that their reach is limited. This way they don’t immediately try to get around the restriction because they aren’t aware it is happening.
Triberr is a site that will test to see if you’re shadowbanned on Instagram. There is no way to know for sure if you are but it at least can give you an idea of your reach.
Twitter has a list of red flags that help them determine if the user is a “bad-faith actor” or not. They want to limit spammers or users that will turn people away from their platform as well.
Some of these indicators are:
- a user not confirming their email address
- a user who hasn’t uploaded a profile picture
- newly created accounts
- accounts who have been blocked by other users
- following other “bad-faith actors”
Of course, these things do not determine if you should be shadowbanned, but if an account is flagged for questionable content, these indicators are also things moderators look for.
That said, make sure you have confirmed your email address and added a picture to your account. Mostly you want to make sure that you look as credible as possible.
Also, avoid trolling or getting into arguments with other users that lead to them blocking you.
Again there is no way to tell for sure if you are shadowbanned but you can try this Twitter shadowban tool.
TikTok has the same motives as the other social media platforms. The goal is to share content that users find valuable. TikTok uses algorithms that favors some content over others.
TikTok has a “For You” page where content is recommended to users. You can look at your page views and see your “For You” page statistics. You can also use hashtags and check to see if your content is showing up under that hashtag. These are some of the indicators you can use to determine if you have been shadowbanned.
To have your content show up on the “For You” page try to follow Tik Tok’s recommendation algorithm.
What to Do if You Have Been Shadowbanned
We’ve talked about staying away from the borderline content to avoid being shadowbanned. If you have been shadowbanned you are going to want to lay low for awhile. Consider taking these measures to get your account visibility back up.
Avoid Bots and Bot Behavior
Some users use automatic bots to get their engagement up. This is a way some people get more likes and comments without having actual followers that are interested in their content. Social media platforms do not like bots so don’t risk it!
Don’t post, like, or comment on too much content. You will get put in time-out. This is considered bot behavior and you will be flagged as questionably not human. Make sure you are engaging authentically and meaningfully and you won’t cross the line.
Avoid Third-party Apps
Some users connect their accounts to third-party apps to monitor follows and unfollows. They also use apps to look for hashtags or use bots for engagement. Instagram does not like this. Instagram has official partners that you are allowed to connect with but not just any third-party app is approved. Tailwind is an example of an Instagram-approved third-party app.
Avoid Restricted and Banned Hashtags
Banned hashtags are hashtags that Instagram users have reported because the posts including them go against Instagram’s guidelines. This means any post that uses that hashtag will be hidden.
If you go to hashtag search and the hashtag does not show up, that means it is banned. It may not be permanently banned because these are always changing but checking out your hashtags is a good idea!
To learn all about hashtags on the different social media platforms check out this how-to guide on hashtags.
Take a Break
This has been reported as the most effective fix. It is also the one that you want to do the least. Avoiding the app for a few days and giving it a fresh start seems to get your content’s visibility back up.
But when you sign back on, make sure you’re following the rules! Taking a break and then coming back with all of these cautions in mind, should get your visibility back up.
A Shadowbans Impact on Engagement
Sometimes your content stays visible to your followers but isn’t found by anyone who doesn’t already follow you. In this case, you still have the usual engagement around your posts but you aren’t growing your following.
Reaching new people on social media is crucial for brand awareness. There are a lot of strategies that go into reaching new people. When your engagement takes a hit due to restrictions from the platform your efforts may be wasted.
If your posts are falling flat, determine if you’ve violated any platform guidelines to make sure you aren’t doing anything to hurt your reach. Just sliding in one banned hashtag or using one wrong app can have a real impact on your engagement levels. Check out this post to increase social media engagement.