As someone who makes a living from my Instagram small businesses and teaches others how to do it as well, one of the questions I most often receive from my readers is: “My Instagram stopped growing and is losing followers. I’m worried shadowbanned. What can I do?” If you’re reading this article because you’re asking yourself a similar question, I have good and bad news for you. The good news is that there’s an easy and reliable way that you can directly check if you’re shadowbanned that doesn’t require you to resort to a sketchy “Instagram shadowban test” website that’s likely to sell you services to fix a problem you don’t have. The bad news is that the great majority of people whose accounts stopped growing or are losing followers aren’t shadowbanned and their lack of growth is due to other more difficult issues to fix issues (we’ll get into them later.) But before you check if you’re Instagram is actually shadowbanned, it’s important to note that there is a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about shadowbanning out there so it’s worthwhile to get clear the basic concepts of how it currently works on Instagram. Here are a few of the basic concepts I consider are worthwhile clarifying:
What is an Instagram shadowban?
An account is shadowbanned on Instagram when the company itself places a “flag” on an account to limit that account’s reach. In other words, it uses the Instagram algorithm to greatly limit how often that account’s content is surfaced on the home screens of their followers as well as on hashtag feeds and explorer pages of non-followers so very few (if any) people are able to view that account unless they search for it directly.
How does an account get shadowbanned?
Instagram shadowbans an account only when others users report that account or it’s content as inappropriate (regardless of the report’s fairness).
Instagram does not share the information of how often/frequently an account needs to be reported in order to be shadowbanned (the requirements likely constantly change).
Being reported is the only clearly verified cause for being shadowbanned by Instagram (I know because it happened to me.)
An account definitely begins losing followers when it is shadowbanned but losing followers is not proof that an account has been shadowbanned. There are many much more likely reasons to lose followers on Instagram that aren’t being shadowbanned.
It’s important to note that there are many people who believe that Instagram directly shadowbans accounts that they “don’t like”. There is absolutely no proof of this and it’s very unlikely that they would do this. Instagram exists to maximize profits by maximizing the amount of time we spend looking at their screen. Controversial/outrageous/racy content is the most effective at keeping us looking at the screen for longer and therefore maximzing their profits so they are highly incentivized to keep as much of this type of content on their platform unless its deemed harmful by the community and therefore, reported.
This is why Instagram use the reporting function as the trigger for shadowbanning. It delegates to the users the responsibility of deciding what content is shadowbanned so Instagram doesn’t have to.
How to check if you’re shadowbanned?
Because Instagram gives no access to your account's reported status, the only way to check if you’ve been shadowbanned is to use your Instagram Insights or any other follower growth tracker to review how quickly your account went from gaining followers to losing followers.
If your account went from consistently gaining followers to suddenly losing followers permanently from one day to the next, your account likely got reported by other users and you are shadowbanned by Instagram. It happened to me, and it would likely look something like this in your Instagram Insights:
If your follower change was not sudden and sharp and it gradually went from gaining followers to simply not growing to losing them over months or years, you’re not shadowbanned. This also happened to me and it’ll look like this if you map out your followers through an account growth tracking third party tool, like I did with onlypult:
Having sprouts of follower growth during the general period of lack of growth (like the image above) is another way to know that you’re not shadowbanned. Being shadowbanned by Instagram is mostly permanent and does not go away over time.
How to fix your shadowban?
The only way to get a confirmed shadowbanned removed by Instagram is through contacting their customer service and challenging the validity of why your account got reported.
You can read the full and detailed account of how I did it in this article, but in summary, you’ll have to have a business account in order to contact Instagram’s support team, tell them your account was reported and that you’d like to challenge that report. After that, they’ll ask you for photographic proof of why you’re in the right by challenging it.
If you’re able to provide sufficient proof that your account was unjustly reported and shadowbanned then you’ll likely be able to get the shadowban removed by their customer support team.
If your content did in fact break Instagrams community safety guidelines, you might not be able to get the shadowbanned removed.
If you’re verified that your account is indeed shadowbanned due to reporting, I’d advice against paying anyone who can claim to remove the shadowban from your account. Unless it’s someone who works at Instagram, there’s no way a third-party can technically remove a shadowban unless it’s by talking to Instagram’s customer support.
If your account wasn’t reported and shadowbanned, why are you losing followers?
If your account wasn’t reported and shadowbanned but you’re still losing followers please know that you’re not alone. This is happening to more and more people on Instagram and it’s because you’ve either inorganically gained Instagram followers in the past or that your Instagram niche is in its decline phase or that your audience’s tastes have changed but your account hasn’t. You can check out my article about all of these topics to learn more about then and how to fix them but please know that these are all much more likely reasons to be losing followers than being shadowbanned.
It’s important to be able to verify or dismiss the fact that your follower decline is due to a shadowban because continuing to think that you’re losing followers because of a shadowban, when you’re not, only distracts you from being able to get to the bottom of your problems and working towards resolving them.
Hope you find this helpful and remember, growing on Instagram isn’t about being “cool” or social or even creative (in a traditional sense), it’s about learnings to execute the activities that lead to growth. Anyone can do it!
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PS — If you have to use Instagram for your business or work or personal reason, treat it as a tool and spend time researching what Instagram really is, how the Instagram algorithm works, and focus on learning about activities that you need to do to have a well-executed and “successful” Instagram (specifically, being able to create engaging Instagram content, a differentiated Instagram grid, posting consistently, or using an Instagram bot to automate the time-consuming but effective tactic of maximizing your daily interactions). If you can, use it as little as possible and spend your time on other activities that bring you well-being.