Blog Post - How not to get shadow-banned on social media
Many brands on social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter consistently struggle to reach their target audience and enhance engagement. Social media users already face a difficult challenge in having their posts seen because of the social media algorithm and content volume on social media websites. The phenomenon of 'shadow-banning' further compounds this challenge by causing shadow-banned users' posts to become hidden. Shadow-banning is actually common, but there are key practices that users can do to ensure that their content does not become shadow-banned.
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA SHADOW-BANNING?
According to a February 20, 2018 article written by Brian Appleton for the Business 2 Community website, being shadow-banned can cause followers' feeds to be lower or to completely disappear. A shadow-ban "will hide your social media profile from the public and most of your posts won't be visible to your followers." For example, a shadow-ban from Instagram would cause one's profile to "not be visible on the 'Search and Explore' section and no hashtags would work", according to January 23, 2018, article by Ian Moyse for the Social Experts website.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT MY SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT HAS BEEN SHADOW-BANNED?
Social media users can tell if their account has been shadow-banned by using a different account to search for their own original content. According to a July 2018 article on XPLOD Social, users can post a photo with a unique hashtag on their usual account, and if the post cannot be seen when logged into a different account, then the account is most likely shadow-banned. Web influencer Neil Patel notes on his website that in the case of a Twitter shadow-banning, "Twitter would remove ALL search results from your username, so your search results would return nothing."
Brian Appleton's writing on October 13, 2017 for the Envision-Creative website notes that symptoms of a shadow-ban include "a drop in engagement, impression, reach, and comments" for the affected account. If an account normally receives a hundred "likes" per day and a sudden massive drop was noticed, it may have been shadow-banned. Before doing any action, it is important to identify first the cause of being shadow-banned.
WHY WOULD I BE SHADOW-BANNED?
According to a HubSpot article by Carolyn Forsey, there are four primary reasons why a social media account could receive a shadow-ban. The first reason for shadow-banning is the use of automated bots for the spreading of content. The usage of bots is "considered spam and would result in a shadow-ban."
Secondly, the use of broken or banned hashtags can result in a shadow-ban. Forsey writes in her article that "when a common hashtag overruns with fake content, a social media platform may decide to remove the inappropriate content."
Forsey writes that a third reason for receiving a shadow-ban could be that one's account has been reported too often: "when users report your account often, then Twitter or Instagram may assume that you are posting inappropriate content."
Finally, the exceeding of hourly or daily post limits can result in a shadow-ban. Most social media websites have limits on how many times a person can follow, like, comment, unfollow, or post. Exceeding these limits could be grounds for a shadow-ban.
TECHNIQUES TO AVOID GETTING SHADOW-BANNED
John McDougall writes in his May 19, 2017, article for Authority Marketing that one way to avoid shadow-banning is to avoid automation apps: "most social platforms prohibit automated posting, following, liking, or comments. Such platforms can easily track user behavior including follow-unfollow events."
McDougall also suggests that users avoid banned hashtags: "Hashtags such as #snapchat, #Asia, #shower, #date, and #beauty have been associated with racist posts and inappropriate images." Therefore, it is important to stay up-to-date on the banned hashtag lists for various social media platforms.
Another way to not get shadow-banned is to avoid irrelevant hashtags or tweets. According to Amer Kawar, writing in November 2016 for the Tweepi website, "if you use a Twitter account to post photos of a cat and use hashtags that are related to something very different, then you quickly run the risk of having your account shadow-banned."
The fourth way to avoid a shadow-ban is to obey usage restrictions. Anna Meyer writes for INC in 2017 that social media platforms limit user activities to prevent spamming, and these limits depend on factors including "age of the account, overall engagement rate, number of followers, and ratio of inactive to active followers."
In summary, shadow-banning can be very devastating for users who are trying to get their content seen by many people. Shadow-banning can, however, be avoided by not using bots or banned hashtags, by using relevant hashtags, and by obeying usage restrictions.
In attempting to determine how not to get shadow-banned on social media, we consulted trusted media sites such as the New York Times, Inc.com, American Journal, and Digital Media, as well as credible social media blog articles on the topic of shadow-banning. Some of these credible sites included Tweepi, Authority Marketing, and Envision Creative. We have ensured that all referenced articles were written by qualified entities and industry experts.