Fewer likes and comments, stagnating growth, and the inability to find pictures through the hashtag-search, even though relevant hashtags were used on the image. During the last couple of months, these points had many Instagram users assume that the network uses so called shadow-banning. Several online platforms are using the shadowban as a sort of ‘time out‘ for spammers and abusive commenters.
By applying this instrument, not only aggressive users but also spam bots are blocked from interacting on the platform. They can still comment and post, but these interactions can’t be seen by other users. On Instagram specifically, hundreds of users complained that the shadowban hides their posts from users who don’t already follow them, which can be harmful if you want to grow your account. Many Instagram users saw this as yet another tool to interfere with their engagement rate after the release of the new algorithm in mid 2016 which is still falsely perceived as a disadvantage by many.
Partnership Manager for Northern Europe Heiko Hebig has now officially confirmed that a shadowban never existed on Instagram. The main reasons for missing pictures in the hashtag search are personalized search criteria and a technical malfunction that has already been fixed since the beginning of April.
Why your engagement rate is still dropping
So why are many Instagram users still complaining about dropping engagement rates on their profiles, even though shadow banning does not exist? It really is simple: Instagram might not use shadow banning to avoid spam, but it has been working on deleting fake accounts and banning spam bots such as like- and comment-bots since the beginning of this year. This leads to the phenomenon of less engagement, especially on accounts that pay dodgy third party providers to increase their follower base and engagement rate.
Generally, Instagram users should appreciate the efforts of the platform to clear the network from fake accounts and spam. A similar initiative in 2014 resulted in fewer followers, when Instagram deleted inactive and fake accounts. This led to large accounts registering a loss of several thousand followers. Users should welcome this initiative, as it is leading to real, valid engagement from people that are actually interested in your content. Those that continue to post high quality pictures, stay constantly active, and use relevant and specific hashtags, will be experiencing a growing follower base and increasing engagement rates.