By: Veronica Vasquez Sara
Have you noticed a decrease in likes and/or comments on your Instagram account? It might be subtle for now, but things could change quickly. So, what’s going on with Instagram? Well, let’s start with some background information…
Where it all began…
Instagram has been around since 2010, and it has grown drastically in the past few years. It is a mobile, desktop, and internet-based photo sharing application that allows you to gain a following of audiences from all over the world. People can share their passion in unique ways gain overwhelming attention and followers becoming “Instagram-famous.” Its success has transferred over to the real world allowing “regular” people to become more visible to major agencies and entrepreneurs looking for the next best thing. Instagram is a great tool for success. Businesses have taken notice, and you can find major businesses (Coca-Cola®, Maybelline®, Vogue®, Netflix®) as well as small businesses using this platform to grow brand awareness and increase their following and ultimately, profits.
Reaching the masses with hashtags
If only your close friends, existing clients, and your mom see your Instagram posts that’s probably not going to help you reach your goals, right? That’s where hashtags come in. When you use a hashtag, you increase the number of potential users exposed to your content. If a user doesn’t follow you but does follow a hashtag (or searches for it), they can be exposed to your content. Boom! That’s reach… but there’s a catch.
Many popular and heavily used hashtags have become essential to seeing rapid growth for personal and business accounts over the years (think #followforfollow, #likeforlike, etc.). Now if you use them they could actually hinder your reach. Yes, that’s right. So, what is going on with Instagram?
Facebook, having acquired Instagram a few years back, is taking a big step in moving towards monitoring its users content and hashtags. Instagram is doing this for some reasons: Instagram has recently updated its algorithm to track down bots that automatically like and comment on users’ content, remove inappropriate or abusive behavior, and get rid of “spammy” content.
Don’t think your content is inappropriate, not using bots, and hate spam like us? Great! Still seeing a dip in likes and engagement? Read on… We can explain.
Intro – Shadow Ban
Cue the ominous intro music… On Instagram, a shadow ban involves the platform hiding your posts from users who do not follow you. Instead of your image being seen by those who follow you AND those who follow or search for any or all of the hashtags you used in the post, only those who follow you will see it. What’s even more alarming is that Instagram does not alert you to this ban. Therefore, you will see a decrease in likes, following, and overall engagement and may wonder if you are doing something wrong.
Have you been banned?
If you believe you or your image have been shadow banned but are not sure, one way you can confirm this is by having someone that does not follow you, click on one of the hashtags that were posted along with your post, and see if your image appears. If your image does not appear on the hashtag search, you or your image have been shadow banned.
Note: They’ll have to do this immediately, right after you publish your post if you’re using popular hashtags.
What can you do about it?
First, take a vacation. It’s recommended that you take some time off from Instagram, approximately a week, so the platform can determine that you are not a bot.
When posting again, remember that the platform seems to be mostly targeting users who display spammy or inappropriate behavior. Hashtags like “followforfollow,” “likeforlike,” “followme,” “likeback,” “like4like” no longer work and will, in fact, cause your photo to be invisible to viewers that do not follow you.
Tip: A good way to verify which hashtags are no longer visible, is by searching for the tag itself. If you only see the top posts (9 photos) and nothing more, then that hashtag is no good and is currently being monitored by Instagram.
Hashtags will go on!
Have no fear. You can still use hashtags to increase your following and engagement. However, make sure that the hashtags are relevant to your content and not too generic. For example, if posting an image for a remodeling company, you can use relevant hashtags like “Homebuilder,” “Floorplans,” “Construction,” “Modernhome,” “Remodeling,” “Customdesign,” and so on. Location-specific hashtags are also allowed. Each content, hashtags, and photo should be unique from one another, however.
With more than 70 million active users, it’s hard for Instagram to monitor all users carefully, that is why it is easier for them to block an image that is using spammy and robot-like behavior. Don’t be mistaken for a robot!
Remember, Instagram is fun and free space for people and businesses to express their unique passions and creative visual content. Have fun with your posts, share your story, and keep making Instagram great!
If we can help you with your social media strategy, Instagram management, or increase leads for your business via digital marketing, let us know. We’d love to talk with you and help you out!