As a small business entrepreneur, the main reason why I use social media is to connect to my clients and to spark the interest of my services to new ones. I constantly say if I didn't own Quaint+Whim, I probably wouldn't have social media, but I have been enjoying using the platform to create content and share my personal and professional experiences.
I would say I am a "Rule follower" when it comes to social media. I have a relatively "Small" following in comparison to my colleagues...I've never used bots, tried growth hacking, and for the most part post things I know my local small business clients would enjoy.
However, I have been caught in the wave of having images shadowbanned, because I am an avid "strategic" #hashtagger! And Instagram has seen this strategy, and taking their platform back by banning your images! Which sounds like a real hefty word, being "BANNED".
I will always say that the number one way clients find me are through my hashtags, and geo-tagging. So let's talk about what is happening:
What is shadowbanned?
The best way to describe this is when you are shadowbanned, you are now "Un-discoverable" to accounts that aren't already following you. The main reason why we hashtag, is to be discovered by people who aren't following us, and interested in a particular hashtag.
How to Prevent Being Shadowbanned?
- Do not use the same Hashtags for several posts:
I have a list of hashtags that I typically use for images – and Instagram has decided that this counts as "SPAM". For being strategic it is great to switch up your hashtags – because usually you will rack up a following from a certain hashtag after a few posts, and could find that your engagement per-hashtag would go stale.
- Do not all of the sudden go on a follow/unfollowing spree
We all have those accounts that constantly follow and un-follow us in order to get engagement on their feed! If you start unfollowing and/or following a surplus of people, Instagram is now marking this activity for growth-hacking as Spam.
- Do not leave generic comments to several posts:
Likewise – using the same string of comments on captions can cause this ban as well. If your response to every photo is close to "OMGosh, I love this photo ::insert emoji" Instagram is marking responses that are similar as SPAM.
- Don't use Automation services
Bots have become extremely popular and affordable for people who need active Instagram accounts, but don't care for running the account. To keep the platform as authentic as possible Instagram is now Shadowbanning accounts using bot/automated services.
- Keep updated on Broken Hashtags
This has been a thing for awhile but is worth making note here. Generic hashtags are becoming banned, things like #photo, #instagram, #women, etc. are considered extremely generic and are now banned hashtags from Instagram. You can do a google search on what Hashtags are banned on Instagram. The list is constantly changing.
How to tell if you are shadowbanned?
This site is a great tool to let you know what images have been banned and on what Hashtags: http://shadowban.azurewebsites.net/
You can also ask people who aren't following you to check to see if your images are appearing on hashtags. (But really I would just use the site ^_^)
What to do if you are banned?
- Use the site above and remove hashtags from your daily list that an image has been banned from.
- Focus on the quality of your images/content instead of the quantity.
- Lay off Instagram for awhile to see if your account will reset due to lack of activity
- Focus more on your brand and storytelling content.
The best advice I can give to you is to not put all your eggs in a basket with ONE platform. As a small business owner, it is a lot of work to gain a following, but you are gaining a following on someone else's dime, that can easily turn their rules and regulations into a monopoly ploy.
Be engaging to those that are engaging to you, love your clients, create a web-site/blogging platform that you are in control of to let your clients have a place to visit, also collecting e-mails to keep in touch with people who want to hear from you directly. Instagram is a GREAT marketing tool, and I have not only connected to the best clients through it but even made amazing friends! We never know what the future holds with these platforms, so be sure that this is just ONE extension of marketing with your business. Instagram is trying to make the platform as authentic as possible, which means when we "figure" out a growth hack – people tend to abuse it, and Instagram will figure out away to adjust it. I can already see them working on ways to disengage heavy "Instagram Pod users!"