Chances are you’ve heard about a social account getting “shadowbanned.”
It’s no secret that social bans are bad news. That said, shadowbans are unique in that they’re not one-size-fits-all.
Sometimes they’re temporary. In some cases, a shadowban can damage your account.
Either way, shadowbans are particularly painful for brands. That’s because they not only prevent your content from receiving reach but also hurt your chances at partnering with creators and other brands in the future.
Worried that your account is stuck in the shadows? Don’t freak out quite yet!
While getting shadowbanned on TikTok and Instagram if more common than you might think, not all hope is lost if it happens. Below we’ve broken down everything you need to know about social media shadowbans.
What Does it Mean to be “Shadowbanned,” Anyway?
Shadowbanning is the practice of blocking or decreasing the visibility of an account’s content on social media.
Unlike an outright ban where the affected user is aware of what they did to warrant punishment, shadowbans aren’t immediately apparent.
In short, shadowbans can happen without warning.
Let’s assume you’re shadowbanned. What exactly happens?
From your point of view, your social media presence and activities will feel like business as usual. In reality, other users will be unable to see your content.
This lack of visibility often leads to a sudden drop in engagement and followers. For example, your account will no longer be discoverable through hashtags or the “For You” page if you’re shadowbanned on TikTok.
As noted earlier, shadowbans aren’t one-size-fits-all. The duration and extent of your shadowban depend on why it happened. Similarly, actions that warrant a shadowban are at the discretion of the social platforms you’re posting on.
Shadowbans occur when a social platform flags questionable behavior coming from your account. This includes:
- Inappropriate content (think: explicit posts or hate speech that violates terms of service)
- Spammy behavior (like excessive hashtag stuffing or rapid-fire commenting)
- Publishing copyrighted material or misinformation
Keep in mind that shadowbans on social media are largely automated. Although unlikely, accounts can be falsely shadowbanned. Because shadowbans are largely “unofficial” and not really acknowledged by TikTok or Instagram, appealing them usually isn’t an option.
If your recent content has largely been the same but your numbers have plummeted, you’re right to suspect a shadowban. But if you’re experimenting with new content and aren’t seeing the engagement you expected, don’t immediately assume the worst.
How Can You Tell if You’re Shadowbanned on TikTok?
The short answer? It depends. Here are some tell-tale signs of a TikTok shadowban:
- Did you notice a sudden drop in views or likes on your latest few posts?
- Are you seeing a sharp decrease in your follower count (or new followers)?
- Do your analytics no longer include views from the “For You” page?
If you tick the three boxes above, you might be shadowbanned. The main indicator of a TikTok shadowban is little to no viewership or engagement with posts. That’s because your content is no longer being served to, well, anyone.
Thankfully, there is a quick “test” you can conduct that has clued in countless TikTok users of their shadowbans:
- Create a post with a unique, never-used hashtag (often a jumbled mess of letters and numbers).
- Then, conduct a hashtag search of the tag you just used (or tap it).
- If your video doesn’t appear or the hashtag itself appears hidden, you’re probably shadowbanned (see below).
How Can You Tell if You’re Shadowbanned on Instagram?
Again, a sudden engagement drop is the biggest tell. Check your Instagram Insights.
And similar to TikTok, hashtags are a useful tool to tell if you’re dealing with an Instagram shadowban.
Simply publish a post to a unique hashtag and see if it’s visible. To confirm your potential shadowban, ask a friend or colleague to search the tag as well. If your content is hidden and your engagement is down, it’s safe to assume you’re banned.
What Should I Do if I’m Shadowbanned? Can I Fix It?
First thing’s first: don’t panic!
For starters, delete and reinstall the actual TikTok or Instagram app. You’d be surprised at how many “shadowbans” are actually the result of a glitch or wonky update.
If a fresh download of the latest app doesn’t do the trick, focus on cleaning up your account:
- Analyze your profile. Post anything that could be deemed controversial or offensive content? Copyrighted material? Phrases or hashtags that could potentially go against community guidelines? Flag it for deletion.
- Review and refer to community guidelines. If you’re unclear on what’s classified as “inappropriate” or copyrighted, make sure you educate yourself. Read through TikTok and Instagram’s guidelines to see if you’ve accidentally violated TOS.
- Delete problematic content from your profile. We know it’s a bummer to delete something you worked hard on, but it’s for the sake of keeping your account! To be safe, we’d recommend deleting anything immediately before and after you noticed that the shadowban was in effect.
The good news? Shadowbans typically don’t last forever. In fact, most shadowbans end after two weeks.
One of the most important steps to overcoming a shadowban is to keep posting content. Many shadowbanned users will post drafts and lower-effort videos to verify if and when a ban is lifted Save your best content for when the ban is water under the bridge.
Sure, you may not initially get the engagement that you used to. That said, you need to keep your page populated with content regardless.
And when the ban does expire, you can bounce back and start publishing like normal for your current followers.
Oh, and make a point to interact with other users’ content while shadowbanned. Don’t spam, but rather come up with thoughtful comments and interactions that signal your account is on the right track.
5 Quick Tips to Avoid and Prevent Getting Shadowbanned
You work hard on your content, right? Don’t risk losing it all to a ban.
For the sake of cleaning up your current profile and avoiding headaches in the future, make sure to do the following:
- Read the rules! When in doubt, refer to TikTok’s best practices and community guidelines (or Instagram’s community guidelines).
- Think before you post! This might seem like a no-brainer, but needless bans happen all the time. If you’re even slightly doubtful that a post could get you slapped with a ban, don’t risk it.
- Vary your hashtag usage. If you use the exact same set of TikTok hashtags with every post or spam too many, your account could get falsely flagged for a ban. Try to use hashtags based on the context of what you’re posting.
- Interact with other users. More interactions go hand in hand with better visibility on social media. Content that feels “robotic” or like you’re just posting for yourself won’t do your account any favors.
- Inject some creativity into your content. Authentically creative content doesn’t need a bunch of hashtags or questionable tactics to go viral or spread. Anything you can do to encourage organic engagement is a plus.
Shadowbans aren’t the end of the world. That said, you should understand what they are and how to avoid them. Doing so will ensure your account’s long-term growth and save you from a whole lot of frustration.
If You Post the Right Way, You Don’t Have to Worry About Getting Shadowbanned
With these tips, you can properly avoid and handle shadowbans with minimal issues.
But in the fast-moving world of social marketing, every second of brand exposure counts. Don’t miss out on potential customers tomorrow because you were shadowbanned yesterday.
Want to build your engagement naturally (and avoid anything spammy that could get you banned)? Schedule a time to chat with our experts to learn how we can grow your presence while sticking to the best practices of social media marketing.