How to Prevent Your Posts from Being Shadow-banned on Instagram

Are you even an Instagram user if you don’t follow at least one influencer on the platform? No matter how grounded or unpretentious we might be, all of us feel drawn towards these Instagram stars who seem to have it all: a pretty face, an hourglass body, a perfect bedroom, stunning outfits, and so on.

But the lives of these influencers are not all sunshine and rainbows either. Creating content consistently is no easy business, and to top that off, platforms like Instagram keep adding new policies and guidelines in the name of making a safe and positive community online.

In our blog today, we’re going to talk about one such issue on Instagram: shadow-banning. If you’ve been curious about how shadow-ban works and how you could prevent it on the platform, stay with us till the end to find out all the answers to them.

Shadow-banning on Instagram: How Does it Work?

If you’re an avid Instagram user, we’re sure this is not the first time you hear the term “shadow-banning.” For most users, it is a large, scary term that might affect their popularity on the platform, which is why they run scared of it. But as with all things in life, running from anything doesn’t make it go away.

So, let’s try the approach of understanding this term today rather than running away from it. What does “shadow-banning” mean? Well, it’s quite similar to banning someone, only it is done secretly, without the knowledge of the person concerned. On Instagram, this term refers to a situation where the platform limits the reach of your profile or content, often as a consequence of you violating its community guidelines, regardless of whether it was done intentionally or not.

Now that we’ve provided you with a basic idea of what shadow-banning is, let’s dig a little deeper and fetch you the answers to the questions you might seek.

What Kind of Content is Shadow-banned on Instagram?

We’ll begin by talking about the kind of content which is most likely to get shadow-banned on Instagram. Rest assured as we’ve thoroughly read the community guidelines of Instagram and will list down concise information about what kind of content could be shadow-banned here:

  • Content that hasn’t been captured/recorded by you and interferes with someone else’s intellectual copyright property.
  • Content that showcases, supports, or promotes discrimination, bribery, hate groups, racism, terrorism, sexual services, or organized crimes.
  • Content that disrespects any member of the Instagram community directly or indirectly.
  • Content that supports or glorifies suicide, self-harm or injury in any manner.
  • Content that displays disturbing graphic violence.
  • Any kind of sexual content that’s unsuitable for the diverse audience of Instagram.

Now, we’re sure that as an Instagrammer, even you will agree that these are exactly the kind of content that could hurt Instagram’s community and make the platform an inappropriate space with users as young as 13 years (Instagram’s age limit).

So, how do these bother you? Well, we’re sure you’re not posting sexual content on the platform, if that’s what you were wondering. However, it’s the term “borderline” that has created quite a kerfuffle among thousands of influencers and personal brands.

What Happens When Your Content is Shadow-banned on Instagram?

In the beginning of this section, we mentioned how Instagram limits the reach of the profile or content that doesn’t align with its guidelines. In reference to the borderline sexual content, the platform has now started to shadow-ban any content that matches the above description.

The most apparent way of doing that is by making sure that your questionable content remains hidden from new users and will only be seen by those who already follow you, thus, hampering your reach. If you’re an influencer and have recently posted a picture that matches our description, compare its performance analytics with that of another post, and tell us if we’re wrong.

3-4 of such shadow-banned posts could drive the discovery of your profile/personal brand deeper into the ground than you could imagine. And the worse part of it all? You’re neither warned about it nor given any indication that such a thing could happen. That’s the ironic beauty of adding “borderline” to “sexual content”.


To make things clearer between us, we’re going to add the statistics of two Instagram posts below. Both these posts have been made from the same account, and the stats records have been checked exactly after 24 hours of uploading them.

The only difference between the two is that the first one is considered “borderline sexual” in nature and the second one isn’t.

If you look at these pictures carefully and have any clue on how performance analytics works on Instagram, you’ll notice the monumental difference between the two. Let’s break it down for you a bit.

Notice how the difference between the likes on these posts is of 2,000 (which is a big deal in itself). Also, while the second picture is shared 785 times, the first one has merely 474 shares.

In the Interactions section, notice how the first post was only able to fetch 2,251 profile visits, while the second one brought home 3,751 visits. In terms of replies, the first post got none. The website clicks are also poles apart; the first one has only 8 clicks while the second has 32. Check out how 6 CTAs to email were followed through in the second post, while the first post had none.

Now, let’s take a look at the Discovery section, which, according to any Instagram business or influencer, is the most important part of these stats. The reach of the first post (41,690) is almost half that of the second post (72,864). And while the first post only gained them 4% new potential followers, the second post was able to attract 32% of them.

Now, come a little lower on the page and check the hashtags section. See how the first post brought in only 125 discoveries from hashtags, while the second one brought in over 8,000 discoveries. Isn’t that a substantial difference for you?

And if you’re someone who earns from brand collaboration, shadow-banning could kill your chances at that as well. Wondering how? It’s because most brands today care a great deal about their social image and would think twice before associating with a creator whose content has been shadow-banned on the platform.

How to Prevent Your Posts from Being Shadow-banned on Instagram

So far, we’ve talked at length about the issue of shadow-banning, borderline sexual content, and the consequences of posting it on Instagram. But we’re yet to provide you with the solution to this problem, aren’t we? Well, this section is going to be all about that.

Because shadow-banning is still a hushed term on Instagram, the rules and boundaries of it are quite blurred. The best way we could help you right now is to suggest some preventive methods that will keep you out of shadow-ban’s way on the platform.

1. Post Content that Adheres to the Community Guidelines of Instagram

You’ve already taken a good look at the community guidelines of Instagram and the kind of content that violates them. So, you already have an idea of which guidelines you must adhere to, particularly while posting content on the platform.

As far as borderline sexual content is concerned, you must think twice before something like that if you value your reach on the platform. If you can avoid posting pictures with too much skin (bikini and topless photos) for a while, it’ll protect your discovery from taking a fall on Instagram. The same is true for couple pictures that appear intimate and could trigger Instagram’s AI.

2. Choose Your Hashtags Carefully

Although the hashtags are added in the caption or comment section of a content, they’re still as integral a part of your content as the picture/video itself. And when it comes to shadow-banning a content, the picture or video being posted is equally important as the hashtags.

Instagram is very careful to pick up hashtags that are used repetitively or inappropriately. In fact, there’s a whole list of hashtags that have already been banned on the platform, and if you use them in one of your content, that content is bound to be shadow-banned, too.

The most astonishing thing about this list is that it includes non-threatening terms like #costume, #date, #alone, #models, #petite, #workflow, and #pushups. Could you imagine how any random Instagram user could be using any one of these hashtags right now, having no idea of how it’s going to affect their reach?

While we can’t warn everyone about it, we can certainly warn those who are here, reading our blog, including you. So, the next time you’re adding hashtags on your pictures, be careful about ensuring they’re directly relevant to your content and haven’t been banned on the platform.

3. Using a Third-Party Tools? Quit it Today

Third-party tools are a go-to for almost all Instagram influencers today. They make your lives easier in more ways than you could count. Be it scheduling your posts, searching for the right hashtags, analyzing your performance, or collecting data about your target audience; these tools can do it all.

Instagram understands this and has also partnered with some of these to help its users. However, if you’re using a third-party tool that hasn’t been accepted by Instagram, your whole account could get shadow-banned. So, if you’re partaking in such an activity, quit it today. It might add more tasks to your to-do list, but at least it will prevent your account’s reach from falling miserably.

4. Reach Out to the Instagram Support Team

If you’ve ensured that you’re not violating any guideline or policy on the platform but are still getting shadow-banned, the only alternative you have is to reach out to the Instagram Support Team about it. This can be done from the Help section of your account’s Settings.

However, while explaining your problem to them, don’t mention the term “shadow-banning” at all because they’ve already denied the existence of such a thing multiple times in the past. Just tell them your struggles as elaborately as you can without blaming them for something, and wait to hear back.

Bottom Line:

With this, we’ve reached the end of our blog. Let’s revisit everything we’ve learned today. We began by talking about the supposedly non-existent shadow-ban culture on Instagram and what’s it all about. Then, we talked about the kind of content that could be shadow-banned on the platform and about borderline sexual content and its nuances here.

Lastly, we added some of our own suggestions could help prevent your content from being shadow-banned on Instagram. If you could find the answers you were looking for in our blog, we’d love to hear all about it in the comments section below.

Posted by
Dharmesh Donda

iStaunch is written by Dharmesh Donda, an avid Internet geek, IT professional since 2012. Have been in IT industry for more than a decade, and currently doing management and consulting work have taken a plunge into entrepreneurship.

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