Instagram Confirms: ‘Shadowbanning’ Was Always Bullshit

Back in April 2017, everyone in the Instagram ecosystem got up in a hizzy about an apparent “shadow ban” that accounts were allegedly seeing. People love the idea that Facebook or Instagram are out to get them (“they’re forcing us to use ads” / “businesses are being penalised” etc), but often the arguments don’t really stack up to reality.

As I highlighted in an absurdly long post back then, the problem with this theory was that it didn’t really show up in the actual data. Sure, over ~5 years of operating Schedugram we’ve seen reach as a percentage of the followers customers have decrease.

But it’s been a (relatively) steady decline, aligned with changes to Instagram’s algorithm (and the introduction of a non-chronological feed to begin with), multiple bans on automated like and follow platforms, and generally the fact that as time goes on, users follow more users, so they have more stuff that could be in their feed ‘competing’ to appear.

If “shadowbanning” was a thing, we’d see sharp dropoffs in reach and/or engagement from users, as suddenly their content wouldn’t appear. We’ve never seen that and our users post over 700,000 posts every month with Schedugram.

Instagram finally confirmed to TechCrunch and other outlets in June 2018 that the whole shadow banning / limited reach thing was total bullshit. From that article:

Instagram doesn’t downrank users for posting too frequently or for other specific behaviors, but it might swap in other content in between someone’s if they rapid-fire separate posts.
Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.
Shadowbanning is not a real thing, and Instagram says it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions.

Thank goodness that finally got put to bed.

I’m sure there are still naysayers who think that Facebook is lying through their teeth – but given that our data analysis hasn’t picked up any accounts that matched up with the claims of a “shadow ban”, I’m inclined to believe them.

As it has always been, the important thing is that you post content that your customers will want to see and engage with – that’s content that is high quality, unique, interesting and not just random crap or stock photos.

You should post regularly (of course, you can use Schedugram to do that!), and ideally at times that your users are active (even though the feed isn’t chronological, the recency of the post is still relevant!).

The team has written a pretty comprehensive post about everything we know about Instagram’s algorithm, which is worth a read. Having said that, beyond what they’ve said in public – nobody really has any idea and we’re all making inferences from what we can observe.

Picture of Hugh StephensHugh Stephens

Hugh Stephens

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