The latest thing in the crazy world of Social Media – The Instagram Hack and the #Shadowban that followed.
A few weeks ago there was news that Selena Gomez, who has the most followers in all of Instagram, had her account hacked and certain *ahem* photos were leaked. Ever since that, it was announced that hackers got into Instagram and Instagram’s way of protecting some of the affected accounts was to ask to relogin and verify phone number for two-factor authentication.
But this didn’t happen to everyone, only certain accounts. What ensued following the relogin was a mess. Some accounts were completely deleted and disabled. Bloggers with thousands of followers lost access to their accounts, but seemed to get access back within a few days, while others are still struggling to get their access back. Other accounts, including mine, were seemingly shadowbanned.
What does shadowban mean? Instagram has never fully accepted or confirmed what a shadowban is or if it exists, but thousands of users accept it for what it is – banning you on the down low. Photos stop showing up under popular and any hashtags, so your visibility is limited, except for your followers. Your followers will still see your posts under hashtags and on their newsfeed, but other and new accounts who use the explore page or search thru hashtags will not. Instagram is said to have done this to “protect” their community from spammers and spam bots, who constantly flood hashtags with irrelevant posts and spammy comments. But why are normal accounts getting flagged as spam? It’s something that has upset and angered a lot of people, including marketers and influencers who make a living off of their posts on instagram. Who would’ve known you can generate a full time income from a social media platform?
And that is why I believe Instagram is making more and more changes. The latest update introduces Brand Partnering, where brands can limit who can tag them in posts and stories, and now introduces a feature where under the influencer’s account, you see a “Paid Promotion with x brand.” Seems like Instagram got a little upset people were capitalizing off of it’s platform, and they were seeing only a fraction of that in profits. Whats the point in having people pay for advertisements on Instagram when you can pay the influencer directly, right?
But the targeting and shadowbanning of smaller accounts is what has people scratching their heads. I only have a mere 2.5k following on Instagram, and my posts are not visible under hashtags, yet bigger accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers, who presumably make a profit, aren’t affected.
A lot of people have tried contacted Instagram via various methods: tweeting, Instagram problem reporting, even going as far as contacting people who work at Instagram as well as contacting news agencies to report on this.
What are some things you can do to “reverse” the shadowban? People suggest logging out and laying low for a few days, to log out of any third party apps that you have connected to Instagram unless they are Instagram approved, post without using hashtags, or not even post at all.
What has been my experience? Upon posting my photos, it is REALLY slow to get likes. Eventually, throughout the day, the likes and comments catch up to my normal amount (most of the time…not always though), and I haven’t really gained many followers lately as my account isn’t as visible. It’s extremely frustrating as I have been trying to grow my account to reach and help a wider audience, and this is just stunting all the hard work. In addition, today, after waking up, I opened my instagram and liked a single photo and got this message:
What’s my advice on what to do?
- There’s likely a bug with Instagram, as they are trying to roll out updates in the background. When they are working on something big to change the app, there’s always some kind of lag/mess with user experience. So just be patient.
- Continue to post as you normally would.
In the end of the day, if you want brands to work with you so you can make a profit, numbers of likes do not always equal sales conversions. So forget about the numbers of likes. If you have a genuine following, people will see your posts, and they will like your posts.
- Be authentic, and be you.
A lot of people try to copy other people’s posts and styles because they see it working for someone else. Just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you. Different audiences, different preferences. Just create content that you are passionate about, and think about something new and different no one else has done before. People can sense copy-cats a mile away.
- Don’t go on liking and commenting sprees to try to “make up” for not being visible in the hashtags. It’s more likely that this will trigger the identification of your account as spam.
- Utilize Instagram Stories or Other Apps
While my photos don’t show up in the hashtags, my instagram stories haven’t been affected. So I’ve been posting on my stories and creating engaging and funny content there. People love interacting with Stories! I have also been using Twitter more, and I am having fun using another social media platform and growing there, rather than focusing on how much I can’t change Instagram right now.
- Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Own your content.
I learned this the hard way with my blog and photo hosting. I previously hosted my blog on Google’s blogger, which has been amazing (and free!) , and hosting my images on a free image host called Photobucket. I used Photobucket for years, and then out of no where, with no warning, they changed their Terms of Service and decided to start charging for third-party linking. (uploading your images to their site, and then taking the url and posting the image onto your own site). It became a photo ransom, basically. They were asking for 400 dollars for the entire year, while their site was really buggy. It really opened my eyes to how when you don’t own your content or platform, other services can do whatever they want with your content. Same goes with instagram. When you agree to use these services, usually somewhere in the terms that we all of course read (right? all that fine print, you read it all, right?), they are allowed to change their terms whenever they want. So if they really wanted to, they could delete the entire app tomorrow and all of your content would go with it. This would be a huge issue for anyone who’s main platform is on social media like Instagram “bloggers.” I moved my blog to wordpress.org and pay for my own host, so I no longer have to worry about sites updating their terms and deciding to shut down my site. Best decision I ever made.
- Don’t depend on the likes so much; Engage with your followers more.
We’ve all been ingrained that the number of followers and likes we have are the end-all-be-all for our success on social media. I’ve been sucked into it too and I’ve let it make me upset many a time. I’ve seen other newer accounts surpass me in followers and I’ve let it make me upset. What am I doing wrong?? But I realized I get amazing engagement on my posts, compared to other bloggers I see with 50k followers. I get way more impressions on my posts. And while companies and sponsorships still look at the numbers, I hope that changes, and they look at genuine following and engagement. I think this is what has sparked the entire Instagram issue. People are freaking out because they DON’T have that engaged following. They have the follower numbers but it’s not translating to the likes and comments because they don’t engage with their followers in a positive way for their business.
In the end of the day, Instagram will do what they want, and it’s all about the money. Why would they let people utilize their tool for free while they make money off of posts?
And I also have a theory that they might be transitioning to more AI visual scanning of photos and eliminating hashtags all together – similarly to how Pinterest has changed their search options.
The best thing we can do is work on creating valuable, engaging content, and not put all your eggs into one social media platform. Expand and own your content.
And the most frustrating part, is to just wait. It will hopefully be back to normal soon.
If you like this post, you can follow me on Instagram HERE, @phd_fashionista