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How can you Prevent Shadow Banning in your Instant Messaging Campaigns?

Some social networks use what's known as shadowbanning to limit the visibility of users' content without their knowledge. In this way, platforms selectively hide contributions, comments, and other content without users being aware of it. Shadowbanning can therefore have an impact on the success and effectiveness of your influencer marketing campaign, which is why it's essential for marketers to know how to remedy it.

silhouette d'un homme et d'une femme sur fond gris
silhouette d'un homme et d'une femme sur fond gris

Key Takeaways

Shadowbanning is a form of censorship whereby a user cannot see the content they publish, even if other users can see it.

Shadowbanning on social media platforms:

  • On Instagram, posts and accounts no longer appear in search, although they have not been blocked.
  • Tiktok uses shadowbanning to block content that doesn’t comply with community guidelines.
  • Twitter uses shadowbanning to combat non-compliance with terms of use by excluding or restricting accounts from the platform.

What is shadowbanning?

Shadowbanning on social media means that users are blocked or partially blocked on social networks by administrators. Unlike “real” blocking, the definition of shadowbanning is that users or influencers are still part of the community and can comment on and like contributions, while the banned user’s own contributions are no longer displayed.

This is usually achieved by selectively hiding contributions, comments, or other user content from other users, while the latter can continue to see their own content as if it were visible to others. This makes it much more difficult for profiles to engage with the platform’s community or expand their audience.

The practice of shadowbanning has a history dating back to the early days of online games, such as multi-user dungeons (MUDs) in the 1970s, which offered players a text-based virtual world. Trolling was as common then as it is today, which is why the moderators of the Something Awful forums coined the term “shadowban” in 2001 to refer to accounts that deliberately attempted to disrupt the community. Shadowban as we understand it today originated in the 1980s and 1990s with bulletin board systems (BBS).

The software system, which functioned as a bulletin board, gave powers (“Twit-Bit privileges”) to administrators who could mark malicious users as “twits”. Twits were then able to continue reading public discussions while being invisible to the rest of the group. In recent years, however, this practice has evolved and taken on a more serious tone, particularly in social media.

Why shadowban?

The practice of shadowbanning is often used to combat spam or other forms of unwanted content on social media platforms, but it can also be used to block content that unfairly challenges or attacks users. Shadowbanning is criticized when networks silence dissenting opinions and thus use it as a means of censorship or to suppress certain political viewpoints.

Shadowbanning can therefore have a considerable impact on influencer marketing campaigns. When influencers are blocked, follower numbers and engagement rates can fall and content may no longer appear in hashtag searches. Influencers’ voices are silenced and these KOLs become useless to the campaign. Since this is difficult to spot, we’ll cover the warning signs later in the article so that you can recognize them early and minimize the damage to your campaign.

Shadowbanned on social media? Here are the consequences

Shadowban can have a considerable impact on the reach and visibility of influencer content on social media platforms. When influencers are shadowbanned (or blocked), their content may not appear in hashtags, search results, or other relevant areas where users can normally find the content. As a result, shadowbanning, for example on Facebook, reduces the number of people who see campaign content, which can lead to lower engagement rates and reduced exposure to new followers.

As a result, blocked influencers will not gain new followers, as content such as videos will not be recommended or displayed to users interested in the niche or theme in question. This can also lead to a drop in the total number of followers, which can ultimately impact the effectiveness of an influencer marketing campaign.

All in all, shadowbanning on social networks can severely damage the reach and visibility of influencers’ content. It is  therefore important for influencers and brands alike to keep a close eye on their engagement and performance metrics in order to identify and correct any problems as early as possible.

How does a shadowban work, and how does a shadowban manifest itself on platforms?

Shadowbans can block people’s content in various forms on different social media platforms and are often difficult to detect, as there are no notifications or warnings that accounts  receive of a shadowban. Here are a few examples of the types of shadowbans that can occur on different social networks:

  • Instagram: On Instagram shadowbanning can occur when an account’s posts no longer appear in hashtags or in the “Explore Page” tab. This can severely limit the reach and visibility of influencers on the platform.
  • Twitter: Twitter’s shadow banning takes the form of “ghosting”, in which a user’s tweets do not appear in search results, notifications, or other users’ timelines. This makes it difficult for accounts to gain new followers and reach a wider audience.
  • TikTok: TikTok has a “restricted” mode that allows to block certain types of content that might be considered inappropriate or offensive. This can limit reach if content is marked as such.
  • Reddit: on Reddit, shadow banning is called “soft banning”. In this case, users’ contributions are hidden from the subreddit in which they post, without their profiles being informed. This can make it harder for users to gain visibility and engagement on the platform.
  • Facebook: Facebook’s shadow banning is less widespread than on other platforms but can occur when people’s content is flagged as spam or inappropriate.

While the types of shadowbanning vary on different social media platforms, they all have the potential to severely damage influencers’ reach and visibility . It’s important for influencers and brands to be aware of the different types of shadowbanning, and to keep a close eye on their engagement and performance metrics to identify potential problems.

How to remedy shadow banning on Instagram?

To remedy shadowbanning on Instagram, you can use the following six methods:

  • Don’t violate Instagram’s community guidelines and terms of use: make sure you create a positive environment, post appropriate content, and own or have permission to copyright anything you post. Also read our tips and tricks for signing contracts with Influencers.
  • Don’t behave like a bot: avoid following more than 500 people per hour or interacting with the application at robot speed. If you go too fast, you risk receiving a notification that will freeze your account for hours or even days.
  • Ensure consistency: post frequently, at least several times a week, so that your existing followers see your content in their feed and new followers come on board. If you have an organic presence, the likelihood of being banned decreases.
  • Avoid banned hashtags: check your usual hashtags regularly to make sure they haven’t been banned. If they have, remove them from your latest posts and videos to avoid damaging your reach or, worse still, being “overshadowed”.
  • Use a content alert for sensitive topics: If you’re talking about a violent news story or event, Instagram may mistakenly think you’re inciting violence, which is against its rules. To be on the safe side, Instagram recommends blocking or blurring violent or sensitive images and inserting a warning in your graphic and text. This algorithm doesn’t always work well and sometimes  blocks posts that discuss relevant topics or  some users, like blogger Madeleine Darya Alizadeh (aka @ dariadaria).
  • Don’t buy followers or use dubious apps: avoid buying followers or using unauthorized third-party apps to automatically like content or build followers “organically”.

What can be done about a shadowban on TikTok?

Recognizing and dealing with a TikTok shadowban can be a bit of a challenge, but here are a few tips that may help:

  • Regularly check your engagement and follower count: as we’ve already mentioned, a sudden drop in engagement and/or follower count is a clear indication that you may have been shadowbanned.
  • Use a unique hashtag: create unique hashtags and use them in one of your posts. If no results appear when you search for the hashtag, there’s a good chance you’ve been banned. Also read our guide to using hashtags on TikTok.
  • Review your content: review your content and make sure it doesn’t violate TikTok community guidelines. If you’ve posted content that’s inappropriate or offensive, delete it.
  • Wait and don’t be too paranoid: unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed way to lift a TikTok shadowban. However, most users report that their block lasts no longer than a couple of weeks.

The main difference between TikTok and Instagram is that TikTok’s algorithm relies heavily on the “For You” page, which shows users content based on their interests and preferences. In contrast, Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes content based on factors such as engagement, popularity, and recent posts.

What can be done about shadowbanning on Twitter?

Twitter’s definition of a shadowban differs from that of other platforms. Twitter doesn’t officially block users, but ranks certain profiles lower in the search function according to the nature of their content.

  • How to determine if your Twitter account has been blocked: The best way to find out if your content is ranked lower than it should be on Twitter is to open an incognito browser and search for your information using Twitter’s search engine. If your username or content doesn’t show up, it’s possible that you’re ranked lower on the platform.
  • Possible reasons for a shadowban on Twitter: Twitter ranks certain accounts lower based on certain signals that indicate “bad faith actors” who manipulate or divide conversations. These signals include account properties that indicate authenticity, the actions you take on Twitter, and the way other accounts interact with you.
  • How to lift a shadowban on Twitter: If you think your Twitter account has received a lower rating, the best thing to do is log off for a few days. If the problem persists, you can contact the Twitter support team to see if they can help you improve the situation.

Instagram and TikTok both use shadowbanning tactics to encourage positive behavior on their platforms. Please note the respective platform guidelines. For example, Instagram and TikTok give guidelines on content that is considered inappropriate and could lead to a Shadow Ban, while Twitter focuses on signals of dishonest behavior.

Other tips to help you avoid shadow-banning

  • Avoid using banned hashtags: many social media platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, have a list of banned hashtags that go against their community guidelines. Using these hashtags in your posts can result in your content being hidden from the platform’s search results, or even in your account being suspended. So be sure to limit your use of these hashtags and instead look for relevant and appropriate hashtags that match your content.
  • Respect the platform’s guidelines: as we’ve said, every social media platform has specific community guidelines that users must comply with. Violating these guidelines by posting inappropriate or offensive content can result in a shadowban or even permanent account block. Therefore, it’s important to understand and follow these guidelines to ensure that your content is not penalized by the platform.

Let’s summarize once again:

  • Renounce spamming behavior, such as mass account tracking and unsubscribing, or leaving irrelevant comments on contributions. This can also lead the platform to consider you a bot or spam account, which can lead to a shadowban.
  • Keep abreast of the platform’s guidelines and terms of use, and make sure your content and behavior comply with them. This implies that you do not publish hateful, violent, illegal, or sexually explicit content.
  • Be careful with the hashtags you use. Do not use banned hashtags, i.e. hashtags flagged by the platform as being in breach of community guidelines. The use of forbidden hashtags may result in a shadow ban or even account suspension.

Interact with your followers and the community in an authentic and meaningful way. This will help you create a strong, engaged fan community that can increase your visibility on the platform.

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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