Instagram Shadowban? What Marketers Need to Know
Wondering if your account is at risk for an Instagram “shadowban”?
In this article, you’ll discover how to avoid activities that can result in reduced visibility on Instagram.
Is There an Instagram Shadowban?
Before discussing the limits imposed on Instagram activities, I want to clarify the confusion about the term “shadowban.” It was first coined in early 2017 by a photographer who noticed his images weren’t appearing in certain hashtag searches. It was hypothesized that many photographers’ images weren’t showing up in certain searches or that different people would see different content in the same hashtag search.
It wasn’t made clear to the public that Instagram now has an algorithmic sort applied to hashtag search results. This means that for certain searches, different users may see different content results. And the same user may even see different content when looking at the same search at different times. So no, there isn’t a “shadowban” on any accounts using any hashtags.
Unfortunately, as the term gained popularity, it has also been used to explain decreases in reach or engagement, account restrictions, or other negative results on Instagram. Again, none of these are attributed to any type of a shadowban. The Instagram algorithm plays a large role in reach, which is regulated by numerous factors, many of which the public isn’t privy to.
As for account restrictions, those usually happen only when an account or user behaves in a way that Instagram has deemed to be spam-like in nature. These are the types of activities that exceed a limit Instagram determined to be within a “normal” user range. So what are these limits? Let’s break them down more distinctly.
#1: Respect Follow and Unfollow Boundaries
There’s actually a limit on the number of accounts you can follow on Instagram. That limit is 7,500 accounts. Once you hit that limit, you will have to unfollow someone to be able to follow someone new.
That being said, 7,500 accounts is a lot of content to follow! It would be very difficult for an average user to successfully interact with that many people and that much content. In contrast, though, there are no limits on how many people can follow your account, regardless of whether you’re a personal or business account.
Instagram also has fairly strict limits as to the number of people you can follow within a certain time period, although a few factors impact this number. Newer accounts have lower limits on the number of accounts they can follow hourly or daily. The size of your account (the number of people following you) may also contribute to the limit you can reach.
While there are some limits Instagram explicitly outlines, the limits for how many accounts you can follow hourly and daily aren’t clearly defined anywhere. There’s conflicting information around the Internet but the best confirmed and conservative data I have indicates a limit of 30 follows per hour and a total of 800 follows per day.
Again, some people may be allowed to exceed these limits, depending on various account factors including engagement on their own account content. But pushing these limits puts you at risk of exceeding allowances and having your account put on restriction for a minimum of 24 hours.
In addition to following, there are similar limits to the number of accounts you can unfollow in an hour or day. You can use the same conservative numbers listed for following limits above.
#2: Limit Likes to 350 per Hour
One of the more clearly stated limits on Instagram is the number of likes you can perform. This action is capped at 350 likes per hour. If you exceed that limit, your account will likely be flagged for spam activity and have its access restricted for a minimum of 24 hours. After repeated violations of this limit, the restriction to your account will last longer each time, leading up to a permanent disabling of your account.
When it comes to leaving comments on Instagram posts, again there are conflicting sources of information, and Instagram doesn’t provide the exact number. A conservative limit for comments would be 100 per day.
In addition to the number of comments, Instagram does explicitly outline that you can’t @mention more than five people in an individual comment and you can’t post the same comment repeatedly. This means you can’t copy and paste the same generic comment onto multiple posts.
#3: Limit Group Direct Messages to 15 Recipients
In addition to likes and comments, Instagram has restrictions on direct messages. You can send a direct message to a single user or a group of up to 15 people.
Each direct message can contain up to 500 characters. When you reach that cap, no more characters will appear in the text. You can send that message and continue typing in an additional message.
#4: Cap Hashtags at 30 per Post
Instagram clearly regulates the number of hashtags on a post to 30. If you exceed 30 hashtags in your post caption or a comment, the caption or comment won’t post on upload.
Many people try to double this hashtag usage by placing 30 hashtags in the caption and then another 30 in a comment. Technically, you can do this, but Instagram will only recognize the first 30 hashtags added to the post. Therefore, if the hashtags in the caption were added first, the post won’t appear in any searches for the hashtags used in the comment on that post.
#5: Tag No More Than 20 Users per Post
You can tag up to 20 people in an Instagram post. This is done through the Tag People function during the upload process or via a tag when editing a published post.
On an Instagram story post, you can tag up to 10 people in the post.
As you can see, there are a lot of restrictions imposed on various Instagram features and activities. This list isn’t meant to give you a cheat sheet to manipulate the system, but to help keep you in alignment with Instagram’s regulations. Hopefully, it will also reassure you that Instagram won’t restrict you for performing normal interactions on the platform.
What do you think? Does this information help guide you in your Instagram activities? Please share your thoughts or tips in the comments below.