How Baseball and Softball Brands Can Avoid Instagram Shadowbans

March 08, 2024

25 min read

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If you’re a baseball or softball entrepreneur, you no doubt rely on your Instagram profile to grow your brand. 

So when your account’s engagement suddenly drops off a cliff and posts stop appearing for the hashtags you use, it’s a big problem. 

In such a case, your account might be what social media experts call “shadowbanned” by Instagram.

Shadowbanning is a way for the social media platform to manually or algorithmically penalize and discourage behaviors it doesn’t like.  

Essentially, shadowbanning prevents your posts from being discovered by users who don’t already follow you. Your baseball or softball content is relegated to the social shadows, with no chance of reaching the light of new eyes, ears, hearts, and minds.  

And when this happens, your hashtags – one of your best tools for reaching new audiences – are rendered useless. 

This article will cover everything you need to know about shadowbanning, including:

  • What is an Instagram shadowban?
  • Why is shadowban used?
  • Ways to tell you’ve been shadowbanned
  • Reasons your account has been shadowbanned and solutions 

What is Instagram Shadowbanning?

📚 Definition: When the posts from your Instagram account can only be seen by current followers, it’s called a shadowban. 

Even if you’ve included hashtags on your post and users search for those hashtags, your posts won’t show up in the search – unless those users are already following you. 

To be clear, there’s no notification from Instagram when a shadowban happens – it’s done without your knowledge. 

Shadowbanning isn’t exclusive to Instagram, though. Twitter shadowbans accounts as well. 

Twitter will also temporarily prevent users from accessing their accounts if it feels they’ve broken their terms of service. 

Although “shadowban” implies locking someone out without telling them, Twitter will, at the very least, often inform users when they’ve been issued a shadowban. 

And, no matter the social media platform in question, if your posts aren’t discoverable by users who don’t already follow you, it can be extremely detrimental to your brand’s growth. 

The whole point of using hashtags is to help people find you on Instagram. When your posts don’t show up in search, you could see a big drop in engagement. 

If you’re looking to take your hashtag game and Instagram growth to the next level, don’t miss our ultimate guide to baseball and softball hashtags

But there’s an elephant in this shadowy room.

Officially, Instagram has not admitted to shadowbanning. 

There’s been more than enough evidence from Instagram users and marketers, however, to all but definitely show that the company engages in the practice. 

When the news about shadowbanning came to a head a few years ago, Instagram released a statement about their policy. 

Again, they didn’t outright admit to shadowbanning, but said they were aware of “issues with our hashtag search” and that they were “continuously working on improvements to our system.” 

The rest of their statement advised Instagram business accounts to focus on the quality of content rather than hashtags for genuine engagement.  

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Why Does Instagram Shadowban Baseball and Softball Brands?

Since shadowbanning isn’t officially recognized by Instagram, marketers and experts have had to put the pieces together as to why shadowbanning happens in the first place. 

Generally, shadowbans are put in place to discourage spammy or inappropriate behavior on the platform. 

Instagram doesn’t want content that’s abusive or which violates its terms of service to be promoted, so shadowbanning keeps this content from being seen. 

We’ll cover the most common specific reasons in a later section of this article.

But, for now, just know that in Instagram’s eyes shadowbanning is a way of making sure users see only authentic, helpful content. 

Shadowbanning hasn’t been that straightforward in reality, though. 

The controversy has been that even activities considered “non-spammy” or completely appropriate have led to shadowbans.

The use of bots, auto-posters, and other black hat strategies are logical reasons an Instagram account might be shadowbanned – these activities clearly violate the platform’s terms of service.

But some users have reported that just using the same hashtags repeatedly got them shadowbanned.

Many Instagram brands use the same hashtags on their posts to connect with their broader community, so getting shadowbanned for that doesn’t seem fair. 

Why would Instagram impose a shadowban on accounts that are simply trying to expand their message’s reach? 

Some Instagram experts have suggested that Instagram wants to decrease the potency of influencer marketing, forcing businesses to use its paid ads instead. But others chalk such overreach up to incompetence. 

Regardless of the “why,” it’s important to note that Instagram changes its algorithms frequently – very frequently.

And each change tweaks the values and rewards for certain content you might post or and actions you might take on the platform. 

So the decreased engagement for your baseball or softball Instagram profile right now could just be a result of one of these changes, rather than a shadowban. 

Fortunately, there are few ways to test if your account has been shadowbanned or if you’ve simply gotten lower engagement due to some algorithmic fiddling.

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How to Know if You’re Baseball or Softball Account is Shadowbanned on Instagram

Before you assume you’ve been shadowbanned and go report it to Instagram, try these methods below to be sure. 

1. Use different accounts

If you’ve been shadowbanned, your posts won’t show up in the hashtag search results.

To test this, make a new post using two or three very unpopular hashtags. Put some hashtags in your caption as well as in your first comment.

Make sure they’re hashtags with a low number of associated posts. Otherwise, you won’t be able to tell if you’re shadowbanned or if it’s just that there’s too much competition for the hashtags. 

Next, ask three to five friends to unfollow you and search for your post using one of these unpopular hashtags you’ve used. 

If your post appears in either Top Posts or Recent Posts for these hashtags, then you’re fine. 

But if your post does not show up for any of the people who checked on your behalf,  then you are likely shadowbanned.

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Caption: use unpopular hashtags to check if your account is shadowbanned.

2. Shadowban analyzer tool

The first option is fairly foolproof, but if you want another way to confirm you’re shadowbanned, you could use a shadowban analyzer. 

Be wary of these kinds of tools though, as they may not be totally accurate. And many of them are also phishing scams.

If an analyzer asks you to log in to Instagram to check for a shadowban, it could steal your credentials and hack your account. 

🧢 Pro Tip: Instead look for a shadowban testing tool that lets you search your account just by putting in your username. 

If you’ve run both tests and determined that your baseball or softball Instagram account has in fact been shadowbanned, don't fret. 

Luckily, there are several steps you can take.  

If you’re not shadowbanned, however, it’s still good to practice the steps we’re going to lay out below to avoid ever being banned in the first place.

Baseballmonkey Account Relies Hashtags B P063
@BaseballMonkey account relies on hashtags for users to find their baseball-related content.

Why Your Account is Shadowbanned Specifically – and Exactly How to Fix It

According to Instagram marketing expert Alex Tooby, there are four reasons why your account could be shadowbanned. 

1. Software that violates their terms of service

Software to avoid would be bots or non-approved auto-posting tools. 

If you’re curious, we actually put together an ultimate guide to batching your Instagram posts like a pro that covers which approved auto-posting tool is best for baseball and softball creators.

But, returning to shadowbans, any service that “grows” your followers and claims to do the work for you on Instagram is likely software that violates the platform’s terms of service. 

Be wary of the following tools – and any like them:

  • Followliker
  • Mass Planner
  • Boostly
  • Social Envy
  • Socially Rich
  • Grum
  • Onlypult
  • Schedugram

Also, it’s worth adding that if you have multiple accounts and you’re only using automated services on one of them, it can still affect your other accounts when it comes to shadowbanning. 

Now, let’s tell you how to fix this penalty and get back into good standing. 

The Solution

Stop using bots. If you ever used bots at any point in the past, disable them. 

You can do this by accessing your Instagram account on desktop web view, navigating to settings, then Authorized Applications, and revoking the access of apps and software that auto-post or auto-follow.

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2. Too much activity

Instagram actually limits users’ alloted daily activities.

So if you exceed these limits, your account will appear suspicious. 

You’re allowed to like, comment, and follow up to a certain number times based on the age of your account. 

Typically, the older the account, the higher the limits. 

So if you’re following or unfollowing more than 60 accounts, liking more than 150 posts, or adding more than 60 comments per hour, then Instagram might consider you a bot – whether you do this manually or not. 

If this happens, it could result in a shadowban. 

The Solution

Take a few days away from Instagram. Give it a full 48 hours before you even log in again. 

Once you do, stick to Instagram’s activity limits. And do so manually, of course, without bots.

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3. Using a broken or abused hashtag

One or more of your chosen hashtags may be broken or being abused in the eyes of Instagram. 

Sometimes, hashtags can be linked to inappropriate content, which causes the platform to either limit the hashtag’s use or ban it completely. 

Even the most innocent-sounding hashtags can be abused and end up banned on Instagram. It’s difficult to control how other people categorize their content. 

If you’re using a single banned or broken hashtag, it essentially negates the rest of your hashtags. The result? 

You don’t rank for any of your hashtags, even the non-banned ones, AKA, a shadowban.

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The Solution

Check if any of your regularly used hashtags are banned or broken. 

To do this, search for the hashtag and if you see a Top Posts section only, then it’s probably been banned. 

Sometimes Instagram will include a message explaining that the hashtag has been banned as well.

Brickwallsoftball Run Pitching Coach Nyree White B P063
@brickwallsoftball, run by pitching coach Nyree White, creates posts with rich, detailed content, rather than hashtags, to expand her reach. There are many ways up the mountain.

4. Your account is reported often

Being reported by another Instagram user isn’t enough to get you shadowbanned. Instagram has to determine if your content violates the terms of service first. 

If, however, your account is reported by other users continually, it will snag Instagram’s attention and they’re more likely to take action. Your account could be shadowbanned or fully disabled. 

The Solution

If your account is consistently being reported then you’re probably posting content that users find offensive. 

Compare your content with similar baseball and softball accounts, to see why your posts might not be appropriate. And follow all of Instagram’s rules and regulations as closely as you can. 

Two More Solutions for Fixing or Preventing Instagram Shadowbans

1. Report it to Instagram

You can send an error report to Instagram within the app, letting them know there’s a problem. 

Pretty obvious move, but there's some gamesmanship here.

🧢 Pro Tip: Rather than mentioning your engagement has dropped, say that your posts “aren’t being categorized in their respective hashtags.” Also, avoid saying you’ve been hacked unless you’re absolutely sure that you have been. 

2. Switch to a personal account

This solution isn’t as proven as the previous ones, but Later – the post scheduling software that works closely with Instagram company insiders – suggests switching from a business account to a personal one to help get the shadowban lifted. 

Their logic is that if Instagram is indeed just tanking engagement to try to get businesses to pay for more ads, then personal accounts will be less bothered.

You can always switch back at a future date to take advantage of the business account benefits once again.

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Wrapping Up How Baseball and Softball Brands Can Avoid Instagram Shadowbans

For most baseball and softball entrepreneurs, hashtags are still one of the best ways to increase engagement on Instagram. 

The platform has neither confirmed nor denied the shadowban, but it’s already proven to affect many Instagram users. 

Be conscious of the Instagram shadowban and take the right steps to avoid being penalized.

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About the Author

Mike Rogers

Co-Founder & CEO

Mike Rogers has spent a lifetime entrenched in baseball and softball as a player, a private instructor, a training facility owner, and the son of two college-level coaches.

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