Shadowbanned on your social platforms? Here's what to do

InsightFeatures Tue 16th Apr 2024 by Katrina Bell

Shadowbanned on your social platforms? Here's what to do

Shadowbanned on your social platforms? Here's what to do

Feature by Katrina Bell | Tue 16th Apr 2024

Katrina founded boutique digital agency Aardvark Multimedia in 2003, and has been a B2B journalist for over 25 years. She was the author of the Web Dr column for Essential Kitchen & Bathroom Business magazine focussing on online marketing strategies for KBB businesses. More

If your engagement has suddenly dropped significantly and is going nowhere, you may be in social Siberia – Katrina Bell explains what that means and how to get out of it.

Social networks rarely admit to it, but the platforms regularly indulge in a period of shadowbanning, which is when your content’s reach is significantly restricted without there seeming to be a cause.

Before you panic, it might just be that you are in '200 views jail’ – which is when TikTok decides your post isn't up to standard – and it isn’t necessarily the fault of the platform’s algorithm. It could actually be that your content just isn’t that good. Or at least it isn’t fulfilling a role for your followers so fails the quality test. But it's not just on TikTok – every account you have on social media will have a hidden ‘score’ which tells the platform how hard to promote your organic, non-paid-for content to users. A low score is tantamount to a pause on growth. But why does this happen?

A true shadowban is often caused by these misdemeanours:

Instagram shadowbans tend to occur when it’s deemed that you have violated its community guidelines and will usually last from between several days to a few weeks.

A February 2024 investigation by The Markup (a nonprofit newsroom that challenges technology to serve the public good) into the platform’s practices suggests that Instagram doesn’t just put accounts on the naughty step, but also effectively ‘chokes’ certain types of posts. So news sites and creator accounts with highly combustible content may indeed find themselves in the dark, however most infringements by business brands are more usually a potential copyright claim or unusual activity on your account that Instagram wants you to review.

Instagram and Facebook also penalise brands that engage in scammy practices such as badly designed giveaways. For instance, how often do you see ‘DM us to get a discount code at Amazon’ or ‘Follow us for the chance to win cash’? For the platforms, this amounts to a spam violation.

Similarly, if a platform suspects you of egregiously jumping on a hashtag bandwagon or buying followers, you will be deemed as having a lower credibility rating. While you serve your time in social prison, it’s worth remembering that you can get out of jail very quickly if you fork out for advertising.

X/Twitter is explicit in its Terms & Conditions that “it retains the right to create limits on use and storage at our sole discretion at any time” but claims it doesn’t shadowban. What is currently clear is that X has not got anywhere close to the number of moderators and engineers it needs, hence the huge spike in bots and trolls. Google ‘has my Twitter been shadowbanned’ to find out if your username is stuck in ‘invisible’ mode and if you need to appeal your sentence directly to X.

TikTok’s latest guidelines coming in April are also a significant example of why it’s so important to stay up to date on how all the networks prefer you to post, and to be able to react with suitable content. Failure to do so could result in a drop in reach. For instance, the short-form video platform has sharpened up the rules regarding using AI-generated images, rejigged the app so users can watch in either landscape or portrait mode and is actively encouraging the use of longer videos to keep users glued to the screen. 

The fact is, it's not your imagination – shadowbanning is real. Carefully tailoring content could be the answer, but if in doubt, you can always splash the cash.

Tags: insight, features, digital marketing, shadowbanning, social media marketing

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