Is Your Cannabis Brand Victim to an Instagram Shadowban? (How to Tell and What to Do About it)
By: Rachel Garland
Have you noticed a substantial decline in engagement on your Instagram account?
Are the hashtags you’re using no longer visible?
Do your followers seem unresponsive?
If so, there’s a chance your cannabis business could be victim to a shadowban. Luckily this doesn’t mean your account is gone. However, it is a serious blow to your marketing.
Here’s how to tell if your cannabis brand has been shadowbanned and what you can do about it.
What is an instagram Shadowban?
A shadowban is when Instagram hides your posts from public view.
Your account is not removed. However, it makes your profile nearly invisible.
A shadowban hides your profile from Search and Explore on Instagram. It also makes your hashtags virtually worthless. Some users have even reported their posts appeared lower in their followers’ feed, or worse yet, not at all.
Instagram has yet to officially recognize shadowbans.
In fact, if your account does have a shadowban, you won’t even be notified. It’s likely because Instagram doesn’t want you to know. For now, shadowbans (also sometimes referred to as being blacklisted) have made their way around the blogging world.
From what we do understand, shadowbans can happen to anyone on Instagram.
Having a cannabis account does not make you more susceptible to a shadowban. Instead, specific behaviors increase the likelihood your account is targeted.
What kind of behavior?
Basically, anything that looks spammy. Instagram wants authentic, human engagement. If it looks like you're acting like a bot, you're more likely to get flagged.
signs you've Been Shadow banned
How do you know if your account has been affected?
Significant drops in engagement or follower growth indicate your Instagram account may have a shadowban.
One way to check whether or not you are dealing with a shadowban is by doing a hashtag search.
Upload a post and include a relevant hashtag. Make sure you don't pick something too competitive like #cannabis or #maryjane. Millions of pictures are associated with these hashtags. Your post is likely to get lost in the mix.
Instead, opt for a hashtag in the thousands range like #cannabis420 or #cannabislifestyle.
Publish your post with at least 1 hashtag
Search for the hashtag you used on Instagram. It should appear under "Most Recent"
If your post does not appear, it is likely you’ve been shadowbanned.
Step-by-step directions to check if your Instagram account has a shadowban👇
Another way to double check is by asking your followers if they can view your posts.
If your posts do not appear under the hashtags you used or in their feed, then you know your account has been affected.
What Causes a Shadowban?
So why does an account get shadow banned in the first place?
More often than not, it’s due to what Instagram deems as spammy behavior.
Things like repetitive comments, constant liking, and posting too many times per day increase the likelihood of a shadowban.
Here are some common ways accounts are shadowbanned on Instagram:
Using Restricted or Banned Hashtags
Did you know #weed and #weedstagram are considered restricted hashtags on Instagram?
Restricted hashtags are censored.When you look them up, only a few results will pop up. Normally, it’s no more than 30.
You may be surprised by what terms are restricted on Instagram. Common words like #women #workflow and #goddess all make the list.
Banned hashtags, on the other hand, are completely blocked. These words tend to offensive and sexual in nature.
Avoid accidentally using restricted or banned hashtags by searching terms before posting. If you notice only a few results appear or nothing at all, steer clear.
Above all, be strategic with the hashtags you post.
Repetitively Using the Same Hashtags
Instagram will flag you if you keep using the same hashtags over and over again. The platform views this activity as spamming.
Therefore, you need to diversify your hashtags.
Now, you can use a selected hashtag repetitively. For example, a branded hashtag like #womenofcannabiz with every post is fine. However, if the same group of hashtags is posted alongside it, it’s likely to get flagged.
In other words, don't keeping using the same hashtags in all of your posts.
Organizing your hashtags into segmented groups will help add variety. It’s also more efficient.
I recommend naming and storing hashtag lists in the notes section on your phone.
This way, you can easily copy and paste them when you're ready to post. As long as you keep your content varied then your activity will not be considered spammy.
Using Software in Violation with Instagram’s Terms and Conditions
Are you using a bot to grow your Instagram account?
If so, STOP🙅 Immediately.
These services are in direct violation of Instagram’s Terms and Conditions.
Software and apps that try to automate your activity will seriously harm your account in the long run. Using these tools may not only lead to a shadowban, Instagram could shut down your profile for good.
It’s already risky being a cannabis brand on Instagram.
Why use a service that’s in direct violation? You might as well throw up a red flag on your own account.
Instagram is cracking down on automation.
Abusing Following, Liking, and Posting Limits
Instagram sets limits on your activity. This includes things like following users, liking posts, and leaving comments.
Exceeding the maximum number of actions will temporarily block your Instagram account.
In general, you’ll want to avoid:
150+ like per hour
60+ comments per hour
60+ follows/unfollows per hour
Chances are, you won’t even reach these limits.
But if you have a new account on Instagram, you will need to closely watch your activity. Newer accounts face stricter limits. Therefore, if you’re managing a new profile, focus on spreading your activities out over time.
In other words, don't go on a massive liking or following spree.
Instagram is looking for human activity. Too many actions at once, especially by a new account, will make your account appear like a spammer or bot.
Be present but don't go overboard.
Trying to blatantly promote Cannabis or Hemp Sales
There are a lot of unkowns in the cannabis world when it comes to marketing.
At this point, nothing is set in stone.
But from personal research and talking with other professionals in the industry, I can tell you direct cannabis promotions on Instagram are a bad idea.
I’m not talking about paid advertising through Instagram. That's completely prohibited to cannabis brands. 🙄
I’m talking about trying to promote products on your posts.
If you’re selling flower, edibles, tinctures, etc – you need to be especially mindful with your wording.
The vast majority of cannabis and hemp businesses that were shadowbanned were affected after trying to promote a product.
Using phrases like “buy one get one free edibles” or “dope weed delivery on demand” are more likely to get your account flagged. In fact, Instagram may even remove your account depending on the situation.
The real story here?
Be careful with your wording, especially if you’re selling cannabis products.
Here's an example of a good post on Instagram and one that could get your account shadowbanned:
(These are NOT real ads, strictly examples.)
Why could posting the first image be potentially dangerous for your account?
It's a direct promotion. Any attempt to blatantly sell cannabis on Instagram could get you flagged. If you're someone who is selling cannabis or cannabis-infused products, you're going to have to get creative to avoid this.
I recommend staying away from using text in your posts when marketing cannabis products or sales. You're better off posting a plain image or video for promotions.
Keep in mind you'll also need to be strategic with your messaging. In the caption section, avoid using text that insinuates you're selling cannabis. Basically, don't let Instagram think you are trying to sell weed on its platform.
Sharing educational, engaging, and entertaining posts that offer something of real value to your target audience are key to brand building. Take @inyo.lv, @honeypot.supply, or @serracannabis Instagram accounts, for example.
Notice that while all of these companies are selling cannabis products – their posts are branded, eye-catching, and engaging all without being blatant?
No matter what cannabis product or service you're selling on Instagram, the key takeaway here is to be strategic in your approach.
Buying Followers or Likes
Buying followers or likes is a quick way to ruin your brand’s reputation.
These vanity measures offer no real value. Plus, you could be shadowbanned.
Instagram strictly prohibits buying followers or likes.
Today’s technology makes it really easy for Instagram to tell whether activity is by a bot or not. Brands who continually use bots will eventually be caught.
Stay away from these shady practices and focus on building a real audience.
Your Account is Constantly Being Reported
If your account is reported by enough users, you could be shadowbanned.
You can avoid this for the most part by not posting obscene or inappropriate content. Unfortunately though, it’s often a case of rivalry between competitors in the cannabis industry. Instead of stepping up their own game, people report their competition to Instagram to have them banned or removed.
Don't be one of these people.
Invest your energy into growing your audience.
(And if by chance someone does try and blacklist your account, don't give up. A shadowban will only kill your account if you allow it to. Scroll down for steps you can take to get your account back.👇 )
What to Do if Your instagram Account has a Shadowban
So your account has been shadowbanned, now what?
The good news is that this too shall pass.
A shadowban isn’t permanent.
But you will need to take some precautions in the meantime.
First, if you are using any forms of automation (something that likes, posts, follows, or comments for you) STOP.
Using autobots to grow your following is a bad idea. If you continue, it's likely Instagram will permanently shut your account down. Consider it lucky that you only have a shadownban.
Next, take a break from Instagram for 48 hours.
Do not even log in. A lot of users who have experienced shadowbans say this break helps reset your account.
After 48 hours, gradually start engaging again.
I recommend posting no more than once or twice per day for the first 15 days. You’ll also want to limit your number of likes, comments, and follows during this period.
Slow and steady wins the race here.
Instagram is about community and relationship building. This doesn’t happen overnight.
Don’t sweat it if you don’t have 10k, 25k, 100k, etc. It’s better to have 100 followers that love you than 1,000 followers who don’t care. If you stay true to your voice and mission, while giving people real value, your tribe will come.
Has your cannabis business experienced a shadowban? Let us know in the comments below.
AUTHOR: RACHEL GARLAND
Rachel Garland is the founder of Women of Cannabiz. A professional cannabis writer and educator – she is dedicated to empowering women in combining passion and purpose to make a positive impact. Rachel is currently based in Mexico but travels to other places with palm trees frequently.