What is going on with Instagram? Shadowbans, broken hashtags, limited reach, sheep effect

Instagram is giving away free headaches these days. I remember when I first started and things were going smooth, the algorithm was showing photos in chronological order, but now things are so damn different. The algorithm is constantly changing, posts are hidden from friends and followers (at a point, my own family couldn’t see my photos in their news feed, lame, right?) and hashtags are broken which makes it impossible to get discovered.

Before getting started, I’d just like to make it clear that this is not a post where I would be whining about the number of likes I receive or so. It’s about Instagram who is limiting our creative work, it’s also about Instagram who is turning this platform into a place that promotes accounts with very similar photos, same edits or presets, same poses, almost same outfits and so on. You probably know what I’m talking about. We all love seeing a pink sky every now and then, but seeing a billion photos with pink pastel edits, pink skies, fake birds and what seems to look like a perfect life it makes me feel sick to my stomach. Some influencers even released Lightroom/Photoshop presets and people rush to buy them so they can get the exact same tone in their photos. I get it, you might like that specific edit and you have no clue how to recreate it, so the only legit solution is buying a preset that looks like that one or why not just the same preset if the person who you are following is selling it. But you know, the internet is full of resources, youtube is filled with videos about photo editing, there are plenty of articles from photographers and freelancers and so on. Why don’t you just try to learn how to make something similar but with your own twist?

We are all unique, just be yourself and you will find a suitable niche. Try to learn how to edit, put some real effort into what you’re doing, try to think out of the box instead of turning into a sheep. Don’t you think that would be a lot better? I really can’t stand seeing more photos that look like a carbon copy, try to check Pinterest or magazines, search for what you like on Google or Tumblr, get an idea and add your own twist to it. Remix it, make it yours, but please, I am begging you, stop copying the same photos over and over again just because they get an enormous amount of likes. This topic was also brought up on Instagram by many artists and I really wish some people will get a wake up call and stop the sheep effect. I’m aware that things might not change, but hey it’s worth giving it a shot and hoping for the best. Let’s stop copying and let’s start creating unique content. You are all unique, so take advantage of that. Just be yourself, everyone else is taken.

So now back to the platform that is creating monsters, I really love Instagram, I adore it with all my heart, but its current state is getting me sick. Since it was bought by Facebook things constantly changed. Why tho? Probably because they want people to invest in their non-effective promotion tools. I’ve been testing out Facebook ads and post boosts in 2016 and guess what? They’re just a waste of money, those tools don’t boost your posts or your page. I was getting a few likes on my photos, but the reach was the same as when I didn’t have the posts boosted and the likes I was getting were from some weird looking pages that looked like fake profiles. So after a few months of testing it out I came to the conclusion that it’s just a waste of money and I stopped doing it. So the same thing happens with the silly Instagram promotion tools. I haven’t tried those, but I have friends who did try them and had the same results as I had with Facebook ads. Their reach was low and the likes were coming from spam accounts. So why would we invest in something that’s not working? Just because you’re money hungry Instagram?

Let us reach the people who are following us, the people who are genuinely loving our work and want to see it. That’s pretty clear since they followed us in the first place, right? But oh well, I guess Instagram has a very different point of view. We worked on gaining a loyal following, so why are you trying to take that away from us? People have reported losing plenty of followers in the past few weeks, a lower increase in likes and a much lower reach. Thing is they did nothing different, they kept doing what worked best for them, but suddenly that seemed to go wrong. Same thing happened to me, I kept posting at my usual times, when most of my audience would be online and engage with my work, but somehow my posts didn’t perform as well as before. Switched to a business account to access Insights and my reach kept dropping for no reason. I’ll put that on the new algorithm which decides who is talented enough and who isn’t. They just keep encouraging the sheep effect, fake it till you make it. Put a fake smile on your face, show some skin, wear the shortest skirt in your wardrobe, your skinniest jeans, grow your hair, dye it blonde, buy a pastel preset and you’ll do good. Well, not everyone is willing to do that. You can’t force us all to stick to a very specific niche, we are different, I personally like seeing diversity, but all I see is copies, copies and more copies.

So Instagram, please stop messing up with our work and small business. Stop holding likes and engagement from us. It’s really funny when I look at my newest posts and compare them with older ones, the new ones receive about half of the engagement I used to get, that’s how growing looks like to you?

Just fix the algorithm already, bring back the chronological one, this one is harming us and affects a bunch of artists and businesses. As @sarahloven pointed out, ‘many users have experienced forced unfollows, their real life friends are no longer following them and they also noticed a drastic drop in their engagement’. So how are you making things better Instagram?

Stop it with the red flags and shadowbans for overly using too many hashtags. Why penalize people for using the max allowed number of hashtags? How does that make any sense to you? Also why shadowban people for using the same hashtags daily? Obviously we will use what works best for us. I took the time to research mine and found 30 hashtags that worked really well for me, why would I change them into something that wouldn’t be as good?

And on top of that, there are some new glitches, we are able to follow only up to 1-2 new accounts a day. LOL. What if I discover 10 kickass accounts and I want to follow them all? I can’t, because you don’t want to let people grow, right? These things are really ridiculous and I really hope more people will use their voice and talk about this problem. Feel free to share this article on your stories or wherever, let others know what’s going on too. #takebackInstagram

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  1. The problem is that almost all social media platforms are changing the way their algorithms work, and by the looking at what the new algorithm promotes, you can also deduce what their new business strategy is. After all, these companies are in business to make money and they are constantly trying to find new ways to be more profitable. What happens to Instagram now is similar to what Youtube did a couple of months ago and how they changed their focus towards media companies.

    One mistake I think creators made was relying heavily on these social media platforms for revenue and following, instead of trying to monetize off their website, a place which they have can control fully. Yes, I understand that Instagram was once a great place for creators and that without them, Instagram would be nowhere it is today, but that is a thing of the past. The best solution is to look for alternative ways of making a revenue of content creation and that you have full control over. The following video is about the changes on Youtube, but it applies pretty well for Instagram and Facebook too: https://youtu.be/XU9O50gLpr8

  2. I am so sick of it! I can’t create content for likes and I don’t want to, either! We are all grown individuals and we should be allowed to have our own identity and voice, not being forced into some IT-girl competition to see who has the most fantasy life style. it is even harder to discover good fashion these days on IG, so sad.

  3. I’m so sick of Instagram, the constant changing is driving me insane, I can’t even keep up! The shadow banning is such a bad idea, I don’t see the point at all! And it’s so frustrating that I follow so many people but only see the same 10 posts over and over, it doesn’t feel like a social network anymore :/

    Anika | anikamay.co.uk

  4. I’m really fed up of all the latest algorithm changes on social media. They stopped becoming social as it’s all about making money. I tried Facebook ads myself too but I just wasted lots of money.

    Her Style Hive

  5. Yes, yes, YES! I am so in agreement with everything you said in this post. It is horrible how quickly small creators are going from feeling like they can really make a go at self-employment due to their Instagram reach to their growth screeching to a half and those hopes and dreams going down the drain. The fact that ONE platform has the power to do that to so many of us is absolutely infuriating. It used to be such a positive platform and now it feels like we are penalized for some trivial, ever-changing behavior on a daily basis. I hope this cause continues to grow because so many of us are saying the exact same thing. As a brand, wouldn’t you want to listen?

  6. The new algorithm is so incredibly frustrating! Mostly because it’s so hard for me to see posts I actually want to see : / And second because it’s becoming so hard to grow. I’ve also tried their promotion function but it did nothing, and I subsequently changed my account from business to personal.
    Hopefully they bring back the chronological.
    Have always loved your photos and your style! Keep doing what you do.

    Catherine X

  7. I agree with what you say. I also agree with the first commenter that it is most important to have your own site because you have full control and Instagram and Facebook can do what they like and their main goal is to make money. I understand that, but at the same time, a successful business knows the most important part of that is happy customers and Instagrams customers, us, are NOT happy.

  8. That´s so true! I also wrote about Instagram on my blog because I was so frustrated about it and its algorithm. It turned out to be almost impossible to be seen organically. I also had an experience with Facebook ads and guess what? I just lost more than 200 dollars and got nothing back. Instagram promotions used to be quite ok, but now they are also different. You get less visibility and no new followers for your money. Instead of showing your promotion on profiles of other people they show it to your followers. I got asked several times, why my friends see my promotions when they follow me already… It´s kinda weird. I don´t know either.

    Have a great day!



  9. Couldn’t have said it better myself! I was just talking to Pip about this the other day. She was editing our photos and I was pointing out how I enjoy watching her edit and how irritating it is to keep seeing all of the pink skies and candy colored perfection. There is a blogger in our area with a huge following. Her photos don’t even remotely look like South Florida. The skies are pink and everything has this strange glow. It’s not like that here! All the accounts we see look the same and it’s starting to become utterly redundant. We’ve been struggling to grow our Instagram. The amount of followers we gain, we lose almost instantly. It’s very odd how we gain a follower and in the very same moment we lose one. Seems peculiar.

    We’ve also dealt with shadow bans from using the same hashtags and the 30 hashtag limit. We try to vary it now, but it’s hard when you found hashtags you like and want to stick with.

    I’m glad you addressed this issue. It’s exactly how we have been feeling.

  10. Great post, as someone trying to grow on IG this whole ever-changing algorithm is getting old. I really just wish there were genuine ways to be able to grow and be seen out there without having to waste money on things that wont work. Thanks for sharing and being so thorough.

    Jani from http://www.mylifeinmedicineblog.com

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