As a good marketer, you probably already know the importance of adding hashtags to every single one of your Instagram posts for better visibility. After all, when someone follows that particular hashtag or looks up posts with a particular theme, it makes it easier for them to find what you’ve published.
However, like most things online these days, there is a downside to consider. Instagram is increasingly cracking down on the use of so-called banned hashtags. If you’re using these terms, then you could find yourself in a situation where your eCommerce brand account is at risk, even if you're accidentally making the mistake. Scary right? Here’s what you need to know.
Wait… Instagram Actually Bans Hashtags?
Yes, Instagram really does ban hashtags. Some critics claim this is a freedom of speech issue, but the reality is that the platform doesn’t want certain types of sensitive content to appear on the site. For example, negative Instagram posts include those that are overly sexual or feature violent topics. Fair enough, right?
Unfortunately, that means that sometimes completely innocent accounts are caught in the crossfire, even if their actual content has nothing to do with these themes. That’s why it is so important to always check your hashtags against the banned tags list before making a post.
How a Hashtag Gets Added to the IG Ban List
That stirs up the question, what causes a hashtag to be banned in the first place? Well, the true answer comes down to user reports. If the content is deemed inappropriate or does not meet Instagram’s terms of service (TOS), they’ll take the post down and warn the account that posted it.
During this process, they look for what hashtags are being used and take notes. More frequently used hashtags with lots of user reports mean a particular term could get the ban hammer from the powers that be. Some of these instances make total sense, while others are a little more baffling. (Like #beautyblogger or #valentinesday.)
Reasons for Banning Hashtags
As we’ve mentioned, Instagram just wants to make sure there aren’t any inappropriate posts circulating on their watch. Like other social media platforms over the years, they understand that certain topics stir up issues or even promote illegal activity. And that’s why they monitor hashtags closely.
For eCommerce brands, this is actually a good thing: They have this policy to keep you from accidentally being associated with a topic or particular controversial group that you might not want to be linked to. And, you don’t want your posts to show up in the company of spam when searching a particular hashtag, right?
What Happens If a Brand Uses a Banned Hashtag?
If a brand uses a banned hashtag accidentally, there’s a good chance nothing will happen the first time. However, if you keep using it on a regular basis, you could receive a shadowban. What does this mean?
It means that your posts won’t show up under that particular hashtag, or they could hide them from your followers for a set period of time. The easiest way to get rid of a shadowban is to wait it out and ensure you’re not doing anything against Instagram’s TOS or using the banned hashtags. Usually, the ban will go away within a few days to weeks. Repeated infractions could lead to an overall account ban.
Protecting Your Brand When Choosing Hashtags
So, how do you know what hashtags to use and which ones to skip? If you’re looking to protect your eCommerce brand, double-check lists like this one before making a post. Also, think about how any terms you’re using might be connected with a controversial subject or topic.
While there is no clear way to check your hashtags against a ban list since most are totally off the wall, using your thinking cap and really brainstorming why a particular tag might be banned is a good way to stay out of trouble.
Common Banned Instagram Hashtags
Sadly, Instagram doesn’t have a published list of banned hashtags. They also change all the time, with some being removed from the naughty list and others being added seemingly all the time.
But there are a few that routinely end up on the banned list and really don’t ever move. Here are a few to remove from your rotation.
Also, terms like #happythanksgiving and #valentinesday seem to be temporarily on the ban list around the time of the year. We would guess this is to keep post-flooding from happening on the actual day of the holiday, but Instagram has neither confirmed nor denied this.
We’re Your Instagram Experts
If you aren’t sure where to start with your social media marketing, we would love to hear from you. Our CAKE team of Instagram expert consultants can help you plan out your content, promote your brand with influencers, and avoid small mistakes like banned hashtags. Please contact us today for details.