In The Beginning…
I realize that for many who follow this blog, this topic may be out of sorts, however, I felt it was necessary to address. I won’t lie to you and tell you I have the secrets, the answers, or even the magic fix! I will tell you about my experience, my best tips, and how to really share your passions online without hindrance!
As you can tell from this blog, I am a lover of cosmetics – cosmeholic after all, but I also have a deep love for fashion as well. For many years, my instagram @Recycledstardust was a mix of both fashion and beauty. I have since streamlined and segregated my content with fashion moving on to my account @Fabulouslystardust. I have been using instagram as a platform to share my passion since 2012 and used it as a full-time job since 2015. So much has changed between 2012 snd 2015 just as so much as changed between 2015 and now! I am going to break them up into eras to really explain how instagram and its treatment of accounts truly plays into the social media experience.
When I first started my blog it was very raw. I get asked all the time, why did you start working in social media? I have to be honest, I wanted a place to BITCH! It wasn’t the age of social media it is now, advertisers were lying to customers, there was no one to check them, and you had no idea how a product really preformed until you bought it and put it on. You could then either trek back to the store, hopefully you still have your receipt, and return it, or just suck it up and hope that somehow the next release is better. I needed a place to vent my frustrations.
My first blog can be found at http://thecosmeholic.blogspot.com , which since January 1st 2012 has amassed 209,696 views! I find the number of views impressive considering I’ve abandoned it for years now aside from the occasional post here and there. It was my place and my space to really talk about beauty and fashion for no other sake than the fact that I wanted to do it. It was a labour of love.
When I first started my journey on instagram it was more for fun than anything else. Instagram was more about what instagram was … just instant posts that I would share with no real purpose. I joined because I was a bit of a jerk to my friend. I told her instagram was for hipsters and said things like “want to know how much a hipster weights? One instagram!!” ha! Seriously though, it wasn’t very nice, so I joined, told her I was sorry, and said see, now I’m a hipster!
The Good Life…
At the time, in 2012, my son was 2 years old, I had just gone back to school and I was rediscovering my joy for cosmetics – and discovering for the firs time, my joy of fashion. My blog, while still a place to bitch, started to include products I loved using, and looks I loved wearing. As time passed, I was starting to get noticed by brands as well. Valentines day gift from Pepsi, invite to NYFW thanks to Woolite, a package from Kiss to try their lashes, was this really my life? By 2014 I was attending NYFW regularly, so yes it was!
I started to post officially on instagram around this time as well as on youtube. I shared swatches, beauty subscription boxes, my outfits of the day, I was active, engaged, and I loved all the friends I made on instagram. We all were joined by our love of beauty, talking about new releases and our experiences. As a busy mom I didn’t have many friends in real life and even fewer that were as passionate about beauty as I was. In real life I was a nerd studying to be a science teacher and dissecting sheep livers, and online I was this cinderella beauty, who’d put on gorgeous clothes, attended events and was gifted products by my favorite brands. It felt unreal!
My account went from just a handful of followers to well over 10K in just about 2 years- maybe less. The comments and likes would fly in so quickly I would spend hours just trying to respond to everyone! Not long after I was soaring over 100K and then 150k, I was being PAID to post. In 2015, I stopped going to school, I was able to stay home and watch my son, I was no longer having to buy products or clothes, and I was making a livable income. Life was good!
In the middle of 2015, my first real smack of reality hit. The major brand that I was working with and making major commission from turned off my promo code. I stopped earning income just like that. They said they found it on a promo code site and thus have ceased its use. I went to the site they said they found it, others where there, others were all active. All I could think was, why was I targeted? After months of trying to live on less than 50$ – they reactivated it, and then their factory burned down. Just is my luck.
I had put a bit too many eggs in one basket. I had no income, and just enough saving to get me through a few months, if I was lucky. I kept posting, keep pushing forward, and hoped for the best. I was now a part of IpsyOS which was a new group for Content Creators that gave us access to networking events, Gen Beauty, and even put us in connection with brands. It was the first time I really felt there was a name and way to describe what I do. I hated being called a guru or an influencer- those titles always felt so vapid. Content Creator… I create content for social media, it fit
I was being invited to branded events, boxes started to arrive at my door every week from brands I loved and I joined platforms like Octoly, Socalix, Grapevine, and other paid campaign sites. I was getting 800$ in gift cards almost every month just through Octoly! It was a great time to be on instagram and work on instagram.
Nothing Gold Can Stay…
Unfortunately, nothing gold can stay, and I noticed a very steady and sudden decline. No new followers, no comments, no likes, and I thought, has my content gone stale?, am I boring?, did I offend someone?, possibly everyone? I googled to see if instagram was down, what the new glitches were and everything in between. I had no answers. I had created some of my own hashtags like #TheCosmeholicMotd and #RecycledstardustFashion to keep track of my own posts. I clicked on my hashtag and noticed something very strange, there were no new posts from me. The reason? Instgaram had a warning for all of my personally created hashtags when they were searched, it said “Recent posts from #TheCosmeholicMotd are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet instagram’s community guidelines” It also gave the option to learn more – guidelines prohibit posting photos or videos that you don’t have a right to share, nudity and sexual content, hateful, hate speech, spam, unlawful, self injury, and violence. So why were pictures of my face with makeup, nail swatches, eyeshadow swatches, mirror selfies, and even food posts being blocked?
The shadow ban is a real thing. I will say it again, THE SHADOW BAN IS A REAL THING. Do not let any influencer, website, or even instagram themselves tell you its not! It absolutely is and they will never give you a reason as to why your account was targeted. They will never tell you how to fix it, what you did wrong, what you need to do to change it. Thats it, you’re on a list, you may forever be on that list, and there isn’t much you can do about it… or can you?
When I first figured out what was happening, I freaked out. My posts were being hidden from being seen on hashtags, some hashtags they worked on but only for those who already followed me. Some said I didn’t even show up on their timeline and this is before all the woes of the algorithm. I had to hunt down and figure out in my own way, why I was being targeted and what behaviors I could do to change it. If you’re wondering how you can check if you’re indeed shadow banned- create your own hashtag and have a friend unfollow you and check that hashtag. If you show up, you’re fine, if not, you’re shadow banned. Simple right? Maybe not so much any more.
So here is where my advice and tips come in. Thank you for sticking around long enough to get this far. I felt it was important you saw my experiences and how positive they were with instagram before you labeled me as just someone who’s mad they aren’t growing or mad they never went viral- neither are the case. Once you discover your account has been flagged – either by hashtag or being hidden on the timeline due to algorithm – there is some hope. First, go through ALL your posts. Go back to when things were successful. Were you using the same exact hashtags over and over? Were you always maxing out at 30 hashtags? Did you post them in the comments section rather than the caption? Did you use any banned hashtags (check here for a current list, yes its long!)? If you did any of those things go back and fix it asap. Remove the banned hashtags, change your hashtags for each post, even if its months in the past, remove hashtags from comments and plop it in your caption, and make sure you’re adding a geo tag! It will place your post where it can be searched and seen by location helping to boost your account.
If none of these work, and you have a business account, check and see how many accounts your reaching via hashtag, if the number is low, you need different hashtags, maybe different thumbnail for your videos, maybe even refresh your content, and do something different. If this all fails, shake your phone, make sure the setting to shake to report is on, and report the problem every time you post. When you shake your phone it takes a screenshot and sends it to instagram. I want you to channel your inner Andy Dufresne (he wrote nonstop letters to get books for the library in the Shawshank Redemption) and shake with every post, shake and show your insights, shake and show your profile, shake shake shake señora!!! If you spam them enough, they do lift it. I have had to do this over 3 times, with patience and proper spamming, they eventually listen!
Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginnings End…
That brings me to my very last piece of advice and my last shared experience with you. It’s now almost the middle of 2019, it is just crazy how the year is flying by, and my account has stagnated. The once glorious growth I experienced in instagram’s early aughts is now the continued gain and loose, ebb and flow of followers. Likes are down, comments are way down, and engagement groups do more harm for your account than you think! This is why I created a new account to see how instagram would treat the same content with a shiny new name, and its a doozy!
My new instagram account, @FabulouslyStardust which I started in maybe 2017 but didn’t show much love to until easter this year, was hovering at a few hundred. In April I started to post some fashion I shared on my main account @Recycledstardust, I used the same hashtags, the same geo tag, the same everything. In just 3 weeks I went from about 400 followers to 2,775 at the time I was writing this. So is instagram really dead? Is the algorithm against us all? Or is instagram targeting older and possibly larger accounts? I can’t explain why a post I made recently received 84,000 impressions on an account with 600 followers, 49,963 coming from hashtags, and only received 4,850 impressions on an account with over 150k with only 608 coming from hashtags. Why are posts treated differently on hashtags when posted from different accounts? For this I have no answer and no solution.
While it may sound like a nightmare for some, creating a new account, even if you’re recycling your old content, it may be beneficial. This being said, I don’t think you should delete your old account either! If you post multiple formats or niches of content, you may absolutely find this valuable. Create a new account for your smaller niche. Do you cover skincare and lifestyle? Why not post skincare with a hint of lifestyle on one account and lifestyle on the other with a hint of skincare. You keep both your niches but you become more focused on your content. You can start to hashtag old posts that no longer fit your new esthetic. You can also gain new audiences by blogging, youtube, instagram stories, even twitch! Try a new space out and bring that audience back to your main platform.
Applying the new instagram account option will streamline your account and help foster a whole new audience as well. You can direct your followers back and forth between the accounts so they get the best of both worlds while you get a boost! You can host giveaways with your self, just have your followers follow both accounts. You now have two ways to monetize as well! A brand my love one page and not the other, you will open your opportunities and you will kick instagram, its algorithm, and even its shadow ban to the curb. It may sound scary, but all new and exciting things are!
What have your experiences been with the shadow ban or instagram’s algorithm? Lets share our collective experiences and I look forward to hearing your story!