So, I’m in a group DM of other hubs and a few have expressed concern that their hub is shadowbanned and not growing.  Here are some of my thoughts on this and some tips to help you expand your reach while your hashtags don’t work.

First, you should know that the term “shadowbanned” I believe, for the most part, is a misnomer.  Unless your hub is engaging in bot-like or spammy activity, it’s doubtful that the Insta-gods are punishing you.

More likely is that it’s an Insta-glitch.  Of which there are MANY.  And occur frequently.  I hear about weird glitches every day from people.  Instagram is super cool and all, but it doesn’t work well a lot of the time.

There was a major issue about a week ago and most people, truly MOST people, did not have working hashtags.

It’s important to note that your followers WILL see your posts in hashtag search.  Non-followers will not.  The only way to check if your account is SB’d is to check a post’s hashtag by tapping on it from an account that does not follow the account that you’re checking.  It helps a lot if the post is recent.  It also helps to check a hashtag that is not so popular that within minutes, it’d get pushed way down in search anyway.  (Search results are shown by Top Posts in the top nine spots, followed by posts that use that hashtag chronologically from the timestamp on the POST.  (Not when the hashtag was added.  It doesn’t matter when you add the hashtag.  If you posted the image a year ago, you’d have to scroll forevah to find it, even if you added the hashtag 3 seconds ago.)

So, there was this big hashtag issue and many people have seen that get resolved now.  Glitches usually do get fixed.

Much of what I’ll say here can apply to individual account owners as well as hubs.  But let me speak directly to hub admins and mods…

If you hashtag your featured posts with the hashtags of other hubs, guess who sees your posts (and is annoyed by them?)  MODS OF OTHER HUBS.  The practice of hashtagging featured photos is strange to me.  Sure, this is a good idea when you’re brand new (because mods of other hubs will find out about you and probably follow you.  Although they’ll be annoyed when they’re searching their hashtag for a feature, find an image that pops out to them, only to see that another hub tagged them – not the photographer 🙄)

I can tell you…I have rarely rarely rarely searched hub hashtags.  Maybe when I first started out on Instagram, but it’s been at least a year, maybe more.  I just have no reason to.

So, if you think that your hub’s growth is dependent upon your hashtags working… Let’s start there as the first fallacy.

I also want to say that what is most important is a hub’s engagement rate, not their number of followers.  What does it matter to you if you have 100k followers but get 2 comments on every post? If your engagement rate is low, you will not show up in your follower’s feeds organically.  To show up in follower’s feeds, you must have good engagement.

Are there ways to fake it?  Sure!  You can absolutely encourage your mods to comment on your hub posts from their individual accounts.  @Shared_Joy requires it and I’ve seen that from several other hubs too.  The key is timeliness.  Maybe set up a group DM of mods and use it as an engagement group of sorts or have them turn on post notifications for the hub.  Now that you cannot reply to multiple commenters easily from the native app, the photographer whose post was featured will most likely heart and reply to each comment individually – those comments help too!  (What doesn’t help? Comments from the hub itself.  Instagram disregards those when calculating the algorithm.)

I do think that Hub Follow Fridays are wonderful!! In fact, I’d say that the majority of new hubs that I’ve found over the past several months have literally come from HFF’s.  Keep doing ’em.

Loops and Giveaways are great too – same concept.  I picked up a ton of new followers when I participated in a big loop giveaway about a month ago.

One thing you might want to consider is having it listed in your bio “Must follow for a feature.”  I know for me, that is compelling.  I’ve recently got into a habit of unfollowing people, to try to pare down the number of people I follow.  Why do I want to do this?  Because I see posts from people I could give a rip about and don’t naturally see posts from my favorite people.  In this regard, the algorithm is utterly hopeless. BUT – the algorithm absolutely works on a per-post basis.  Just not a per-account basis.  I’ve tested this in several ways and can tell you this anecdotally.

Back to Follow for Feature (which you could also have as a part of your caption template…not a bad idea…)  So, anyway, I’ve been unfollowing people regularly.  A lot of accounts I’ve unfollowed are hubs that rarely feature my work anyway.  Do I still hashtag them?  Sure do.  Why not? Ya never know.  And sometimes they do feature me (and I don’t actually follow them!)  But if I knew for certain that I needed to follow in order to get a feature, you’re darn tootin I’d follow.

A quick administrative thing to do – be sure to login to your hub from your computer (this doesn’t work on a phone.)  Go to edit your profile and at the bottom, you’ll see this:
instagram hub themes

You WANT this checked.  Suggested accounts will not only show up if someone taps the little arrow from an account’s home screen but will also randomly show up organically for users.  I see it all the time.  Have I found hubs this way?  YES!

One thing that I’ve seen that I think plants a good engagement seed is the Weekly Top Supporter feature that many hubs do.  They’ll use an app to find out who the most supportive follower (likes and comments) has been that week and they’ll feature a picture from that person.

Let’s get all weird and creative…  What about a Weekly Double Feature?  I’m just spit-ballin here, brainstorming… But what about posting a graphic with something to the effect of, “Double Feature Day” or something – just go with me here.  Ask followers to comment by tagging a friend (as they’d do for a giveaway – one tag per comment.)  Then do a random number generator thing and do a feature from the commenter and the person they tagged.  It could be a grid or gallery post too.  But that incents people to comment and they might just tag someone who doesn’t follow your hub.  This is a good place to remind them to Follow for a Feature.

But let’s get down to business now.  Ya wanna know what I REALLY think you need to do if you want to grow your account?  Whether you’re a hub or an individual, the most important thing you can do is ENGAGE.  That’s the name of the game.  When I do this (I’ve been bad about it lately, honestly, just out of busyness, but I really should set aside 5-10 minutes a day to do this, it’s not hard!) I pick up followers quickly and easily.

The follow/unfollow game is dead.  That’s a given.  But what about a genuine follow plus engagement?  Nobody will fault you for that.

Here’s some food for thought…  Why do I want to pare down my following on my personal account? See above.  Why would a hub want to pare down their following?  Why would a hub care?  Mods of hubs don’t just scroll the feed aimlessly, do they?  I didn’t!  I’m there to do my job, which means I’m searching the hashtag looking for a feature.  Who cares if my hub follows 7500 people?  (You always could go back in later and unfollow anyone who didn’t follow you back.  Hint: Follow/Unfollow only hurts peoples’ feelings when they get a follow, but then you unfollow them AFTER they’ve been duped into following you.  Did you follow that?  If they didn’t choose to follow you back in the first place, who are they to get all upset if you unfollow them later on?

So – here’s whatcha do.  First – you want engaged followers.  How do you find these people?  Oh – guess what?  They’re engaging with other hubs.  They’re very easy to find.  Now, there are two variations on this.  One will involve sitting in front of your laptop with your phone handy.  The other way is just your phone.  The downside to phone-only engaged-follower-hunting is that it’s a little more time-consuming to figure out if the person you’re targeting is already following your hub.  If they are, then you might be wasting a bit of time.  However, I’d argue that engaging with these people is always a good thing!  Other commenters will see your hub’s name in the comments and are likely to tap over and give you a follow!

Above, I told you that mods don’t just peruse the feed while they’re logged into their hub account.  But for this reason, they should.  Encourage your mods to spend 5 minutes a day, on their day to mod, perusing around and commenting on other accounts.  Heck, comment on other hubs’ posts!  The other hub will appreciate the engagement and since we’re all about #communityovercompetition, why not?  You’ll likely get some eyeballs on your comment from a follower of that hub and a potential follow!

Ok, here’s whatcha do.  Pick a hub, any hub.  The more engaged, the better.  You are looking for commenters.

Put your insta on scroll mode (not single post mode) and start with the first post on that hub.  Go through the commenters and tap over to their accounts, one by one.  Follow them, then like and comment on their most recent post.  Leave a thoughtful comment.  “Great picture!” might set off alarms that you’re a spammer.  (Not Insta-alarms, just a red flag for the commenter.) A thoughtful comment will get their attention.  Bonus points if you can ask a question that demands their answer.  “Wow – I love how you got this wide angle – what lens did you use?”  “This location is just stunning – where is this?”  Read the caption and ask a question based on that.  All good things!

After you’ve liked and commented on the first picture, like the next two.  Then, move on.

Repeat this process with every commenter on that post.  Then move to the next post, rinse and repeat.

Here’s the computer-added variation.  If you only want to target non-followers of your hub, you’ll need to have your phone handy to use the search bar at the top of your Followers screen.  Just tap the number of people that follow you, “Followers” and there’s a search bar up there.

On your computer, pull up the hub you’ll be using for this exercise.  Go through the commenters, as you did on just your phone, but before you click over to their account, type their username into that Followers search bar to see if they follow you.  If they do, move on.  If they don’t, click to their account, follow them, like/comment, like, like.  Repeat this process.

I’d argue it’s never a bad thing to engage with your followers, so I don’t think the computer variation is necessary, but it would save you some time.  But remember, any engagement is good – maybe they’ve forgotten to use your hashtag.  Maybe they haven’t tapped over in awhile.  Maybe someone else will see your comment and tap over and follow.

If you want engagement, you need to give engagement.  If you want follows, you need to follow.  In my experience, when I do this, I get the best and fastest results.

What else?  Deepen the relationship with a DM.  Every time someone follows your hub (or account, for that matter) send them a nice little DM.  It could be a copy/paste or I actully created a keyboard shortcut on my iphone with my text.  I do this all the time!

Maybe even something you switch out weekly with a new theme.  Think:

“Hi there!  Thanks so much for the follow!  Remember to use our main tag: #maintag and we run weekly themes.  This week the theme is “Shadows” and our tag is #hub_theme_tag.  Check in every Monday morning for our new weekly theme announcement!
Thank you!”

Well, kids, that’s all I got and my maniacs’ quiet time is over.  I do hope this is helpful!

Ask me any questions and please comment below to add any ideas or thoughts you have!