Have you fallen under the Instagram #shadowban?

Okay. So in the big wide world of things (Syria, Brexit, Trump, KFC deliveries) having an issue with a social media platform is pretty much the equivalent of a middle-class problem. I am my own snowflake.

But, in the last few weeks, I've been having a problem with the humble hashtag. Y'know, the # sign.

It's got a checkered past the hashtag - as a marketing type of some years standing I've been used to seeing everyone going ape for it and slamming them all over their 'content' to get it to go 'viral' and quite possibly (and worst of all...) 'trending' 

Ugh.

Anyway, as a photographer using Instagram - the natural home of photographic content - I'm now pretty used to the basic hashtag strategy involved to get my photos noticed on the main explore pages and not some little backwater of my own. To wit:

  • 30 hashtags chosen to represent your photo.
  • A mix of big hitter wider community hashtags and niche interests ones.
  • Don't use the same ones all the time. Try new ones out.

So those were my 3 golden rules learnt at a bearded hipsters knee. However, about a month ago something changed. Usually, when I posted something new I'd get a few likes instantly and then it would climb and flatten off at around 50-60 likes and a few new followers. But suddenly... silence. Crickets. Tumbleweed.

Well, almost. My loyal-ish following kept liking what I put up for the most part, but where were the newbies? My reach and engagement had disappeared overnight - no one was seeing my photos. I've got a business to run here! Sob.

Well, turns out I'd been hit by the mysterious 'shadowban'. The name makes it all sound very supervillain, but basically, it means you've done something, somewhere - probably using hashtags - which has upset the algorithm gods of Instagram.

There's lots of cobblers spoken on the web about the shadowban, and because it's the internet you end up confused what's true or not (fakenews!) but after a bit of sleuthing this what I found.

  1. Instagram has a #shitlist. If you use any of these on the following link here you'll get yourself banner or worse binned. Don't do it, dude. Yes, you. In your pants. I can see you.
     
  2. There's a second list which constantly changes which no one is quite sure about.
     
  3. There's a rumour that the shadowban is placed upon business accounts that don't use a lot of Instagram advertising. I didn't find this - my feeling is that its big-corporate-tin-foil-hat brigade at work.
How I felt during the shadowban...

How I felt during the shadowban...

But, the good news - I escaped the ban. First of all, as you guys can tell I take a lot of street photography. Well, I'd been using #streetphoto which had appeared on the naughty lists (which considering some of its company seems a little mild but still...), so once I'd gone back and MANUALLY deleted it from 200+ posts they started to appear again. 

However, that wasn't enough. Oh no. I took the hard road and went through every image and every hashtag to see which was broken. Finally, I sniffed out #instadaily - a pretty much benign mass hashtag which was my downfall - removed that, again off 100's of pics and bang - I was back in business!

Top tip btw - the best way of checking if you're back is to have a small time hashtag so you can see you're appearing - I use #worsfold which is hardly a mass market deal right now. If my image wasn't appearing there, it wasn't anywhere.

shadowblue.png

So, alls well that ends well? Almost. I'm pretty gripey at Instagram, to be honest. I mean, they don't owe me a living, but would it be too much to ask to implement a dialogue which says 'Sorry, you're using a banned hashtag - please choose another!' or send you an automated message? Could they not add some way of doing an audit or edit on your hashtags? It would appear not.

The only thing us users can do is keep a watchful eye. There are other tricks that people have done (moving back to personal accounts, taking a break of a few days etc) but it i think it's pretty much just having a good best practice to hashtags. 

My process now is to use a clean set I keep and then throw the odd new hashtag in when I fancy - but check it's ok first and also check you turn up in your feeds post upload. It's just good practice as even the safe clean hashtags you're using now could end up falling under the shadow.

More exhaustive reading about the shadowban and a visual guide to fixing it can be found here plus some cool reading here and there's an online checking tool (which may be of some use) here too.

So, if you're suffering from a lack of likes then do an audit and check those tags. #goodluck

 

Not the #fakenews. Hot off the Worsfold press.

Cue rotating papers, slick-haired New Yorkers in trilbies, the tip-tap of the typewriter and much fast talking, because yes - there is news! With exclamations marks! 

Breaking...

Apple News.

The news is News. Apple News to be exact. Yes, you can now get all this blogging and box-fresh Worsfold imagery straight to your iPhone X (if you're minted) or any other Apple device that might be slightly mobile. 

So, go to that home screen, swipe left and search for 'Worsfold Photos' or more conveniently, click this link: https://apple.news/TmmTyrh3ZQ7289yrwIe7oFA

Pow. I'm on like a gazillion devices. Cool.

In other news...

Patroen.

How can you get more out of your friendly neighbourhood urban lifestyle photographer? Well, like any king, pope or wealthy aristocrat of history, you can become a patron. 

So, feel free to listen to your inner Guggenheim or Saatchi and get involved. Even a measly $1 a month (that's about 70p in real money) supports the endangered creative photographer in today's cut-throat world - cue tiny violin...

Anyway, what can you get for your cash?

Well, check out the link below but apart from a simple support, you can get hi-res versions of the images, custom wallpaper for your device, Lightroom presets to play with (if you're into that sort of thing...) plus extra exclusive content all the way up to a portrait shot or London shoot day. 

As Patroen is a newish platform, I'm sticking my toe in the water here, and the Rewards will change/shift around depending on interest, so even if you don't see anything that tickles your fancy, keep coming back! 

However, it is a cool way to build a community of people interested in photography and support the images I take. 

So, check it out and let me know what you think. And do feel free to sign up - thank you in advance in you do!

https://www.patreon.com/worsfold

Finally, all news shows end with a story about a dog eating custard or something similar to sign off. I don't have anything silly to talk about, but if I could remind you guys that if you're on Instagram do 'follow' the following feed, ithankyouverymuch.

https://www.instagram.com/worsfoldphotos/

And now for the weather...

 

It's not easy being green? Nonsense.

Kermit, you're wrong. Dead wrong. 

Running a business is one thing - with all the chasing around, getting clients and making sure Mr. HMRC has got all your details and been paid on time. The last thing you want to worry about is the environment - right? 

Well, one thing I've been really conscious of whilst setting up Worsfold (and my branding gig Story) is that it's all as green as possible. Now the expectation is that it's really tricky and - if you're cold of heart - not something you should spend time on as you'll get no return on investment. 

But the way I look at is that it's your moral duty (i know heavy..) as a business owner, and indeed a decent human being, to at least try and make changes to the way your small business is run to lessen the impact on Planet Earth. And it doesn't mean it costs £££.

So what can you do? Here's how I've started down the road to being green.

Firstly, I mostly work from home so one big change we've made is to begin buying our gas and electricity from a green energy supplier. We chose Bulb and so far, it's been excellent. Bulb say that every unit of electricity you use, a unit is produced and put on the grid by a pollution-free renewable source and 10% of their gas comes from biomethane. That’s gas produced from organic matter like sewage and manure - which is then reinjected onto the grid - poo power!

So every time I'm downloading images from a card, backing up, editing shots from a project or recharging my camera batteries, I'm using and promoting green energy. And every time I turn on the heating during chilly January, I'm being warmed at least 10pc by pig plop. Or something.

It's easy to switch over to these guys, so have a look (oh, and if you do want to go ahead... use this code as we'll both get £50 off! bulb.co.uk/refer/graeme7671 )

So that's the power bit - what else?

Well, if I am travelling for projects I've made a pact with myself to use public transport as much as possible. This can be a pain (hello GWR!) but it avoids the car. Speaking of which, once conditions are right the plan is to go full electric car, but in the meantime, our Ford has a really low emission EcoBoost engine.

Then there's all the other usual bits and pieces - business cards from Moo are on recycled stock and Squarespace - who host the site you're reading this on now - is hosted on renewable energy. Oh, and our food waste always goes in the scraps bin and we're reusing those bags at Sainsbury's and avoiding plastic packaging where possible (You saw Blue Planet II, right?)

Really, the mantra in my head now is - "Can we do this green?"

Along down the path is a proper 'green policy' and then getting a full audit and accreditation with one of the key industry leaders like Green Mark, and i'm guessing at somepoint it'll spin out to a proper charter of ethics as a business wider than just eco issues, but that's for another day - after all, it's takes time for good things to grow - isn't that right Kermit?


Are you a SME or small business owner? What's been your green take - do you have a policy or tips? I'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or get in touch at graeme@worsfold.photos