Inadvertent use of banned hashtags on Instagram can cause engagement to drop suddenly and steeply. Including even one banned hashtag will cause all the hashtags on the post to become undiscoverable on the network, in other words useless. That would be dreadful for marketing on Instagram where hashtags are essential. A major problem is that what Instagram decides to ban is often surprising and inexplicable.
Plann, which helps brands market on Instagram, reports that many of its clients complain that their engagement has dropped recently. They haven’t seen such sudden drop since Instagram moved from a chronological to an algorithm-based newsfeed over a year ago. The common cause is accidental inclusion of banned hashtags.
Why Ban Hashtags?
Instagram is increasingly banning hashtags in an effort to clean up its platform, and weed out pornography and other unsavory content as well as spam and fake accounts. Along those lines, it has banned apps that sell fake accounts and auto-generate fake comments and likes.
Efforts to eliminate pornographic images explain why the network banned #booty and #boobies. Surprisingly, #dogsofinstagram #petite and #boho made the list. Others are equally or even more surprising.
The immediate and obvious solution is to stop using banned hashtags. If a hashtag falls into disfavor, it will no longer appear in the “Most Recent” section. A message will say the posts using the hashtag are currently hidden “because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram’s community guidelines.”
“If you want to take it to the next step, we’ve heard it helps to remove any hashtag sets you’ve still got attached to older images too,” according to Plann. Hashtags can be easily removed within its app, Plann states, in an obvious plug.
Two Levels of Censorship
Instagram actually enforces two levels of censorship, says Nick Drewe, writer and programmer at The Data Pack:
- Those it completely bans and generate no search results and
- Those it partially censors and produce limited search results.
Those restricted terms are often banned temporarily, although some have remained forbidden for months, says Drewe. To aid marketers, Drewe compiled a complete list of hashtags the network had banned and restricted at the time.
He calls the list both strange and hilarious. “Some of them make sense, but many of them seem completely absurd,” he writes.
Most of the completely banned words were explicitly lewd or moderately off-color. Others are related to self-harm such as a pro-anorexia term. Others are baffling, such as #Kansas, #popular and #IloveMyInstagram.
Bottom Line: Instagram’s aggressive efforts to ban and restrict hashtags can sink marketing campaigns of even the most upstanding marketers. Its list of banned terms is long, inexplicable and constantly changing. To remain in Instagram’s good graces and to assure the success of social marketing campaigns, marketers must absolutely avoid using the censored hashtags.