AI Is Behind Instagram’s ‘Shadow Ban’ And Here’s How To Make It Work For You

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May 30, 2017:

By now, we’re all familiar with the so-called Instagram ‘shadow ban’ and we’ve tried various tactics shared by social-media experts and fellow content creators to get around it – from changing your account settings to fervently checking each and every hashtag. So why is nothing working?

Liz Dean at The Social Media Posse reckons they’ve figured it out. Instagram has had to adapt to Facebook’s infrastructure since moving to its data center in April 2013. This means that any major changes to the way Facebook search works will also be applied to Instagram.

In April 2016, Facebook moved towards photo recognition, by using an automatic alternative text process. This ‘generates a description of a photo through object recognition technology for someone who cannot see the photo’, states Facebook. It’s part of their mission to make the world ‘more open and connected.’ Ultimately, it gives a machine the ability to ‘read’ objects in your photos and categorize them from machine-learned information – and this AI is constantly being improved (see this recent TIME article to find out more).

Instagram can similarly ‘read’ your photos, in addition to the image’s metadata information – ‘how, when and by whom a piece of User Content was collected and how that content was formatted’. What does this mean for us? Exactly what Instagram said in their statement earlier this year: ‘Good content on Instagram is simply good creative.’ Here are ways you could be affected based on Lumos, Facebook’s computer vision platform, and how to keep making great content.

Hashtag Fail

Lumos only detects objects. For example, you’ve posted an image of your latest eye makeup look. Lumos might file that under the category, ‘#eye’. But the majority of users going to use subject-specific hashtags, like ‘beauty’, ‘photography’, and perhaps a couple of brand names. The Social Media Posse theorizes that ‘Instagram isn’t going to show your post under [a] specific hashtag’ if it doesn’t reflect one of the categories Lumos has identified in your photo.

Uncomplimentary Captions

It’s the same deal with your descriptions – so it’s time to really kill it with your keywords. Lumos will ‘look at the meta-data of the photo, the objects in the photo, the orientation of those objects and the photo description/caption mainly for classification in search’, says The Search Posse. If the latter doesn’t match with your content, down goes your search ranking…

Get Artificially Intelligent

Understand the AI. If the new search algorithms have affected you, use it to your advantage and do your own A/B tests. Ask ‘Why hasn’t my photo been categorized?’ Is it because the image is unclear and therefore won’t match up to other images in the data center? The AI needs 80% certainty to know how to categorize a picture, otherwise it just won’t be able to do it – after all, it’s still learning too!

Keep Being You

Unique content stands out. It’s the only way to stand out. Think up new concepts. Try out new things. Images that are too similar will eventually be downgraded in search results. There’s been no better time to start trends, not just follow them.

Let us know what works for you – good luck!


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