It turns out that Instagram has some pretty strict rules about certain things.
If you break these rules, you can get shadowbanned or have your account suspended. But enough with the suspense! Let’s take a look at what these Instagram rules actually are.
1. Use a third party posting app at your peril
Instagram has a closed API– it doesn’t allow third party apps to post directly to Instagram. You can still use a social media dashboard like Agorapulse to manage your Instagram account but the process is a little bit more complicated than for Facebook or Twitter.
Most legit social media management apps work around the challenge. For example, you can log into your Agorapulse account and schedule an Instagram post.
When the time comes, you’ll receive a notification. You can then log into the Agorapulse app which will take you to Instagram where you can hit publish. The key is that you have to be the one that hits publish.
But, while that’s how we do it, there are some apps like Schedugram that post directly to Instagram for you, using your user name and password to access your account. This is a big Terms and Conditions no no. Jumping through a few extra hoops can be frustrating but it keeps your account safe.
2. Don’t use banned hashtags
Not all hashtags are created equal. Using one of Instagram’s banned hashtags can land you in hot water and ignorance is not an excuse.
While some banned hashtags are pretty common sense and align with Instagram’s terms of service, others aren’t so obvious. According to the HuffPo, the banned list includes #adulting, #citycentre and #eggplant. Research the hashtags you use carefully, make sure that they are relevant for your audience and don’t have a secret, urban dictionary or emoji meaning you didn’t know about… (Not that this has ever happened to me!)
How do you check if a hashtag is banned? Simple. Just type it into the search box.
If you get the “No results found” page then the hashtag is banned and you are best off staying away from it.
3. Don’t post too much
Instagram favors real, human posters and all the do’s and don’ts are meant to prioritize them over spammers and bots. Whereas Twitter has apps like Social Quant that can automatically follow and unfollow a bunch of people to build up your following, Instagram frowns on that kind of behavior. That’s why they have an unofficial cap on account activity.
What exactly are those numbers? While Instagram hasn’t released official numbers Ana Gotter did some in depth research and came up with the following:
- Following and unfollowing over 60 people an hour
- Liking more than 300 posts an hour
- Posting over 60 comments an hour
As long as you use your account normally and don’t pass off the responsibility to a robot butler you should be ok! Speaking of robot butlers…
4. Stay away from the robots
Look. In any other circumstances, I’ll be the first to point out the potential of bots in automating your marketing process but that’s not what Instagram is all about.
Bots that auto comment and follow/ unfollow people can be a tempting way to grow your account. You’ll be the kind of person that uses them responsibly, right? But, going back to rule 3, this kind of behavior will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. Keep your interactions human.
5. Reposting comes with its own rules
Retweeting or sharing a post on Facebook is pretty easy. Add your own insights, hit that share button and users can see who the original poster was. Instagram makes it a bit harder. As a result, a lot of us aren’t sure what the rules and etiquette surrounding reposting are.
It’s pretty simple. Make sure you’ve got permission from the original poster and attribute the content to them. When you post the photo include the hashtag #regram or #repost and tag the original content owner. Now you can repost UGC without breaking the rules!
Beefeater does a pretty good job of re-sharing a user generated photo while sticking to the rules.
6. Don’t run illegal contests
Running an Instagram promotion or contest is a great way to get new followers, engage your existing followers and promote your brand. But, before you jump in, make sure you are playing by the rules.
You are fully responsible for the way the contest is run and for compliance with any government rules in your area as well as regulations related to any prizes you give away. So, if you make craft beer and you are running an exclusive contest, it’s up to you to make sure all contestants are of legal drinking age and that the contest doesn’t break any rules. Instagram squarely puts all the responsibility at your doorstep.
The not quite rules rules
Ok. So we spoke about some of the actual rules that can get you shadowbanned or worse. But, like with all social media platforms (and generally just with any social interaction) there are the other kind of rules. Breaking those rules will decrease your effectiveness on Instagram and lead to a drop in engagement rates.
No one wants that. So, here are some of those other rules worth staying on the right side of.
- Don’t ignore the comments: If someone’s taken the time to interact with you, engage with them! Otherwise this won’t turn into much of a two-way relationship.
- Come up with a posting schedule: If your Instagram account is just for friends and family, you don’t need an official schedule. But, if you are using it to grow your brand and business, you need a solid posting plan to maximize ROI.
- Create a theme for your posts: This makes it easier to post regularly because you know what’s coming next. It also builds a branded look for your account.
- Be human: Instagram’s best practices really come down to how a real person is likely to interact with an account versus how a bot/spammer/troll would. Using your common sense will get you a long way!
Sticking to those rules…
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always read the terms and conditions when I sign up for a new platform. I’m pretty sure I’ve signed my soul over to Apple several times over by now.
But, breaking Instagram’s rules, even if you aren’t aware of them, can negatively impact your brand and marketing strategy. You can get shadowbanned or your account can get suspended which costs money. Stay on the right side of Instagram!