Did you know that you aren’t allowed to use the hashtag #books on Instagram?
Until today, I certainly didn’t.
Instagram have been blocking some terms – mostly to do with sexism, sexual content, body shaming and bullying, or so I thought. It’s called a shadowban: posts using blocked tags are less visible than others, and repeated use can result in more definite blocking of posts or accounts.
Surely there’s nothing offensive about #books though? Yet it’s one of the hashtags that will cause your posts to drift into obscurity.
As an author, reader, book reviewer and all-round book nerd, that’s a trap I’ve fallen into more than once, but thankfully my love for tags like #bookstagram and #booklover has been saving my bookish hide more often than I ever realised.
I did find a rather extensive list of hashtags banned by Instagram, courtesy of the great people over at Instavast.com, but I don’t really want to go and consult another site and spend my valuable time reading through horrible words – and some of them are horrible – in order to find out if something relatively innocent is also blocked.
I’d rather be able to check quickly and easily inside the app itself. And that is quite do-able, even if you’re a novice.
Follow these handy and simple instructions to discover if a term you want to use is acceptable without consulting a long list somewhere that may even be out of date by now.
1. When you’re using the Instagram app, click on the search icon. It’s the one that looks like a magnifying glass.
2. Type in the hashtag you want to use. A list of possible tags will come up. So far, it looks like #books is okay.
3. Next, click on the Tags tab of the search window. #books is still there and still looks alright. However…
4. Tap on that tag in the list and scroll down, you will find only a few images, followed by a message that says the tag has been banned because reports have been made regarding inappropriate content.
If you go ahead and use the tag, nobody will see your tag because they can’t find posts using that tag, either. And your other tags might also end up being blocked. So might your account.
Nobody wants to end up there.
So, as authors and book lovers, we need to tag our posts differently so that other book lovers will find our posts.
When you click on a tag that is not blocked, you’ll see some further “related” tags that you could use in your posts. Notice, though, that this does not exist for #books.
I’ve slogged through a whole bunch of these “related tags” to find some great hashtags with good popularity that you can use safely – for now, anyway.
Try some of these great tags for your bookish posts:
If you’re posting images or reviews of books you’ve enjoyed, consider some of these:
My final piece of good news is that if you have been using a blocked hashtag, you can rescue your posts and make them fully visible again.
1. For each post, click on the three dots to the right of your username.
2. Choose edit from the menu.
3. Scroll to your hashtags and change or remove the banned one.
4. Click on ‘done’ and your post will be back to full visibility.
Handy hint: if you “like” your own post once you’ve changed it, your post will re-enter the general Instagram feed.
It’s a good idea to do this one or two posts at a time, not all at once, so you don’t flood your followers’ feeds.