How to Not Get Ghost Banned on Social Media Sites

It’s late at night. You are sitting at your computer telling yourself you should go to bed, but continuously giving it five more minutes. You are tired, but there is so much to see on your favorite sites: Reddit, StumbleUpon, Pinterest… How can you possibly sleep when there are so many things to check out and share?

But wait… Didn’t you already share that one? Why isn’t that site on SU listed as your discovery when you know you discovered it just an hour before? In fact, you suddenly notice that none of your activity seems to be showing up at all. It is like you don’t even exist on the site… Spooky!

Is it a bug? Possibly, every website suffers from them sometimes, and the interactive features can be the first to go haywire. For those sites that have a server maintenance scheduled, it is a likely culprit. But another possibility is that something much more sinister might be afoot. You could have been “ghost banned.”

Don’t worry, your computer isn’t haunted. At least, I’m pretty sure it isn’t. You never know. What it means is that you have been turned onto a kind of mandatory invisible mode while the site investigates you for possible spamming or other service violations. In other words, you have become a “ghost” that no one can see.

What Is Ghost Banning?

social media ghost banning

Ghost banning is “smart” banning. It’s a way to lets spammers continue to spam without anyone else within the community (or outside it) seeing what they do. It’s like making everyone happy. Spammers are looking for ways to create more accounts and hack the system while the community is not suffering from the spam.

However, like with any other type of banning, “almost” innocent people may fall prey as well. Let’s clearly understand the details, and try to stay off radar.

The idea is a pretty simple one. Let’s say you are on a particular site, and you have been getting a lot of flags on comments or submissions, or maybe you have been down voted a little too frequently. Whatever the case, you ended up on the website’s radar, so now they are officially watching you. All in the hope of doing three things:

  1. Establishing whether or not you are a spammer
  2. Gathering enough evidence to ban you from the site entirely
  3. Keeping you harmless while keeping you clueless

Now, all of this might sound a little shady. But the practice is actually very much above board, and it’s a better way to do it than we have seen from social media sites in the past. It allows the staff to monitor you and find out if the activity was a fluke, or if you really are violating the conditions of the site. They are not immediately jumping to the conclusion that you have done something wrong, giving you a chance to redeem yourself before any consequences are given.

However, in the meantime, you might see that your activity is being hidden. Users who originally posted something might not be able to see your comment, like, or recommendation, for example. That is frustrating, but it should stop once the ghost ban has been lifted and you are given full access to the site once again.

Why This Can be “Deadly” For Marketers

For marketers that are just starting out, you are more susceptible to ghost banning than ever. Especially on Twitter. This is simply because new accounts or more likely to be “spammer” accounts. And of course this makes it more difficult to begin your journey into internet marketing.

For the seasoned marketer, we have tips in the post to keep you from getting ghost banned. As marketers we’re always looking for angles to up our ability to spread messages – but sometimes this urge can lead us into bad places. Therefore, it’s important to know what not to do, in order to keep our social media accounts in good standing

Sites That Ghost Ban

There is no way of getting a full list of sites that do ghost banning. But recently, there have been more reports from StumbleUpon, Twitter and Reddit, both of which appear to use ghost banning to curb the increasing problem of spam and trolling through the sites. With any social media site, a general red flag that could mean there is a ghost ban is a decreased visibility of your shares and votes.

In most cases, what leads to a ghost ban is (excessive) self promotion that results in reports and red flags.

Here’s how to make sure:

Twitter Ghost Banning

A Twitter ghost ban is the least intrusive. You are unlikely to even notice it unless you follow a particular hashtag or try to participate in a Twitter chat.

Red flags: You don’t see your tweets in search results for a hashtag. (Make sure to click from default top results to “All” tweets.) In some cases (which may depend on the ban level), Twitter would remove ALL search results for your username, so [from:@username ] would return nothing. (Make sure your tweets are not protected because some people check this option by accident when experimenting with various twitter options).

twitter ghost banning

Twitter official rules: Twitter doesn’t explicitly disallow any kind of self promotion. However, it does have a broad definition of spam that includes the following:

  • If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates
  • If a large number of people are blocking you
  • If you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account
  • If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #

It won’t also suggest you are banned even when you try to identify the problem. But the problem really exists, and I have seen a few people who can’t tweet to Twitter chats (no one in Twitter chat sees his/her tweets).

How to avoid getting ghost banned by Twitter: There’s no way to be absolutely sure if you were ghost banned or not. (For example, your tweets may be randomly absent from search results with no obvious consistency.) But people seem to suggest that the content of your tweets may have something to do with it. (There is a reason why Google banned all apps that allowed recurring tweets.) So the best way to avoid being banned is: (1) to never post the same links many times, and (2) post unlinked tweets as well (that is, Tweets that contain no links).

StumbleUpon Ghost Banning

Red flags: You discovered a page, and then you went to another browser and clicked to review the page, but you are invited to discover it again. Or you go back to the reviews of the page which you remember you discovered, but it states it was discovered by someone else. (Both of these can be glitches, so please check a couple of times before going into a panic.)

Stumbleupon ghost banning

StumbleUpon official TOS: StumbleUpon doesn’t directly prohibit liking “your own pages.” What it really frowns upon is when you get aggressive promoting stories that you own or are affiliated with, especially when you send those pages to your friends using “Send to” tool.

The restrictions on accounts include this statement: “Accounts may not be created or used with the primary intention to promote a product or service unless expressly authorized in writing by StumbleUpon, and any such accounts may be subject to deletion by StumbleUpon.”

Here’s more information on self promotion from SU official blog:

Don’t self promote too much. Recommending too many pages from your own domain can be considered spam. … Disproportionately recommending pages from a domain you own or with which you’re affiliated is frowned upon by other members of the StumbleUpon community, and can actually result in those pages being recommended by StumbleUpon even less frequently to other users.”

How to avoid getting ghost banned by StumbleUpon: The most widespread cause of being ghost banned is giving a thumbs up to “black listed” sites again and again. We all love our social media contacts, but if one of your friends seems to be pushing the same site regularly, he/she might be under StumbleUpon’s radar already. So don’t put your account in a bad neighborhood by liking these same domain pages.

StumbleUpon likes variety: variety in domains you discover, share, and like. While your favorite sites are varied here, you should be safe!

Another thing to stay away from is using irrelevant tags. If your tags do not really relate to the page you are discovering, this may result in irrelevant views, and your discovery may be reported. A couple of user reports may trigger a ghost ban to investigate your account further.

Reddit Ghost Banning

Red flags: Log out of Reddit, and then go to your profile page. If you see a 404 page, you are in trouble.

Reddit ghost banning

Reddit official TOS: The official Reddit etiquette doesn’t disallow self promotion when used cautiously and moderately:

Feel free to post links to your own content (within reason). But if that’s all you ever post, and it always seems to get voted down, take a good hard look in the mirror – you just might be a spammer. A widely used rule of thumb is the 9:1 ratio, i.e. only 1 out of every 10 of your submissions should be your own content.”

How to avoid getting ghost banned by Reddit: The tricky thing about Reddit is that the rules actually depend on the subreddit you are submitting to. So read and comment a lot first before submitting your own links. Watch how people react to various types of submissions within a specific subreddit, and then act accordingly.

Sandboxed Vs Ghost Banned

This is very important. If you are new to social media, you may be very discouraged by the above article. But don’t panic if you notice any of the above red flags. It could be that you have been sandboxed, not banned.

Yes, there is another process that websites use for protection from spammers, which is known as sandboxing. This is about giving your submissions less visibility until your account earns trust.

Pinterest is one of the popular sites that seem to be using the process. New accounts there have less visibility in search results or categories even if they use the exact match tags.

But there is no reason to despair. While sandboxing may be inconvenient, it’s a measure that must be taken to protect communities from spammers. Just give it some time, and play by the rules.

Tips to Avoid Being Ghost Banned

Different social networks have their own opinions on what is spamming; however we see some definitive trends here that we would like to note. Adhere to these guidelines if you want to be safe from a ghost ban:

  • Follow and watch power users in your category (see what and how they share)
  • Don’t post the same link more than once
  • Don’t share links from only your domains (think “variety”)
  • Don’t associate with potential spammers (that send same domain links for you to share)
  • Vary update types: share and like articles and media; if possible, send “unlinked” updates

Conclusion

You may not have any idea you are being ghost banned. At least not at first, though over time you may begin to suspect. What you should do to protect yourself is be careful that what you post isn’t against the terms and conditions of the site, that you never spam content, that you don’t start fights or troll users for no reason, and that you watch who you have friended on your account (because a friend who is ghost banned may end up dragging you down with them).

In the end, just being polite and not spamming links is usually enough to keep you from becoming one of the haunted ghost users of these sites.

Image Credit: Ghost Keyboard

About the Author: Ann Smarty is the serial guest blogger running My Blog Guest, the free guest blogging and content sharing platform. Ann is also a proud branding and community manager for Internet Marketing Ninjas founded by Jim Boykin and based in Clifton Park.

  1. Yep do agree with diversity and not spamming links will help to avoid that’ nightmare” banning

    • Yes these are some of the very important tips that businesses should remind themselves of not doing, as unknowingly a business’s social media account might be ghost banned and hence their followers might not be able to see their updates. Business should always keep in mind the above “five tips to avoid from being ghost banned” in mind before actively participating or promoting their products or services on their social media accounts.

  2. Interesting post… is there any ghost banning of facebook too? if yes then how to keep ourself safe.. i have my page related to fashion on facebook. and i share too much interesting material there.. any my fans loves it as well.. is it safe?

    • Facebook just bans :) I have never seen ghost banning there, but they also have that “EdgeRank” algorithm that may make you almost invisible if you don’t interact with friends and just broadcast. Something similar but not the same thing as you can fix that (unlike the ghost ban)

    • From my experience, none of what that official article says stands true in most cases. I did read it all though. Bio length and profile age have nothing to do with appearing in search problem… And we are not talking about mobile search and I did point to “All” results tip (see my screenshot)

  3. Hi Ann! Though I like the idea of ghost banning as a way of getting away the spammers, but it will really hurt the marketers if they are not cautious with their social media accounts. Those tips you’ve shared are helpful. Being unique and creative is still a good way to go.

  4. This is idiotic but thanks for pointing it out. Just one more reason social networking is a fail for marketing. One class action lawsuit by banned users and not only will this b.s. blocking be stopped by these useless networks they be put out of business entirely. The truth is, any social network over 5 years old is stale and needs to die. New networks are the fertile ground for marketers because that is where the action is and they welcome new users. Next!

    • “The truth is, any social network over 5 years old is stale and needs to die” – interesting thought and something I tend to agree with (at least that’s something we’ve seen historically!)

  5. thanks Interesting post thank you

  6. I’d be very interested to read an angle on this about FB Pages. I’ve noticed more than once on my pages that if I post too often then less people see it, if I don’t post for a long time then my first few posts only get shown to a very small amount of people (usually almost exactly 1% of the page fans, discounting viral impact, so that might actually be a chosen figure :s). And a few other things are flagged up when I glance at the insights. No scientific basis to my thoughts or opinions, just something I suspect.

    • That’s called EdgeRank on FB: the less your followers interact your updates, the fewer of them will see it next time (kind of malicious circle). The good way to bypass it is FB Promoted Stories (which makes FB EdgeRank no more than a smart way to make you spend more money on ads – think Google! :))

      • Ahh yes EdgeRank… I’ve heard lots about it but researched very little. My area of expertise has always been on-page SEO and sort of missed the bus on the Social Media Marketing segment of content marketing. Ooops lol But I’m getting into it more and more and I think it’s time to bite the bullet on learning how EdgeRank works inside and out because FB is where a lot of my followers are.

  7. Also… Hi, Ann!!!!!!!

    Didn’t realize it was you who wrote this. You seem to be everywhere I visit these days haha

  8. Very interesting heads up – I had no idea that this existed. A good reminder
    that diversity is more useful than relentless self-promotion. Thanks for the very detailed information and suggestions.

  9. Yea two of my favorite cruise writers collaborate for a great post.

  10. Reddit and StumbleUpon have been ghost banning users forever it seems like. The frustrating thing about being ghost banned is you may have no clue you are absolutely wasting your time.

    I think the main thing StumbleUpon looks for is if you are sharing the same domain over and over.

  11. Hey thanks Ann, came to know about this concept. Social networks are getting smarter day by day.

  12. Thanks i just checked my reditt account and its banned :( That is why i am not getting visit from Reditt. . . Thanks for this aritcle Ann.

  13. I learn fro your post to get banned free from my account on social media site.
    I do have get more informative details from the post. Nice.

  14. Hey,

    I like your published post for giving such useful information.
    It was pretty amazing.

    Thanks,
    Jenifer Taylor

  15. I read your article a little too late! After I read your article I checked twitter to see if my tweets were showing up in the search, they were not. I’ve had the account for about six months and tweeted about 20 times the new article links to my blog. (20 total tweets) Is this something that, in time, they will reverse if I tweet more without links? Any recommendations would be appreciated.

  16. But wait… Didn’t you already share that one? Why isn’t that site on SU listed as your discovery when you know you discovered it just an hour before?

  17. link and dealing with the html and anchor text that linking back to your site.
    I build my back links manually; I can assure that it is a permanent link that has a good quality.
    Social Bookmarking.And the new technique which is “The Advance Social bookmaking with Real Simple Syndication (RSS) and PINGING”.
    Also, the SMM Social Media Marketing, I suggest to create an account on facebook, twitter, my space and other social media networks.
    By adding friends and creating a fan page is the best ways to invite people and market the product of the website.

  18. dealing with the html and anchor text that linking back to your site.
    I build my back links manually; I can assure that it is a permanent link that has a good quality.
    Social Bookmarking.And the new technique which is “The Advance Social bookmaking with Real Simple Syndication (RSS) and PINGING”.
    Also, the SMM Social Media Marketing, I suggest to create an account on facebook, twitter, my space and other social media networks.
    By adding friends and creating a fan page is the best ways to invite people and market the product of the website.

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