As a photographer, my number one marketing tool is obviously, Instagram. I started using it in 2012 and it’s been key in helping me make meaningful connections and to showcase my photography. I feel pretty confident in saying it’s a big reason I was able to build my business into what it is today.
Last month everything changed.
With no warning, my account got shut down.
Here’s the story of how it happened, how I got it back and a few lessons I learned along the way:
First, I started having a lot of bugs and issues around posting in my feed. I would just post something and it would immediately disappear. At this point, I thought it was a simple error and a few updates would fix it.
“Error - Your account has been disabled for violating our terms. Learn how you may be able to restore your account”.
Since I never received a warning message nor had any of my posts been removed before, this was a big surprise. I never bullied anyone, used other people’s content, shared something explicit or paid for followers/likes. Ever. So my immediate thought was: “Oh no. Someone hacked my account.”
In this case, Instagram instructs you to file a dispute and plead your case - basically, you have to tell them that disabling your account was a mistake. I did this immediately.
I filed many of these disputes, emailed the support team daily, but nothing happened. Then I messaged a good friend who used to work at Facebook. He was super nice about it and said he would reach out to a few people he knew might be able to help. Then I waited...
There are tons of articles on the internet about how to get your account back and trust me, I tried all the things they suggest. Probably more times than I'd be proud of.
Can you blame me, though? It felt like I lost my community, my voice, and my key marketing tool all at once.
On the top of this... the whole thing went down in and around the time Adam and I were gearing up for our trip to California, so I got extremely anxious about not being able to share with the world. I mean. You gotta show all of those insta-worthy moments in real-time, right?
Is this really something I’m worried about? Is sharing every moment going to affect my business and/or people’s perception of my business?
Having over a month to meditate on this topic, and knowing that everything happens for a reason made me realize, that this is another lesson I’m about to learn at this fun school we call life.
So here are my 7 main takeaways from this crazy story:
1. Don't put all your eggs into one basket. Diversify your marketing.
Yeah, duh, it's obvious. Sharing on only one platform is silly. But still, a lot of us make this mistake.
2. It won't affect your bank account.
I was terrified this would do long-term damage to my business. The thought of a big brand unable to tag me for a popular image I took kept me up at night. How silly is that? But you know what, I got more bookings this past month than ever before. This mostly due to my amazing referral network - but the lesson here is that I should have trusted that the love and energy I put into my relationships will go beyond the reach of any social network.
3. We should all be spending less time on our phones.
Honestly, this was my favourite part of the whole debacle. I finally had time for myself. For whatever I wanted. My 8 hr work days were totaling 5. I arrived at my meetings earlier. 15-20 minutes before, how I always imagined it to be. I didn't waste time composing the perfect posts, staring at other people's lives, or getting lost in a stream of stories. I felt like I got my life back.
4. It's okay to not share.
Holy shit, it's okay! It really is. We overshare. Putting my phone away for a month and not worrying about my social media presence was one of the best things I have done for my mental health and my relationship.
5. No, you will not miss out on anything.
Your real friends will find a way to keep in touch. Your clients will email you. Your dogs will love you. Your life will go on.
6. You become more aware and therefore, creative.
Not feeling like I have to share, I left my phone at home or in the bottom of my bag more often. I walked around with my eyes and mind open. I noticed things in my neighborhood that I've never seen before. I created more.
I road tripped through California (I know, again...), and I finally had a trip that I got to fully enjoy with Adam. I only took photos with my DSLRs and my Instax and I used my cameras all the time.
7. Your self-esteem and outlook on life changes for the better.
This is a big deal. I wasn't fed perfect bodies and moments and clothes and stuff all day. I started practicing more gratitude towards everything I have. I had time to connect with me and be thankful for the body, mind, and spirit I've been blessed with. It's easy to get caught up in all the things we don't have. It's easy to think that life is unfair, and some things really are. But at the end of the day, what matters is how you react to these things and what you take away from it.
So what actually happened to @bettinabogar?
My account was restored on June 18th, thanks to my amazing friend who used to work at Facebook. I was officially offline for 33 days. He had a direct contact at Facebook/Instagram and it turns out that my account was flagged incorrectly.
Unfortunately, I'm not alone. This issue in Instagram's algorithm is affecting thousands of users. A lot of them are influencers and businesses, meaning no harm. Most of them don't have the means of contacting anyone who's working there, so they may never get their account bank. Instagram is aware of the issue, yet unfortunately, they don't have enough staff on their support team to look into every case.
Unfair? I think so. But again, we’re not paying for this app (in dollars that is) ...
So here's my advice to other people who are going through the same issue - find a contact who works at Instagram. It's the only way. Talk to everyone you know. Ask for help. And of course, take a step back from the damn thing from time to time and diversify. While I’m overjoyed to have my number one marketing tool back, I learned so much from losing it.
Thanks again, to all my amazing friends and friends of friends who did everything they could to help me. You know who you are. You guys are the real deal and I’m so incredibly grateful for your help and your friendship.