On 13 October 2020, I discovered that my Instagram account had been disabled without warning. That means it was removed from Instagram without a trace. A search for my account or handle revealed nothing.
I jumped into action and followed the limited amount of information that’s available from Instagram. Apparently, their terms had been violated. I don’t know how or why, and four weeks down the line, I don’t expect I’ll ever get any more detail than that.
For three weeks I tried to be patient. I had been asked to send them a photo of me holding a piece of paper with a code on it so I assumed that the wheels were in motion. But silence. I decided enough was enough. It was time to stop waiting around, searching for my account twice daily to see if they’d reinstated it without telling me (I’d been told by someone in the know that that’s what can happen sometimes).
So on 3 November, I started again.
I launched my brand new, frighteningly empty, Instagram account. And off we go again. At the time of writing, I have two posts on the grid. Getting to nine posts, let alone having a ‘top nine’ seems quite a way off!
But I’ve taken away quite a lot from my three weeks off the Gram. Here’s what I learned:
1. Nobody noticed I’d gone
Instagram is about what’s in front of you right now. If you don’t see a post from someone you follow for a while you might put it down to the algorithm or it simply might not even occur to you at all. Very few people realised I’d gone at all!
2. I genuinely missed catching up on a handful of my favourite accounts
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I really did miss a few of the accounts that I follow. Those people/accounts do become part of your daily routine, especially those that you feel you’ve got to know through Instagram. Which is the name of the game after all.
3. I realised how freeing it was not seeing the accounts that trigger me
I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘trigger’ but I hadn’t realised the effect that seeing certain accounts on a daily basis was having on me. Not having those triggers every day was hugely freeing. Time to mute those accounts or simply not follow them again with my new account!
4. Being off IG gave me back so much time and space
I don’t just mean the time scrolling but the time simply thinking ‘I need to post today’. And not to mention actually creating those posts. If you’re not in the flow of Instagram post creation 24/7 – and who actually is? – the ‘pressure’ of having to show up and create a well-curated account follows you around all the time. It can be exhausting if you let it.
5. We put all of our social media eggs into one basket – not the best idea
This is where I get on my soapbox. You’ve probably heard ‘them’ (the social media experts) say ‘you can’t be everywhere’ online. So you’re advised to pick a platform and go all in. You can’t do a brilliant job on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest all at the same time. I totally get that – it would be a full-time job and totally exhausting!
But by going all in on that one platform, you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket. If that platform chooses to shut down your account without warning, where does that leave you? In my case, in tears for a few minutes, clinging to the hope that my account would reappear and my 1800 followers would be back. A rather desperate and unstrategic place to be if I’m honest! Thank goodness I had taken the time to build up my email list.
6. Social media is the shop window over which you have no control
Social media, and particularly Instagram, is brilliant. For online businesses like ours, it’s like a shop window to the world. And it’s free. But the downside is that it’s totally outside of our control. We don’t ‘own’ our following and it can be whipped away in an instant. All those lovingly created posts, graphics, captions, stories, IGTVs and reels – all gone in a snap (unless you’ve thought to keep copies, which I hadn’t).
7. I cried – how can one little app have so much power over us?
When my account was taken down, my heart sank. And I cried. It was stressful and a little bit panicky to realise that all of that effort over 2.5 years had gone down the drain, along with hundreds of images and captions. And then I felt angry to think that one little app was having such an effect on me. It had so much power over me and my business. It’s ridiculous.
8. Email marketing is where it’s at
I’ve always loved email marketing but never more so than since my Instagram account debacle. Whilst I dealt with my social media disaster, the glimmer of hope was that I still had my email list which I have always worked hard to build. An email list is your property and gives you a direct connection with your audience who have taken the trouble to sign up to your list because they want to hear from you. You’re not competing with the whims or algorithms of social media companies. If you’re not set up with email marketing yet, it’s time to do it!
This post isn’t intended to scaremonger but we’ve got to think bigger than social media. We need to take back control and not put so much of our heart and soul into it.
Social media is like pouring everything into the house renovation of your dreams. But in a rented house. You just wouldn’t do it.
Please don’t build your business on Instagram alone! Get that email list set up and commit to serving the people who are putting their hand up to hear from you. If that’s something you need help with, drop me an email – I’m a little bit obsessed with email marketing!
Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram. I just love it a bit less than I did before all of this happened. It is still a shop window for my business but not the only one. That’s what’s important. So come and find my fledgling account! It’s at www.instagram.com/louise_maidment.