A couple of weeks ago, my business was put on hold when I was locked out of my Instagram account. It was one of those things that I thought I’d never have to worry about and then it happened in the blink of an eye, completely out of my control.
This post details exactly what happened on my Instagram lockout, where I am with it now, and walks you guys through my very raw emotions throughout this process. I so much appreciate you taking the time to be here, read this, and be a part of my story.
Sometime in early November, I received an influx of spam followers. My account went from 13K to 18K overnight and these thousands of followers did not align with my target audience (mostly men from outside of the US). I used an app called Cleaner to block them. I've worked hard to build an authentic following and did not want these followers to destroy that.
On November 15th, I checked out content I’d uploaded to Tagger Media on my desktop. I logged in through Instagram like I’d done before and received an error “page not found.”
A few minutes later, I was kicked out on my phone from @trendyinindy and @indywinechats.
I tried to log in from other devices, took my phone off Wifi, deleted the app, did everything I could. When I entered my username and password, I got an error that said “We’re sorry, but something went wrong. Please try again.”
Around 10:30pm, @indywinechats was unlocked and I was able to log back in so I thought maybe it was a server error.
On November 16th around 12:30pm, my account went from 14.3K to 20.3K in under an hour, again being attacked by spam followers, but there was nothing I could do since the account was not accessible.
Sometime that Friday evening, I was able to gain access to the 24/7 Facebook Ad Account support and thought that would be a good place to start. JD (FB support team member) created a case for me after I sent my LLC papers to prove this was an actual business and I was told I'd be notified when a decision was made. On Tuesday, November 20th JD emailed me and said: “Good morning. It does look like this type of issue is no longer supported on our end.” Then he listed links to the support pages for IG with steps that I’d already tried and didn’t work.
My friend Richy is well-versed in tech so he did a few steps to try to recover my account. I had to send two photos of myself holding a handwritten code that Instagram sent to my email. I then received an email with a recovery code, but I couldn’t get past the page to enter my username and password. Richy was able to get to the point to enter the recovery code, but he got an error message: “Sorry something went wrong.”
On Monday, November 19th, RTV6 learned of my lockout and did a story on this issue which lead me to get in touch with a press contact at Instagram. We’ve been communicating over the last two weeks and she’s supposedly filed two task issues for this account. I’ve even sent in a photo of me holding my driver’s license. She doesn’t seem to be able to provide info as to why this happened or if I will regain access.
As of now, @trendyinindy is still not accessible. I can see the account and I can reset my password and receive a confirmation email of the password reset. I am also receiving emails when my social media assistant tries to log in for two-factor so I know the account is still active.
Other facts you should know:
I had two-factor authentication turned on.
Nothing has been deleted or changed on the account.
You have zero control over Instagram and their support is horrific.
I never received an email that my account had been disabled.
At this point, I have no idea if I will regain access. I feel like I am in limbo with my business and my brand. Over the last two weeks, I’ve felt every emotion possible about this situation. I’m angry because the rug was pulled from under me, I’ve lost partnerships, and I miss my audience. I’m optimistic because I wanted to rebrand Trendy in Indy to place a higher focus on brand consulting and education so maybe this is a good opportunity to do that. I’m lost because so much of my identity is rooted in this brand and my tribe. I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself through this.
To be completely honest, I do not know what I am going to do next. Right now, I am pushing forward for the brands that have hung on and are still moving forward with me. My followers are slowly finding their way back to my personal account @stephnweber, some even reaching out in DMs saying that they were concerned because I had been so inactive and they didn’t know what happened. The Indy community has been so supportive by tagging me and sending me words of encouragement.
The fact of the matter is that I was finally to a point where I was making a stable monthly income with influencer marketing. I had a plan for 2019 that was derailed. What people who keep telling me I can just start over aren’t remembering is that unfortunately, the number of followers matters when determining your rates. I so wish this wasn’t the case because in my opinion, the number does not matter if the engagement isn’t there. Right now, the industry standard is a penny per follower so you can do the math, but I was charging $135 for one Instagram post and now, with 3200 followers the industry standard is $32 for a post. That’s a hard realization when I think about what I had and now what I don’t have and how long it took me to get there.
On the flip side, I still have my knowledge, I am still me at the core of my being. I know what I’d do differently this time and I have a highly engaged audience that takes massive action when I post because I’ve built a relationship with them. Because I focus so heavily on local businesses, my community is mostly from Indy. The quality of my content is significantly better than when I had 3200 the first time around.
The influencer marketing industry is a little backwards to be honest and during this whole Instagram lockout issue, I’ve seen that even more. I’m going to do a separate post on this to give you some more insight because if you’re not in it, all you see are pretty photos of content we’ve curated. Behind the scenes details coming soon.
At the end of the day, I have to decide what’s financially responsible and mentally responsible for my well-being and for my marriage. Truthfully, I don’t know what that looks like right now and I’m just trying to keep my head above the water. I’m just trying to sleep at night without stressing about what I’m going to do now.
If you find it in your heart to help, please share this message. Help me spread the word that you can still find me at @stephnweber. To those of you that are entrepreneurs, let me be a lesson. You CANNOT pour all of your eggs into the Instagram basket. We spend way too much time curating the perfect feed on a platform we can’t control. I knew this, but didn’t spend enough time trying to grow my email list. I have a little over 1000 subscribers, but it pales in comparison to the following I have (had, I don’t know) on @trendyinindy.
I’m working to believe in myself as much as you guys believe in me. At some point, I’m going to have to decide to stop being angry and decide what to do next. For now, I thank you for hanging in there with me and encouraging me in this time of trial.
Cheers to the next steps,