Creatives love and hate Instagram. While everyone is on it, very few enjoy being there. The platform is constantly changing the way it prioritizes work, as well as banning creatives without any reason. I was one of the unlucky many to experience such a ban. It was worse than I thought. Waking up in the morning ready to start a new day, I sat down for breakfast and opened Instagram. It froze, and then said, “account deactivated”. Devastated, I went online to search for solutions. My day was ruined and I really felt like I lost a limb. The size of the tragedy was off the scale.
You may say, “He is just so Gen-Z, I use MySpace and ModelMayhem for work”, and good for you! I use Instagram, although to be frank, I wouldn’t be using it if I didn’t have to. Scrolling Instagram in the morning is not checking the habit I’m particularly proud of, but I am used to what Vogue is up to, what new images my retoucher made, as well as catching up with any work-related messages.
Being unable to do work via Instagram was a loss. If you’re so inclined to know I spend more time looking at Vogue Runway app to see what’s fashion up to than scrolling through memes on Instagram. I did however recently start checking Facebook for Fstoppers memes, which are hilarious.
Long story short, I got unbanned. But I learned a lot during the 7 devastating Instagram-free days. Here are some things that I strongly urge you to do. I never thought I would be banned until I woke up and was.
Lesson 1: Having Multiple Ways to Contact People
As mentioned already, I use Instagram for work. So do most creatives. Even the old-school folks who were popular in the 70s and 80s have Instagram by now. It is fairly easy to find a creative using Instagram. I found crew for my first ever photoshoot on there. Why bother with finding out people’s info if you can just look them up on Instagram and slide into the DMs.
Having established a good network there, I constantly relied on it to get new work. There were very few phone numbers I collected, mainly Instagram tags. This created a bubble waiting to burst. As the network grew, it became more valuable. As I got banned, I lost it all.
Thank god, I had a few good friends who knew everyone in the industry in the city. Side note: you must know super-connectors, they will save your life. I called them immediately and asked for the phone numbers of the people I was going to shoot with. A dozen calls with an embarrassing “I got banned” followed.
What I learned from this experience was that you should never ever keep your eggs in one basket. The safest way to keep a good network is by using a database, or just the contacts app on your phone. Assuming your phone is backed up, you are a lot less likely to lose the information. Whenever you work with someone new, ask for their number, Instagram, email, and any other info they’re happy to give. Record it, save it, and don’t rely on an Instagram tag.
Lesson 2: Not Relying on One Platform to Showcase Work and Reach an Audience
Simply looking at reach, Instagram is the biggest of them all. It is free as well. Sure, I can put up billboards with my images around the city and have more reach, but that would cost a fortune. Instagram ads are the same, although they increase reach, I need to pay for them.
When I lost Instagram, it lost the audience it had. Although I haven’t amassed a massive following on it, it is a following of people who hire me. Not having the ability to put my stuff in front of people who want to buy it was a huge loss as well. I didn’t have any other way to do it either.
The lesson I learned is that there should be a backup way to reach some people as far as showcasing work goes. One of the best and easiest ways to do it is by having a mailing list. I have started manually adding emails to a mailing list and sending out a quarterly emailer. You should find an alternative way to show your work to an audience.
There is an illyaovchar.com website that you can find and browse, but it is designed to be a portfolio, not a feed of new images, therefore it won’t be a good way to reach an audience. Also, photographer websites are generally not visited regularly, so it won’t replace a mailing list or Instagram.
The Good Side to Being Banned
There was a good side to this hiatus from Instagram. It let me rethink how I market my work, as well as create backups for reaching my clients and creative network. It also allowed me to compose this article, which, hopefully, is a valuable lesson for the dear reader.
On a personal note, not having Instagram let me change from texting to ringing people up. It seems like now with the comfort of texts, few bother to call, which is a shame as I noticed. I am now all for calling and not texting. Calling takes less time, and also allows having a proper conversation. While I sound old-fashioned, I appreciate the alive quickfire dialogue that ringing people up provides. Just one note on etiquette, always give people a way out of a call by starting the conversation with “can you talk now?”. The better you are, the more people pick up. In a way, it’s a measure of how respected you are among your colleagues.
Overall, being banned from Instagram, albeit temporarily, changed the way I work with people. I am grateful to whoever made the choice to ban me on Instagram, you helped me spend less time on your platform and rely on more effective and better methods of reaching the people I need. Writing this article, I strongly suggest following the advice in it. It’s like having a backup drive: you think it won’t happen to you until it does.