Honestly I’m little embarrassed to share this, but I’m determined to share how we can share our losses into lessons for the New Year. Today I’m sharing with you one of my lowest points of blogging this year.
My experience probably sounds so trivial compared to actual problems I’ve faced in life but I know I was meant to go through this experience for a reality check. As someone who sees themselves as a content creator, I do take the work I share on my blog and Instagram seriously. So whether you’re blogger, a content creator, or a You Tuber who may be able to relate to the experience, or not, this is a personal experience that forced me to reflect and change my outlook as a blogger.
Here’s what happened…
In September 2017, I was in the middle of Manhattan, the middle of New York Fashion Week, and in the middle of Instagram when I realized I was being shadow banned. (Shadow Ban Definition: Your instagram account isn’t showing up in specific hashtags like #ootd or #petite – because the overuse of hashtags may flag your account as a spam).
I was experiencing a significant drop in engagement and I was freaking out. I was so frustrated I knew I had to take a step back so here is the letter I wrote myself/Instagram:
Thank you for banning me – @emmasedition. Thank you for banning my personal hashtag #emmasedition. How do I know I’ve been banned? It’s easy. I’ve noticed that my engagement has decreased by more than 50% these last two weeks.
On August 29, I had one of my best performing photos ever. This photo first introduced my Seattle’s Most Instagrammable Walls project –one of my favorite projects I’ve ever put together for my blog and Instagram. Over 4,000+ people saw this, 12 people saved it, and 936 people engaged with this photo.
Now here is my most recent photo from New York Fashion Week: only 1,600+ people (3,000 less people) saw this, only 269 likes, and 312 people engaged with this photo. Yet, my caption focuses on matching the contents of the photo. Style, stripes, florals – both aligned visually and in words.
How did I drop over 50-60% in 2 weeks? Easy. My account @emmasedition is being banned – meaning you can’t search me on my personal hashtag of #emmasedition or any other hashtags out there.
Here’s how I know my photos aren’t being seen in hashtags: I had my friends unfollow my account, then go to my profile and one of my photos, then click on my personal hashtag #emmasedition.
What do you see? Nothing. Because my photos are being banned.
I only spent the last 4 years building up my Instagram along my blog Emma’s Editon. I only spent hours each day liking, commenting, and rotating hashtags. I only reached out, partnered, and negotiated with 30+ brands this year to cultivate creative content for Emma’s Edition. I’ve worked so hard for 11,900+ followers who aren’t even seeing my posts because I’ve been banned.
But you know what? I’m okay with it Instagram. I’m okay with being banned.
Because being banned has helped refocus my purpose as a content creator.
I first chose blogging almost 4 years ago as a creative outlet alongside my corporate career. And I still have my creative space. I can write, take photos, and interact with my online community on other platforms.
Being banned on Instagram has helped me affirmed my purpose of #emmasedition – to inspire the modern woman (and man) with fashion, career, and life tips. I’m also here to discuss culture, identity, and diversity because all of these things matter to me. These are the things that I want to inform, influence, and inspire college students, young professionals, friends, family, colleagues, and more.
Instagram, you may have banned my account @emmasedition.
But you will never ban my creative spirit.
I wish I could continue to share my original content and collaborations without worry, but I know this is not the future of Instagram. I don’t know how to un-ban my account, but I do know how to write, take photos, and create original content for myself, my followers, and my brand partnerships.
Here are some tips if you’ve experienced being banned:
1.First check to see if you’ve been banned before you freak out. Have a friend unfollow you, then go to your page and click on a distinct hashtag (like your own personal hashtag) you’ve used before. If your friend doesn’t see, your account is being banned from that hashtag.
2. Next, I’d recommend taking a break from Instagram. If you’re a blogger/content creator like me, you’re probably pretty frustrated. Just take a step back and log out of that account. I’ve also read a few articles recommending logging out of your account and deleting hashtags in previous posts.
3. If you’re anything like me, you probably spend a few hours a day on Instagram. If you decide to take a break from the app, use this time to reflect. Ask yourself: What was your purpose on Instagram?
Was it to become #instafamous? Was it to connect with your followers? Or drive traffic to your blog? Are you still able to do that without Instagram? – Seriously, if you’re Instagram suddenly went away or the app crashed, how are you going to continue your creative work?
4. Remember yourself worth. This may seem like this point is not related to being shadow banned… but in the world of social media it is worth talking about. I constantly battle myself worth with the content I produce. This inner battle is magnified with the number of likes and fluctuation of engagement. My self-esteem has fluctuated with the number of likes and engagement. I feel silly admitting this but I know this is something I have to work on. For both me and you (if you’re being shadow banned), remember the number of followers and likes do not determine your value as a person.
Lastly, remember you were creative before Instagram, you are creative on Instagram, and you are creative beyond Instagram. My favorite blog posts I’ve ever written came from me, not Instagram.
Life After the Letter
After I wrote this out, I flew down to Baltimore to join Brandon for his business trip. I decided to log out of Instagram for 4-5 days and didn’t end up publishing it on the blog. I probably sound crazy for caring this much about Instagram so I kept it as a draft.
But a week or two ago when I started seeing my engagement jump up and down again… I decided to revisit this letter and share a part of it on a photo on Instagram. I had such a positive response to the photo and friends ask where the blog post was that I knew I couldn’t let this post sit as a draft this year.
How I turned this loss into a lesson:
I once saw on pinterest: “If you can’t change your mindset, change your situation.” As I reflect on my highs and lows of blogging this year, I realized that my Instagram experience was worth speaking up about. I will continue to create content and use Instagram so I knew I had to change my mindset this year and the New Year.
I recognize that my loss in the situation was not being shadow banned, it was letting numbers determine my value as a content creator. But there is more to life than page views and likes – and I have to constantly remind myself this. As Instagram analytics and other social media analytic programs get smarter, it’s easier to see your work as just numbers. But as someone who sees herself as a story teller, a content creator, and a writer, I don’t think it’s fair to only judge myself by the amount of reach a photo gets. Helping other women progress in their careers, talk about the gender pay gap, or share my blogging advice to new bloggers out there bring value to my readers that Instagram analytics can’t measure. I know I have to remind myself this.
How you turn your losses into lessons:
So if you’re someone out there whose frustrated with Instagram, you can join me by changing your mindset and refocusing your efforts elsewhere. Or you can change the situation – I’ve had friends take a step back and completely refocus and relaunch their blogs in a completely different way! Whichever way you choose, remember you have value and you should be having fun with what you do!
So one of my resolutions for 2018 is to not let the numbers get to me and focus on what I love to do: I love to create, write, take photos, and connect with the modern women out there.
Here’s to turning our losses into lessons and a wonderful New Year!
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Photos: Holly Phan