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Renee Swigert
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When Instagram Hurts the Photography Community (Update!)

** Update: Thanks to our wonderful Lemonade & Lenses Community, we have regained access to our @lemonadeandlenses Instagram account! We are so grateful to those who made waves (and to Instagram, for working with us directly)! Ryan will be writing some wonderful posts on social media, regarding this exact topic in the future, as soon as we get our feet back on the ground! Thank you!! **

After email upon email, asking where we’ve been on Instagram—it’s time to spill the beans. It’s messy. It’s a bummer. It’s a massive cautionary tale for all of you. As a heavy influencer in the photography community, we feel it’s important to be transparent and honest with all of you. It’s very unfortunate that we have to write a post like this, but here goes!

THE SHORT STORY

Instagram locked down our Lemonade and Lenses Instagram account (@lemonadeandlenses) with 35K followers on Sunday, July 16th, 2017 during our purchase of this amazing company from the original owner Lexi (Vornberg) Clifford. Despite our best efforts, Instagram will not return our multiple emails, multiple private messages, multiple comments on various social media accounts, or multiple hacker reports (we find this one particularly alarming considering photos of OUR children reside on this account!!) Our last hope is YOU—the photography community. To help, please visit our last post on Instagram here: http://bit.ly/2eFZ98R and post this short blurb verbatim: “@Instagram we want @lemonadeandlenses back! Unlock their account!” If the photography community gets behind us, we can be heard.

THE LONG STORY

Last week, we (Ryan, Renee, and Nichole) became the new official owners of Lemonade & Lenses. We purchased this company from the previous owner (Lexi (Clifford) Vornberg), and we made a huge announcement about it over on Facebook. This news was not announced on Instagram because by this time, sadly, Instagram had already locked us out of our @lemonadeandlenses account.

How did this happen?
To be totally honest with you—we still don’t know. On Friday, July 14th 2017, Renee met with Lexi personally at her home in Kentucky, to transfer all existing Lemonade & Lenses accounts over to the new owners. This included Instagram. On Saturday, July 15th, with the new Instagram account in our possession, Renee changed the email and password to something more secure—so only the new owners had access to the Instagram account going forward. On Sunday, July 16th, 2017, Renee gave Nichole access to the @lemonadeandlenses Instagram account so everyone on our team could contribute meaningful content to it. It was at this moment in time, when Instagram stripped us of our account and locked it down. Nichole is 110% positive that she entered the proper credentials into Instagram, and despite doing so, it wouldn’t let her in. After just two tries (which is not excessive behavior) Nichole was labeled as an “attempt to hack”, and our entire account was frozen. Our only guess (and it’s truly far fetched because we hadn’t even made a post as new owners yet!) is that perhaps there was too much activity on our @lemonadeandlenses account in a 72 hour period of time. We were on three separate IP addresses (Lexi’s, Renee’s, and Nichole’s) making simple email, name, and password changes. Regardless, why would a power user with an account of 35K, with no prior issues, be strong-armed without any type of warning? The system flagged us as a hacker, and just like that—we lost the #1 asset to our newly purchased business. It’s devastating to have a limb cut off of your company in the very first week of owning it, especially when Instagram played a major role in the purchase price of Lemonade & Lenses.

How can I protect myself?
There’s no denying that Instagram is an incredible platform for the photography community. We still love it! (Even though we can’t use it anymore!) Instagram truly revolutionized the way photographers conduct business online. In fact, it has become an area where we all invest maybe too much time, perhaps. If you were locked out of your account, is your business diversified enough that you’d still be able to reach your audience? Is your blog strong? Do you have a strong newsletter list, where you can reach your audience on your own terms without algorithms blocking your posts from certain people? These are serious things to think about, if you’re serious about your business long term.

Putting all of your eggs in one basket (Instagram or any other social media platform, for that matter) is risky business. Do you know it was less than 10 years ago when MySpace was the most visited social networking site in the world? Sites like these can provide great exposure and build amazing businesses! However, they are constantly changing—not only as a platform but what is being shown (or not shown) to your followers via algorithms. It’s no secret that it’s getting harder and harder to master these systems without pouring a ton of money into them, and even then, your entire audience isn’t being reached. Diversifying where your business “hangs out”, being active on multiple social media platforms, and caring for your blog and newsletter list(s) internally will help sustain your business long term.

Should I be worried about my Instagram account too?
From our perspective, yes—I think you should be concerned and take precautions. If this fiasco can happen to us, as an influencer within the photography community (the very market Instagram was built on), it can happen to you too. Keep in mind, our Facebook account is still connected to Instagram, and all three of our owners are administrators of the account. Therefore, we would have no problem proving our identity, if someone from Instagram would simply reach out to us. The worst part is, we are barred from logging into our @lemonadeandlenses Instagram account (even with the CORRECT password), but we are still allowed to run PAID ads from it via Facebook. So! Instagram can lock us out of our account and treat us like hackers, but we’re good enough to take money from. (Before you ask—yes, we tried it. Yes, they took our money no problem!) Talk about unethical! If you need additional proof, we aren’t the only business who fell into this situation. It also happened to this amazing photographer, who had a following of over 135K. (Instagram eventually gave him back control of his account, after his fans made waves, and we’re hoping Instagram will show us the same good faith.) The best way to protect yourself is to make sure your business doesn’t rely solely on Instagram. If you partake in Instagram takeovers, allow multiple team members (or a social media coach) to access your account—please know there is a risk in doing so.

How can I prevent Instagram from doing this to me or other people I follow for inspiration and guidance?
Take a stand! It’s truly a sad day when we have to warn the photography community about the very platform that’s helping us clothe our children and put food on our tables. The photography community is investing their hard-earned money and trusting a portion of their business to Instagram. At a base level, Instagram should be providing some level of human support to ensure our investment and businesses are protected. These aren’t just hobbiest Instagram accounts—there are real people and real businesses behind them. We are all in the hustle to provide for ourselves, regardless if we have 50 followers or 50K. Instagram MUST hear from the photography community. This type of behavior is downright negligent, and if this platform was built for us, we should be cared for. I don’t think that’s unrealistic to ask.

Lemonade & Lenses will lead the charge, but we need your help! Please visit our last post on Instagram here: http://bit.ly/2eFZ98R and post this short blurb verbatim: “@Instagram we want @lemonadeandlenses back! Unlock their account!

Together we can make a difference!

  1. Nicole

    It is super hard to get through to anyone. I have repeatedly had my account blocked from uploading for copyright infringement on songs I paid to license. There is no way to contact them to dispute it/show proof of licensing. After nearly 18 months my account was allowed to upload videos again only to have it blocked again in a few weeks.

    • Renee Swigert

      You’re right. It is super hard, and it’s super unacceptable—which is why we feel it’s necessary to talk about it on a big stage.

  2. This is very concerning! I’m sorry you are going through this being new owners. It’s amazing they will take people’s money for ads, but they can’t even write or call you back about this terrible mixup! Best of luck!

  3. I’m sorry that you are going through this! I’ve commented on your latest post and messaged instagram through the app directly! I hope they take action soon!

    • Renee Swigert

      Thank you so much for the support!!!

  4. I’m pretty sure this issue here is that it’s against Instagram’s terms of use to transfer your account to another owner. That’s probably why they stripped it away from you, and why they won’t respond. I’m 99.99% sure you can’t sell an Instagram account. I’m sorry this happened to you! How frustrating.

    • Renee Swigert

      Yep! It’s against Instagram’s terms and conditions to sell an account. We didn’t do that. We simply acquired it as an asset when we purchase the company. We just regained access to our IG account Friday!! :)

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