I resisted Instagram for a long time. I was a Facebook girl and was happy that way. After taking a course on Instagram marketing, I finally caved and started putting a lot of time and energy into building @sarahjanenelson. As an independent songwriter/artist, I knew I needed to embrace Instagram and once I did, I was hooked.
It started out slowly, but as I released my 5th record in 2020, “I’m Not Broken” my Instagram followers grew by the thousands. I was getting new fans from all over the world, people were buying CDs and t-shirts from my website, each Instagram post I made got 100-300 comments and 200-500 likes. People would DM me after listening to my music and tell me their life story about how “I’m Not Broken” resonated with them. It was amazing! I was spending 3-6 hours each day, connecting with my Instagram fans and growing that audience.
I also spent money on Instagram ads. I’d had a lot of success with Facebook ads and expanding to Instagram was a natural shift. As a single mom, shelling out money to build my Instagram audience was a sacrifice, but I felt like I was creating something that would continue to grow and flourish over the years. I steadily gained followers and was thrilled to see the numbers climbing each day.
Instagram Impersonation Accounts
Enter, Instagram Impersonation Accounts. As @sarahjanenelson got more popular, people started creating fake accounts to look like mine. They used my photos, videos, and even text from my page. I still don’t understand what makes these people want to spend their time doing this? Are they benefiting financially in some way? Or is it just fun to mess with someone else’s life? The Instagram imposters would even message my fans, pretending to be me. My fans and I would report them, but they kept popping up again and again. Here are just a few of them.
How to get a blue checkmark on Instagram
I don’t know! After a lot of research, I realized that the next step to stopping the imposters was to get a blue checkmark. I seem to be a good fit for a checkmark as I have thousands of engaged fans, always follow the Instagram guidelines, have numerous impersonator accounts pretending to be me, and have a long resume of work as an actor and singer with a strong presence in the press and online. I starred on Broadway, toured Europe and the U.S., have numerous reviews from top newspapers (Chicago Sun-Tribune, The Miami Herald, Variety, etc…), and even have my own Wiki page. I have applied for the blue checkmark and been denied over and over. Instagram doesn’t give any explanation, so you just keep trying. Meanwhile, the imposters kept coming.
The day the music died…
It was the morning of the U.S. Presidential Election Day 2020, and I got DMs from two fans showing me new imposter pages that had popped up. I reported them as impersonating me and then went to do my “I Voted” post. With the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, I was quite excited to share that I had cast my vote. As I was typing the post, a Captcha popped up that asked me to click all the boxes that contained a stoplight. I did and suddenly I was told that my account was disabled with this message.
I waited for days to request the review from the Help Center but never heard back from anyone. I tried to sign in each day and it didn’t work. Finally, when I tried to sign, I was given the option to file a dispute.
When I filled out the dispute, it said that I had violated community guidelines because I was impersonating someone. Wow. I was shocked and confused. I still am. I have never violated community guidelines. I don’t get political. I don’t have any nudity. I am a real person who sends real messages to other real people. I even had ad Instagram ad running at the time I was shut down. Does Instagram think that an imposter account would be a longtime ad customer? My only guess is that these imposter creeps reported me a bunch of times that morning claiming I was impersonating them. Here is a message an imposter account sent to one of my fans that day.
This imposter sent a link to ANOTHER ARTIST’S MUSIC! They must impersonate so many different people, it gets confusing for them. You can see how my fan is playing along and trying to get info for me and then he sent me these screenshots.
How happy this imposter must have been to see that I was disabled that day! I wouldn’t be surprised if this one is connected to me getting flagged as an imposter since this account was very active the day I got deactivated. This is a new account with hardly any posts or followers. How I am the one who was deactivated is beyond me…
I regret building my business on Instagram.
I warn anyone against building a business on Instagram because at any moment, for absolutely no reason and with no explanation, they can shut it all down. I built something really good. My fans are still sending me messages anywhere they can find me (personal profile, Facebook, my website) and saying that they miss me! Each day I was posting a photo or video and they would look for me. I often wrote long captions with inspirational or philosophical ramblings. My followers would comment and I would comment back. It was something that was meaningful for me and for them.
Now it’s gone and as the days go by with no response from Instagram, I’m losing hope that I will ever get it back. I grabbed these screenshots from my website Instagram feed and they’re the only memories I have of something I spent years building.
I’m not writing this blog post to be bitter or angry. I honestly feel a little dumb for investing my time and money into a company that has no customer support and uses very inefficient methods to do their customer and account management. I could see if this was a free account and they don’t have time to take care of me, but I’m a paying customer. What was I thinking?!
Building my Instagram audience was a waste of time AND money.
I wonder if they’d ever given me the blue checkmark, maybe the attack by the impersonators could have been prevented. Not sure. I just wanted to share my experience since I know I’m not alone. Many of my fellow female country artists who have built tremendous followings have been deactivated. There is only one way I’ve heard to get the account back up.
It’s all about who you know…
The artists who have been shut down wrongfully and gotten their account back up went through a publicist or record label. I may try to do that, but it seems wrong that Instagram lacks customer service so badly that I would have to spend more money to get a simple misunderstanding taken care of.
What’s next? Instagram alternatives…
That brings me to my final question… what are the alternatives to Instagram? Maybe I need to use all the time and energy to post my photos and thoughts on this blog so it’s something I actually own and have control over. I would miss the amazing reach I got with hashtags on Instagram but why build something and pour money into an account that can be taken away for no reason in a moment? On my @sarahjanenelson account, the imposters have won. The real Sarah Jane Nelson (actor/singer) is deactivated.
Thankfully, I have a thriving Facebook page with 15K+ fans. I have now shifted my focus to that more. Facebook doesn’t have the same problems with Impersonation Accounts. I don’t think I’ve ever had an imposter there. They have support for their ads as well. If you’d like to follow me there I’m at www.Facebook.com/SarahJaneNelsonMusic
What’s your experience?
Feel free to comment below and share your experience with being deleted from Instagram for no reason. Or maybe you found out a reason you were deleted. Please share! If you ever find a solution or a way to contact Instagram, please let us know in the comments. I threw away thousands of hours and now I’m trying to figure out what’s next…