The owner of Melbourne-based business Fig and Bloom says her brand has suffered as a result of her Instagram account being deleted three times in the past few months with no explanation.
Fig and Bloom, which has made big waves since launching in February this year, specialises in the online delivery of flowers.
A big part of the business’ brand awareness has been generated through Instagram, founder Kellie Brown told SmartCompany.
“It was huge, we were on such a roll, brand awareness was really high,” Brown says.
The first time the company was deleted from Instagram was in March, Brown said she lost all of her 3000 followers.
Brown thinks she knows why her account was deleted the first time around as a fellow Instagram user had become irate after Brown shared a Pinterest photo on the Fig and Bloom account.
“She said she would report me, the next day I was deleted,” Brown says.
In retrospect, Brown admits she could have handled interactions with that particular user differently but at the time, she did not realise she was doing anything wrong.
Brown now thinks she violated an Instagram term which states users have to post original images.
“You’re not allowed to post anything that is not an original image on Instagram… but everyone does it,” she says.
Brown created another Fig and Bloom Instagram account, got it up to 6000 followers after what she calls an “aggressive approach” to gain supporters back, but says despite posting only original images from the account, it happened again at the end of June – the entire account was deleted.
Brown says the pop-up error message that appeared before her account was deleted was brief and only referred to a violation of the terms and conditions.
“There’s no warning or option to correct the supposed ‘violation’,” she says.
Brown says the last time her account was deleted, she did get a message saying “please tell us if you think you’ve made a mistake”, but she had problems with that too.
“It didn’t give a time and there wasn’t a countdown but before I pressed send it was done. I didn’t get time to give a response,” she says.
“Then I just started up a new account.”
Unfortunately Brown’s latest Instagram account for Fig and Bloom, @FigandBloom_, isn’t bouncing back as quickly as last time, with only about 300-400 followers so far.
“Trying to remember 6000 handles on Instagram is so hard,” she says.
Brown says the setbacks means she went from a new business with a really strong brand presence to almost nothing overnight.
“I haven’t seen it pick up, business since then has really plateaued,” she says.
As well as knowing that others were getting away with putting up non-original pictures on the social media site, Brown says the hardest thing is not knowing why her accounts were deleted.
“Anyone that knows my brand and knows my (Instagram) feed is like, ‘you didn’t just throw in a nude did you?’” Brown jokes.
“It’s just pictures of flowers. The amount of times I’ve contacted Instagram, and reread the terms and conditions.”
Brown says the incidents have also left friends and family puzzled and she thinks many of her clients have been left feeling dubious about Fig and Bloom as a result.
“My clients, my friends, started asking questions,” she says.
“Once the second one shut down, people started scratching their head. It’s definitely hurt the reputation of my brand.”
Other online retailers and businesses Brown has spoken to about her experiences are also perplexed, Brown says.
“It’s almost become like folklore; Kellie has been shut down again,” she says.
“It sticks in people’s head because it’s so ridiculous.”
Brown says she would love to see her original account reinstated much like what happened to Queensland photographer Melissa Jean Wilbraham last week.
Equally, she says she would like to see Instagram change the way it approaches users whose accounts are at risk of violating its terms and conditions.
“I believe someone as big as Instagram or [its owner] Facebook really needs to have someone out there discussing terms and conditions,” she says.
“It would be great to give three tips, like don’t regram, don’t do X, Y and Z.”
SmartCompany contacted Instagram but did not receive a comment prior to publication.