How Scammers On Instagram Made Me Change My Social Media Strategy
How fake accounts changed the way I connect and share on Instagram and Facebook.
If you're in the "woo" or metaphysical space (tarot, astrology, healing, crystals, human design, etc.), you've probably experienced fake accounts in your DMs.
If you're a provider of service, it's most likely a report from your community that someone is impersonating you.
If you're a follower of a provider of service, it's most likely someone has slid into your DMs soliciting a reading as the provider you're following.
For the past few months, myself and my team have been doing our best to batten down the hatches and fight these fake accounts:
- Reporting fake accounts via Instagram and Facebook reporting
- Asking my community to report fake accounts
- Reporting on stolen intellectual property posts
- Supporting other providers who are victims of fake accounts by reporting their impersonators
- Contacting the F.B.I. (Did you know their local / regional field agent WILL call you back?)
- And even calling the local police in the town of my most crazy impersonator
But alas, as of today, I am no longer fighting.
The scammers have won.
Part 1: How fake accounts got away with identity theft, copyright violations, and breaking the law on Instagram and Facebook.
So, how did it get to this point?
Simple. Facebook and Instagram (social media platforms owned by Meta) don't care about the micro and small businesses that trade in the metaphysical space.
They have inadequate reporting features and non-existent support.
There are ZERO repercussions for individuals running these fake accounts.
If you do report these fake accounts, they may or may not be taken down.
It's been observed by myself and others that sometimes reporting a fake account only results in YOU not being able to see the fake account while the account remains active.
Or the fake account may block you, so you can't see them.
One of my impersonators went as far as taking screenshot pictures of Baby Mystic (which were initially posted publicly but have since been removed) as their profile pic.
Eww. Gross. And very concerning.
I was able to get that fake account shut down by reporting them as pretending to be a minor.
This experience was discouraging to say the least.
Why Facebook and Instagram Should Take Metaphysical Service Providers Seriously And Fix This Problem
According to IBISWorld (an industry reporting service), myself and those of my ilk contribute to a $2.2 billion dollar (USD) industry.
Do a quick search of hashtag terms #astrology (10.7M posts) and #tarot (17.2M posts) on Instagram, and you'll see that we also generate millions of pieces of original content to the platform.
Generally, when a business uses a social media platform to market their brand and promote their services, they enter what they hope is a symbiotic relationship with the platform.
Businesses create entertaining and informative content to attract followers / customers and build a community on the platform.
While the social media platform, in turn, benefits from the free content posted as a means to grow its user base.
In theory, this relationship should be a win-win for both parties.
Problems arise, when the social media platform doesn't do enough for or empower the businesses / creators to protect themselves if they're under attack on the platform.
As I mentioned above, Instagram and Facebook's reporting features are seriously lacking.
And as a small business owner, you are left to perish at sea should you find yourself hacked out of your own account or your content stolen.
An example of how unfettered and bold these fake accounts are is the situation of Theresa Reed @thetarotlady.
Theresa Reed is a celebrated bestselling author and respected luminary in the tarot and astrology fields.
She's been quoted and featured in top media publications (seriously, she's like a big deal).
Theresa's paved the way for many a tarot reader and astrologer to get out there and share their gifts (myself included).
Going through her Instagram feed you'll see an almost weekly post of yet ANOTHER fake account impersonating her.
And yet, all she can do is report these fake accounts.
Theresa has zero means to fight scammers who are preying on her community.
It's been left to the individuals and the community affected by these scammers to protect themselves.
Community watchdog @scammeralertpage on Instagram was created by Nova of @novamagicktarot in response to the lack of support for business owners whose accounts are being impersonated or hacked.
Scrolling through @scammeralertpage's feed you'll see how widespread, unchecked, and prevelant these fake accounts are.
If Instagram and Facebook really wanted to protect / empower their business owners and creators on their platforms, here's how they can do it:
1. Expand the reporting feature of "It's pretending to be someone else" by allowing you to select accounts you follow WHO ARE NOT BLUE CHECK MARKED (aka: everyone else not a celebrity).
2. Allow businesses / brands to reserve variations of handles / usernames / profile names of their business names (especially if they own the trademark of their business name in their home country).
3. Implement a cross-check feature that recognizes duplicates or variations of an existing handle / username especially if it's a business or creator account (I mean if Instagram and Facebook can limit the views on TikTok videos shared on its platforms because of the TikTok watermark....why can't it do this?).
4. Allow those who do business under a pseudonym to be able to protect themselves or go through a transparent process to prove who they are under their pen names (this is ESPECIALLY important for our members of the LGBTQIA+ community who go by names other than what's on their government issued IDs).
5. Provide a straight-forward and transparent process for established accounts to reclaim accounts deleted "by the system" or stolen / hacked by scammers.
Are these perfect solutions that will absolutely stop scammers in their tracks? No.
As they say, if you make it idiot-proof, someone will make a better idiot.
And this is clearly the case with scammers.
But these suggestions can go a long way in cutting down fake accounts and protecting those who are doing their best to build their businesses authentically.
Part 2: How I'm Pivoting My Marketing Strategy
Instagram has been and always will be my favorite social media platform.
It's been the best way I connect with my community and share my message.
It's also the first platform where I really felt at home as a user and as a business owner.
But I'm tired.
I'm tired of feeling like I can't be generous with my knowledge and insight.
I'm tired of second-guessing if I should post something quasi personal in case a scammer uses it to trick an unsuspecting public.
I'm tired of seeing my friends be victims and seeing their hard work also get ripped off.
I'm tired of thinking about it.
I hate the toll that this situation has taken on my mental and emotional health.
I recently found out through Human Design that I'm a Generator.
Generators need to work from a place of joy and genuine enthusiasm to create the impact they desire in their businesses (sorry HD experts if I didn't say this part right).
And the idea of working on content to share on Instagram has been filled with nothing but dread and anger lately.
I can definitely say that my consistency has dropped majorly since I've been under attack from these fake accounts.
I watched carefully to see if there were signs that maybe, just maybe, Instagram / Facebook would get their heads out of their asses and do something.
That is not the case.
It's pretty clear to myself and others in the same boat as me, they will NOT do anything regarding this rampant issue.
So, the only things I can do are within the realms of what I can control.
And that's content and ad spend.
Instagram and Facebook may not need me personally to beef up its feed but it does need my drop in the bucket to at least keep my followers on their platform longer.
And while I'm not like some of my private clients who literally spend hundred of thousands of dollars on Facebook and Instagram ads, I do know that my $30 a month to share my most popular posts to new audiences does add up to the bottom line at the end of the year for Meta (Instagram ads are a significant source of revenue for Meta).
Instagram (and by default Facebook since things are auto-shared) can no longer be the heart of my content marketing and hub.
I've been doing research on the best way to share content on multiply platforms without burning out.
As soon as I've completed testing out the few approaches I've discovered (I'm currently testing my top 3 right now), I'll either update this post OR write an update blog post in the future.
So, stay tuned.
As far as ads are concerned there are other avenues to use in conjuction with Instagram and Facebook (so they are not your primary hub):
- Google Ads (how many people use Gmail and Google search?)
- LinkedIn Ads
- Twitter Ads
- TikTok Ads
- Snapchat Ads
- Pinterest Ads
- YouTube Ads
- Podcast Ads
- Reddit Ads
- Your Local Events & Culture Paper or Newspaper Sections (this is a regional paper that typically publishes local events and topics)
Figure out where your people are and start there.
Now, for the million-dollar question:
Do I still believe that you should focus on creating a community and connections on a main platform - YES.
But do I believe your content should exclusively LIVE just on that platform - NO.
So, my strategy going forward on Instagram and Facebook can be summed up by these three words:
Support, Report, and Inform.
1. Join my email list.
The best way anyone can support someone who is beleaguered with fake accounts is to sign up for their email list.
It's the easiest way to connect outside of Instagram.
You don't need a special bribe.
If you like my content, and you want to hear more from me, simply sign up for my email list.
This is the most direct way I can share more deeply without fear or hesitation.
2. Follow me on my other social media platforms:
My Twitter: @business_mystic
My TikTok: @businessmystic
My LinkedIn: My LinkedIn Profile
My Pinterest: Pinterest Profile
My YouTube Channel: The Business Mystic Channel
My Medium Page: The Business Mystic on Medium
So, do I currently have all my updated content on every single platform?
But I am doing what I can to use other social media platforms as my backup, versus just having a backup account on Instagram.
Continue REPORTING the fake accounts.
If you find a fake account has DM'ed you, soliciting a reading or telling you how your aura looks great that day, report them!
Send me a screenshot of the fake account, and I'll report them and let other members of our community know about them as well.
Don't engage with them or send them your hard-earned money.
I'm taking a proactive approach to regularly reminding my community on Instagram and Facebook to join my email list, follow me on other social media platforms, and watch out for the fake accounts.
If you're a fellow service provider or content creator that has been a victim of these fake accounts, I strongly encourage you to adopt any of or all three of these approaches.
If don't have an email list yet, start one.
You don't need to overthink it.
Share your other social media platforms, even if they're sparse.
Just get the word out.
Part 3: What you can do to support your favorite spiritual content creator or service provider?
If you decide to join my email list and / or follow any of my other social media accounts (thank you by the way) and would like to support my colleagues as well, here are the ways you can easily do that for them:
1. Sign up for their email lists.
2. Follow their other social media accounts.
3. Support them on Patreon (if they have one).
4. Report fake accounts impersonating them if they share them.
5. Like, comment, and share their posts that are spreading awareness around the scammer (so they get better reach with their posts).
So, in conclusion, this post is really a cautionary tale.
I can't stop the scammers from impersonating me on Instagram and Facebook.
But I can stop Instagram and Facebook from being the main beneficiary of all my content and ad spend capital.
Enough is enough.
If you feel the same way I do, then definitely rethink the importance of Instagram and Facebook in your marketing strategy.
Don't put all your marketing content or ad spend eggs in one basket.
Don't be afraid to pivot and make changes if things don't work out.
Definitely, don't let the scammers get you down.
Keep sharing and being you.
Let me know in the comments below:
Have you been a victim of a fake account impersonating you? Do you have any tips or advice you can share?
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