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What I Learned from My Instagram Account Being Hacked

Emily Williams

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Emily here. If you didn’t hear, I was hacked! And although I was officially only without my Instagram account for a mere eight days, I wanted to share my top learnings with you in order to help you avoid what I experienced and also inspire — because we both know that nothing in life comes without a lesson.

So let’s take it back…

During the first week of July 2021, I had a dream photoshoot at a specific resort I’d chosen to be the backdrop of my long-anticipated (at least by me) rebrand of the I Heart My Life and and Emily Williams brands.

I prepped, invited guests, booked the photographer and videographer and flew across the country to make this happen. In other words: it was a big deal.

That morning, I was excited. I felt great and thought about how far I’d come since my very first photoshoot back in 2015 that had left me in tears feeling like a complete failure, super fat and super ugly. (Real truth!)

I started that morning with a Bulletproof coffee, washed my face, prepped my skin and hair, and congratulated myself for being so put together and prepped for this day.

A few minutes later, while scrolling through my Instagram DM’s (something I wasn’t actually supposed to be doing as I have a team for that 🤦🏼‍♀️ — first lesson learned), I saw this DM in my inbox that had been sent a few hours prior.

My first reaction was to be annoyed.

My second was to blame.

(Yup, that’s my normal line-up in those moments!)

How could they tell me I’m in copyright infringement when I was just sharing a picture of the hotel, I thought?!

Let me back up…

This hotel was a special place to me – my family went here often when I was a child. We used to have a home here.

About 5 years ago, I stumbled upon a photo of Reese Witherspoon at the hotel during her Draper James launch, and that inspired my own desire to have a photoshoot there.

For years, I talked to one of my favorite photographers (Wendy Yalom) about this location.

But it was so off the beaten path and out there, that it took a while to feel like It was worth the effort.

Flash forward to early 2021 when I decided to start making some big changes in the company, I knew this was the time so I booked Wendy and we made it happen.

As with any photoshoot, my motto is normally “ask for forgiveness not permission” when it comes to the photos, but for this one, I made a point to ask what we were and weren’t allowed to do within the hotel. Since we were literally just using this location and coming all this way, we didn’t want to risk it.

In pure Southern fashion, they gave us the green light to pretty much do anything. No room was off limits. Photography as well as videography were allowed. It didn’t matter if other guests were in the shot. The only thing that was off limits was the front of the hotel which is copyrighted.

That leads me to the shoot day…I had posted a BTS of the hotel the day before, so after getting that DM above, I assumed that had been the issue.

As hair and makeup arrived, I quickly shared all of this with my team and asked them to handle it. I have to admit, I also tried to handle it. I jumped on Facebook chat — the same chat I’d actually been engaged in the day before asking a different question.

They couldn’t help me, they said. They recommended submitting a report and sent me on my way.

So I reached out to all of my social media contacts — on Facebook DM and Voxer and later in the day, one of them got back to me and told me that that was actually a message from a hacker, which made complete sense seeing that I was now getting bribed via email…

 

She instructed me to change my password ASAP. So, during the photoshoot, I quickly asked my COO to do just that and to secure our other accounts.

I was actually relieved to know it was a hacker and not Instagram banning me from posting.

But still, I was disappointed. I’d been building that account for seven years and now when I tried to log in, it said this…

 

 

Although I loved that photoshoot day, it was in the back of my mind the entire time, and I was resentful that it happened that day of all days. But I never allowed myself to believe I wouldn’t get it back. And as you know, eight days later, I did.

This could easily be the end of this story, but as with everything in my life, awareness is key to success, moving forward and also having an impact.

So as promised, here are my top learnings from being hacked. I learned…

  • That all of the work I’d done on my money mindset had paid off. During those eight days, I also connected with a friend who had been unable to access her account for six weeks. She said, “don’t worry — it didn’t impact my business at all”. When she said that I realized that I actually hadn’t worried about it impacting my business. My only concern and annoyance was that I couldn’t share the behind the scenes of my photoshoot and trip with my community. I began to see how much I actually love using Instagram to inspire others to see what’s possible. That’s my whole mission: helping women to see what’s possible for them and Instagram is a huge way that I do that. It’s a big part of my mission, and I’d do it even if it didn’t result in sales or growing my companies.
  • That my success doesn’t actually depend on anything else but me. Even if I never got my account back, that wouldn’t stop me. I’d share in another way. I’d continue to grow my email list, contribute to other people’s platforms and audiences and make it happen.
  • That I still have some control issues. I couldn’t release this situation completely to my team. I didn’t believe they could solve the issue. I didn’t think they cared as much as me or wanted to solve it (even though they did nothing to give me that impression).
  • To ask for help. In the end, my father-in-law was the one who helped me the most. Because I posted about this issue, he reached out to a friend he knew who has been scammed many times in business. He said his contacts who normally help him suggested I watch this video and take this action. Within 5 minutes of going through the steps, my account was up and running.
  • And finally, that people are watching. During those eight days, I got countless messages from clients and community members asking me about my Instagram and telling me that they missed seeing me online. I know first-hand that sometimes it doesn’t feel like people are watching or that you’re having the impact you’re craving, but you are! Keep showing up and doing your thing.
I hope this helps you in some way. Maybe it’s to avoid what I went through or maybe it helps you realize what you truly love to do/what your mission is.
P.S. We’re back in business! I’d love to connect with you on IG! Follow My Account and the IHML Account!
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