Instagram Community Guidelines vs Craft Beer
Where’d our posts go?
You may have been hearing a little less from some of your favourite craft breweries on Instagram lately, this is the reason why. We’ve joined a long list of breweries and accounts whose posts are being removed for supposedly ‘violating community guidelines’ when posting about our new releases.
We’ll start by saying that there are obviously bigger issues in the world right now than a few missing Instagram posts, but for an independent brewery like ours that relies on channels like Instagram to help spread the word about our latest releases, it certainly doesn’t help things.
Community Guidelines Violations
In October, a notification popped up saying one of our posts had been removed for violating Instagram’s community guidelines, specifically the sale of regulated goods aka alcohol, aka delicious modern sour beers.
We thought nothing of it. We saw that there was a button to appeal the decision (which we were sure was a simple misunderstanding to be rectified by Zuckerberg himself back at Instagram HQ). Our appeal was declined, and we quickly realised that Instagram don’t want to talk to us, or anyone for that matter. There is no way to escalate this issue unless you have an account manager or work with an agency who spend enough money on Instagram advertising to qualify for one. It’s clear now that a few boosted posts won’t cut it.
After that we had several more posts removed and our appeals declined, and at this stage it felt like a gamble every time we posted as to whether or not this seemingly random post removal automation would affect us. The impact of so many ‘violations’ meant our account was shadow banned – where our user handle wouldn’t appear in search even if someone searched it word for word. Our reach to non-followers was reduced to almost nothing and still remains like that for 90% of our posts. It also meant warnings that we were at risk of losing our account.
The issue itself is that the community guidelines are clear, no sale of alcohol or other regulated goods is allowed from individuals, however Meta's transparency centre highlights that 'bricks and mortar businesses' (such as breweries, bars, bottle shops) are exempt from this, or in their own words, Instagram's community guidelines prohibit;
"Content that attempts to buy, sell or trade alcohol, except when posted by a Page, group or Instagram profile representing legitimate brick-and-mortar entities, including retail businesses, websites or brands, or a private individual sharing content on behalf of legitimate brick-and-mortar entities."
Who does it Affect?
We soon noticed other craft breweries having similar issues, even including verified accounts. Not even those lovely blue ticks can protect you…
The Independent did a feature on Northern Monk to highlight what was happening and we then saw lots of pals of ours like Neon Raptor, Brew York and North Brewing Co talking about the issue and how it was affecting their accounts too. Both Brew York and North Brewing Co even had their accounts suspended and removed temporarily for too many ‘violations’, but thankfully they’ve been restored since. We even saw Deya release an IPA called ‘Against Community Guidelines’ which seemed to coincide with some of our posts being restored after months of sitting in review!
We’ve spoken to some bigger breweries, including Tennent's who confirmed that this issue hasn’t affected their Instagram account or any others in their portfolio. This might be because they haven’t used key words or a direct sales message to trigger the problem, or it could be that they’re a much larger brand with huge social advertising budgets – but that’s maybe just the tin foil hat speaking.
What we know is that we can run paid ads on Instagram with a direct sales message, linking to our online shop with no issue, but an organic post (shared directly to our followers) with the same sales message will get removed.
A Temporary Workaround
We’ve had enough posts removed (and some restored) to work out some but not all of the keywords that seem to cause us issues. If you run a brewery, bar or bottle shop Instagram account then here are a few tips that help us keep on Zuckerberg’s good side.
- Avoid direct sales messages in your post captions – words like ‘web shop’, ‘buy now’, ‘available here’, prices and in some occasions ABVs all triggered post removals for us so we’d recommend steering clear for now
- Use Instagram stories to link people to your web shop – unlike feed posts, your story is like the wild west and from our experience, anything goes!
- If you N E E D to add a sales message, pop it in the comments, these also go unchecked and won’t affect the feed post
- Use video where you can – messages in videos also seem less subject to removal. Just make sure your post caption avoids those key words as well
How you can help
Firstly, if you work at Instagram or know someone that does, please reach out to us on Info@VaultCity.co.uk – there would be a lot of grateful breweries if you could crack this issue, and I’m sure you’d never pay for a beer again in your life.
Other than this, the best way to help is to keep supporting independent businesses. Your local bottle shop will likely be having the same issue if they’ve built a big enough following to be on Meta’s radar, so it’s worth paying them a visit.