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College Station business’ social media advertising stifled by Instagram’s community guidelines algorithm

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 11:06 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - A College Station business owner says they are running into issues with advertising on a social media platform.

Burdett & Son Outdoor Adventure Shop in College Station says they turned to advertising on Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the COVID-19 shut down happened, we had to reduce capacity. We had to figure out a way to still reach our customers because we were getting a bunch of calls every day that basically were, ‘Do you have this in stock,” said Manager Sarah Burdett.

Burdett says in the beginning, everything was fine. Until a few weeks in, posts were getting flagged for review. Many of the pictures Burdett says they were posting were different types of guns and ammunition that had just come in to the shop.

“Basically we have been flagged for violating community guidelines,” said Burdett. “They are saying that we are selling regulated goods illegally. I have uploaded every possible documentation that I can to prove that we are a business and are accepted as a business, including our federal firearms license, and anything that we may have on file to prove that we are a valid business that can sell these regulated goods.”

Like many small, locally-owned businesses, the pandemic made Burdett get creative. Up until now, they have had two of their pages shut down by the social media platform, which made them lose thousands of followers. Burdett says nearly every post goes through a community guidelines review.

Glen Brewer, CEO and President of the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce, says many small businesses had to rely on social media to sell goods and connect to the public during the pandemic.

“Especially important for local businesses, for brick and mortar. With the pandemic changing everybody’s buying attitudes and the way they look at things, it’s just another way that we can pivot to reach out to targeted audiences,” says Brewer.

Burdett says just to reach her audience, they are making little tweaks to hopefully not have to deal with getting flagged every time they try to advertise.

“We will have to space out Winchester or Glock, the calibers are now put in with emojis, the way that the pictures are taken are at the angles to stop catching that algorithm that pulls it immediately, because it’s just computers scanning the post,” said Burdett.

Burdett says she hopes things can be squared away with the social media platform, but notes the frustrating aspect of trying to sell goods, but being stopped.

KBTX reached out to Instagram for clarification about these guidelines, and why Burdett continues to experience this but did not hear back.

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