What the Instagram API Changes Mean for Every Social Media Marketer


By Gina Vo
Let’s start by reminiscing about Spring 2016. Crying Jordan got photoshopped onto just about anyone suffering a great roast, Beyoncé served us Lemonade, and many were enjoying Drake’s Views.
An API apocalypse was also approaching. Hitting the social world like a ton of bricks, Instagram announced that they planned to implement an algorithm that dictated the order of what you saw on your feed. Users, brands, and social media marketers everywhere were … fine. We complained, used an aardvark to express our restrained anger, and we. were. fine.
Although Facebook’s changes to the Instagram API in 2018 are a little more serious, with concerns over consumer privacy issues, let’s remember not to panic. 😃
Who ends up thriving? Brands that become agile and social media marketers who find workarounds to refine their strategy. So, what insights have been taken away and how can you adapt?
In short, Instagram’s latest API changes have reduced demographic, competitor, and influencer insights from third-party tools that you may have been using to monitor and analyze. We’ve graded the insights and features going away on a scale of 😯 to 😯😯😯😯.
Monitoring — 😯😯 
Simply a pain for community managers who used third-party tools to efficiently monitor and respond. We recommend using your Page’s Inbox for Facebook and Instagram interactions. 

  • Can no longer reply to or like public content.
  • Can no longer follow or unfollow users directly through third-party tools.
  • Non-business profiles will be able to comment directly through third-party tools, but Business Profiles will only be able to comment if their account has been mentioned in the caption or comment or if they have been tagged in the media.
  • Can no longer delete comments directly through third-party tools.

Demographic Insights — 😯😯😯😯 
We felt like Instagram data around audiences was already limiting prior to the API changes. Number of profile visits and follows are still available via Instagram Insights. For all other insights that give you a better idea of who your audience is, we recommend choosing a third-party that is an official Instagram Partner. 

  • Instagram user data, including profile images, display names, and follower data, is no longer available.
  • You will no longer receive ethnicity data for Instagram users.
  • Instagram-based analytics, like audience reach, impressions, people engaged, and Influencer rankings, will be impacted, as follower data is no longer available.
  • Can no longer access followers gained and lost.
  • Can no longer access distribution by number of followers.
  • Can no longer access followers’ activity profile.
  • Can no longer access followers to following ratio.

Competitor Insights — 😯😯 
Luckily, we are still able to view multiple competitors in one dashboard, but a competitor’s follower count will just be a manual pull. 

  • You can still collect anonymized public Instagram posts by tracking hashtag or geolocation. However, you cannot directly track all of the content published by an unowned account. If you’re tracking a handle that you don’t own, you will no longer receive any of their content moving forward.
  • Only Business Profiles can be added to competitor tracking tools.
  • Can no longer access competitor followings KPI.
  • Competitor profile images will be removed.

Influencer — 😯😯😯 
This will directly impact community managers who look for UGC and social media marketers who seed influencers by criteria such as follower count. Again, opt for a social listening tool that is an official Instagram API Partner to identify share-worthy UGC and influential accounts talking about your brand. 

  • You can still collect user-generated Instagram posts (that are public) via hashtag and geo-tracking. However, content will appear anonymous — you will not see the profile images or display names of authors unless you own the handle
  • As of December 11, 2018, you will no longer be able to conduct hashtag or location searches using a third-party tool.
  • No longer able to pull the Most Influential users.

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Background on The Social Lights
The Social Lights® is a social-first agency headquartered in Minneapolis that partners with clients to grow their business through strategy development, creative production, media buying, and social media management. Current clients include General Mills, Ecolab, Cargill, Caribou Coffee, Kwik Trip, Polaris and Massage Envy. The Social Lights was founded in 2011 and is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise. Learn more at The Social Lights.

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