At the beginning of 2018, Instagram began rolling out many new changes for marketers and the Instagram Graph API. The Instagram Graph API allows you to programmatically access Instagram Business Accounts so you can easily manage media objects, view comments and metadata, and get insights and metrics with custom-built apps. The Instagram API (short for “application program interface”) is essentially a way for apps to talk to and interact with Instagram, without accessing the frontend Instagram interface.
What exactly is changing?
For marketers, and those building software or applications that rely on data coming from the Instagram Graph API, constant changes to how you can access data on the platform continue to be announced. Most of these changes are in reaction to the number of security concerns Facebook has faced in recent months.
For example, access to Instagram’s API has decreased from 5000 API “calls” per hour to 200 API calls per Instagram account per hour. An API call refers to the request made to an API asking for data. This means that you are now much more limited in the amount of data you can request from the API at one time.
In addition, access to potentially personal identifiable data has been significantly limited.
The New API’s
Social graph representation
Within the Instagraph Graph API ecosystem, there are different terms to familiarize yourself with:
- Nodes which are objects such as users, photos, and comments.
- Edges which define connections between objects.
- Fields which are properties on an object that can be returned by the API on request.
Additionally, within the Instagram Graph API, there are a number of APIs and endpoints which you can request data from.
The Mentions API is a feature that allows you to identify captions, comments, and media in which your Business Account alias has been tagged or @mentioned. So, if you’re business is mentioned in another person’s content, you can use a Webhook to receive a notification.
There are limitations with this API, though. Mentions on Stories and measuring comments on photos in which you were tagged is not supported.
The Insights API allows you to get metrics for your own Instagram Business Accounts and the media objects you own. Common requests from this API include asking for reach, impressions, and profile views. Amounts for each metric are calculated upon request.
Limitations with this API include being restricted to two years worth of data and being able to only request data for one account at a time. In addition, Storie’s insights are only available for 24 hours, even if the stories are archived or highlighted. If you want to get the latest insights for a story before it expires, set up a Webhook for the Instagram topic and subscribe to the story_insights field.
The Business Discovery API provides endpoints for pulling metrics and metadata for other Instagram business accounts. Common uses for these endpoints include requesting the follower and media account for another business account.
The Content Publishing API is a group of endpoints that allow you to publish media objects. Publishing media objects with this API is a two-step process — you first create a media object container, then publish the container on your Business Account.
This API is currently in a limited beta, where only approved Facebook and Instagram Marketing Partners, typically companies who build publishing and advertising technology on top of the APIs, have access.
The Comment Moderation API gives you control over comments on your media. With the API, you’re able to hide and unhide comments, reply to comments, and enable/disable comments on your content.
Capabilities that have been disabled
While Instagram has rolled out a number of new APIs and endpoints in the last year, many have also been disabled or deprecated. The following metrics and data are no longer available:
- Follower List – to read the list of followers and followed-by users
- Relationships – to follow and unfollow accounts on a user’s behalf
- Commenting on Public Content – to post and delete comments on a user’s behalf on public media
- Likes – to like and unlike media on a user’s behalf
- Subscriptions – to receive notifications when media is posted
- Users Information – to search for and view users’ public content
- Some information on Public Content returned through hashtag and location search – Name, Bio, Comments, Commenters, Follower Count, Following Count, Post Count, and Profile Picture
How it will disrupt the marketing space
With this highly reduced access to user information, it’s going to become increasingly more difficult to analyze users’ demographics and preferences – and to market to them effectively. For example, previously advertisers could view and use information like this to create highly targeted advertising campaigns. You once had the ability to know much more about your audience, but given the recent Facebook security breaches and scandals, this has been scaled back greatly.
No More Bots
If you’re using any bots to follow and unfollow accounts for you, or like Instagram posts for you, they won’t work anymore. With the new APIs and endpoints and the depreciation of old ones, any applications building on top of these APIs were forced to go through a series of app review processes, with bots likely not being tech that would make it through these reviews. Regardless, many of the data points these bots relied on, like the ability to read follower lists or unfollow users, are no longer available anyway.
Likes are now private
With the recent changes, other companies won’t be able to tell what posts a user has liked or not – all of that data is now private. This means that it will become much more difficult to target people with content based on their other interests and activities.
One of the areas most disrupted by the Instagram Graph API changes is the marketing technology and analytics space. In 2018, a few of the changes and deprecations came without warning or were sped up considerably in response to data breaches. If you’re using any apps to analyze your Instagram followers or someone else’s followers, these will no longer work as that data has become private. This is true for many applications that fall under the social listening category.
For other analytics companies, they had to take their applications through lengthy review processes, which for many, results in periods of data and access loss.
Due to security and data breaches and new API changes, 2018 was a chaotic year for Instagram and parent company, Facebook. While many marketers and companies were disrupted by the changes, Instagram continues to roll out new and exciting APIs that will enable to better and more safely connect with your audience.