Table of contents
  1. 1. Definition
  2. 2. Overview
  3. 3. Advantages
  4. 4. Disadvantages
  5. 5. New API changes and its effects on Instagram influence marketing
  6. 6. Instagram API best practices

Definition

An API, or application program interface, is a set of procedures and functions that allow one application to access data and features of another application, operating system, or other relevant services. An Instagram API is simply a function provided by Instagram in which other applications can communicate with the platform. 

As with all API’s, Instagram’s version requires no user involvement during the passing of data. The entire process relies solely on a software interface to connect with other software interfaces in order to complete a specific result. 

To make this clearer, take, for example, an online credit card transaction. When a customer enters their credit card into a website, that website uses an API to send the credit card information to another application for verification. Similarly, Instagram users use the platform’s API to create features with the platform like engagement, scheduling, and analytics. 

In the past, marketers relied heavily on Instagram’s API to scrape and mine out influencer personal data, databases, and analytics. The API has been an efficient influencer management tool that has taken influencer data-mining tasks which would have taken hours to complete and finished them in mere minutes. 

 

Overview

Up until recently, Instagram users and influencers have enjoyed a relatively non-restrictive use of the platform’s API features which have included the ability to show Instagram feeds on personal websites, adding like and follow buttons, and data retrieval and analytics. However, on June 1, 2016, Instagram severely restricted access to many of their API features to prevent it from being used for malicious purposes. 

This year, 2018, Instagram replaced their old API with a newer version, Instagram Graph API, which has placed even more restrictions on access to data, as well as eliminated many apps that used to work in conjunction with to the platform’s API software. 

The new Instagram API has brought about the following changes, which have impacted influencer marketing for worse and for better. 

  • Eliminating Instagram Bots: This is actually a boon for influencers as now they can be sure that the followers they get are real. As a result, the feature is able to assist brands to identify fake influencers.  
  • Public Content Access Denied: Developers cannot use the Instagram Graph API to access or read public media on an influencer's behalf. 
  • Instagram Likes Access Denied: Third-parties will not be able to see which posts a user has liked. This has affected mostly shopping apps that kept track of likes to spot trends. 
  • No Follower Apps: All applications previously used to analyze personal followers or other people’s followers on Instagram have been denied access to the new Instagram API. Now, it is impossible to analyze whether an influencer’s followers are real or not through Instagram Graph API. 
  • Restricted Comment Posts & Deletions: Instagram users are no longer able to post or delete comments except through the Instagram Graph API. Influencer management tools like Later’s Conversations can now only be accessed via the API on a business profile. 
  • Restricted Content Search: Users are no longer able to search for user-generated content by users or posts. The new API only allows content-search through hashtags. 

 

Advantages

Even with all these changes with the new Instagram API, influencers are still able to use its features in various beneficial ways. They are as follows: 

  • Hashtag Search: Users can pull images using specific hashtags through the new API, which is really beneficial when running marketing campaigns that need a number of relevant pictures. Searching for these pictures manually takes a lot of time and effort and the ability to access like images all at once really streamlines the process. 
  • Auto-Post Photos & Photostreams: This is perhaps the most commonly used of all of Instagram’s new API features as users can access tags and personal Instagram accounts to retrieve photos and deliver them to their own personal or business account rather quickly. 
  • Geotag Search: Users and influencers can use Instagram Graph API to check which images are being updated in real-time for a specific location, which helps them keep track of trends around the world. 
  • Popular/Trending Photos: One of the biggest advantages to using Instagram Graph API is the ability to spot and pull the most popular and trending photos. This can help both influencers and brands identify which products are the most popular among Instagram users, as well as see which types of images and users are the most popular at the moment. This data is crucial in producing a successful Instagram marketing campaign. 
  • Live Event Feeds: This is an extremely popular influencer management feature which can be accessed through Instagram’s new API. Basically, any brand can target event-specific tags, like a concert or meeting, and display them in real-time to their followers. This helps create more buzz around an event and encourages more engagement among followers. 

 

Disadvantages

  • Business Account: Unless you have a business account, you will not be able to access all the pertinent data you will need for your brand to stay informed of trends and followers. The Instagram Graph API only allows legitimate businesses to scrape personal data, the kind that helps build successful marketing campaigns and strategies
  • Fewer App Integration: Instagram’s new API has restricted app integration to only a select few partners Only these partners can pull data on a user’s behalf, and that too with very limited data mining localized to only business accounts. 
  • User Permission: Users can no longer access data from both influencers and end-users without their direct consent. While this will level the playing field within the influencer marketing community, it also makes many in-house platforms less efficient and less useful as they can not be used without getting prior consent. While this is ultimately a good thing for Instagram marketers, in the short-term they will have to readjust to the way they mine data, particularly increasing the time spent on getting permission to do so.

 

New API changes and its effects on Instagram influence marketing

The restrictions and limitations which Instagram has added to its new API not only changes the way in which marketing is performed on the platform itself but also changes the entire API management systems that were so in vogue for the past couple of years. 

It appears that the “play-to-pay” system recently incorporated by Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has also now been implemented into the platform. Influencers used to enjoy sending bot traffic to increase likes and followers, as well as using templated responses that had no relation to the questions being asked. Yet, these influencers were changing thousands of dollars to advertisers who thought they were getting their messages across to real-life, engaging followers. 

The new Instagram Graph API has put an end to all this, and in-truth has really helped advertisers in the sense that the influencers who used to be collecting and selling fake metrics will now be gone from the platform. Sure, access to certain relevant marketing metrics have been limited because of the new API changes, but advertisers using influencers to market their products and services do not have to worry anymore about verifying an influencer’s following, which was one of the main reasons why they were using specific software and platforms to connect with Instagram’s old API in the first place.

 

Instagram API best practices

Due to the propensity of influencers and other third-parties to improperly access and use data, Instagram responded with Graph API which still allows users to locate and obtain media (images, videos), statistic,s, likes, and other similar actions on Instagram, albeit with more limitations and restrictions the platform’s older version had. 

The two main limitations faced by Instagram influencers and marketers thanks to Instagram’s Graph API include the following: 

  • Reduced Rate Limit: From 5,000 API requests per hour to 200 requests per hour. 
  • Data Restrictions: Access to core information, like the ones listed above, only hold true for owned channels and do not apply for non-owned influencer and brand channels. 

In order to get the most out of the Instagram’s current API, Influencer marketers should follow the following guidelines; 

  • Authenticate Brand/Channel: This can be done through Instagram’s interface. Each channel can follow one account. By doing so, a user can make sure that they will still be able to retrieve data pertaining to their brand or brands. 
  • Authenticate Queries: This can be done for any account even non-branded accounts. Authentication can be made through the Instagram interface by clicking on “Instagram Queries” in the top-right menu. By doing so, a user can get extended data coverage for their Hashtag queries. 
  • Update App/Find New One: If a user’s app is still supporting Instagram’s old API features, then they should find a new one that is in compliance with Instagram’s new API or ask their current app developer if they have updated their software to coincide with Graph API or are planning on doing so soon. 
  • Create Business Profile: To unlock some of the more important marketing features provide by Graph API like comment moderation and insights, and share them with third-party developers, an Instagram business profile is required.