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Published November 26th 2018

How to Prepare for Instagram’s Upcoming API Changes

Nick Taylor explains what Instagram’s new policies mean for Brandwatch users and the best practices that you can start implementing now to get the most out of available Instagram data

Earlier in the year Instagram announced changes to how data can be collected from their APIs. From December 11th these changes will come into effect. They will apply to the customers of all social data providers like Brandwatch.

The most important change for our social listening industry is that collecting data based on targeted hashtags will no longer be permitted on the old (pre-Facebook acquisition) Instagram Platform API. The good news is that Facebook (the owners of Instagram) recently announced that it will be possible to track Instagram hashtags on the new Graph API.

There are some important differences in how data can be collected and used on this new API compared to the previous one.

  • The new Graph API requires authentication by a Facebook user with a role on a Facebook page linked to an Instagram business page
  • There’s a limit of 30 tracked hashtags per authenticated Instagram business page per rolling seven day period
  • Brandwatch users can no longer query or analyze pooled Instagram data collected by other customers. You will only be able to access the data from the hashtags you or others in your account are collecting

Note: The way we monitor Instagram Channels is not changing and users can continue to add new Channels as well as tracking their existing ones as before. These changes will affect regular Brandwatch Queries and Image Insights logo queries.

A closer look at the new rules

Authentication

Previously, Brandwatch users could ensure maximum Instagram coverage by authenticating as many regular Instagram users as possible. We would use the collective ‘tokens’ gathered by all our authenticated users to crawl for Instagram mentions our users needed to analyze.

On the new Graph API, which is now the only source of Instagram mentions collected by targeting hashtags, authentication needs to be a little more specific. You will need a Facebook user who has a role on a Facebook page which is linked to an Instagram business account to authenticate in order to collect this kind of data.

30 hashtags per business page

Once authenticated with a correct account you will be able to start collecting mentions of up to 30 unique hashtags. That’s 30 for any rolling period of seven days, so these hashtags could be switched out for new ones when you need to make a change. You will have to wait a week from the first time you start tracking a hashtag before switching it out for a new one.

If you have more users whose profiles are linked to different Instagram business accounts you will be able to collect another 30 hashtags for each business account you authenticate with.

Note: Multiple people who have roles on the same business account do not increase your quota, it needs to be a role on a Facebook page connected to a new Instagram business account each time.

No more pooled data

This is a big change for Brandwatch users. Previously, we would be able to pool all the Instagram mentions any of our users collected and then make them all available to other users to analyze. Any query which matched keywords in an Instagram post that we had collected would add that to the results.

Now, users can only see and study the mentions they themselves (or someone authenticated in their account) have specifically requested, either though monitoring a Channel or via this new hashtag tracking.

The intention here is to allow businesses to study relevant conversations around a brand’s campaigns or specific industry topics rather than ‘listening’ to anything and everything. It is an understandable new limitation given the concerns about how social data has been used in unethical ways recently.

Best Practices

We hope these limitations will not prevent our customers gathering the data they need to source valuable consumer insights in an ethical way as they have done in the past. In order to do this we’ve come up with some best practices to make the most of the new system.

1. Identify the people you need to ask to authenticate

To ensure maximum coverage you’re going to want to find as many people in your organization with roles on the relevant Facebook pages.

Perhaps you want to add your Brandwatch users as administrators on some of these Facebook pages. If you can’t do that you might want to ask people who do have the relevant roles (who may not be in your team) to become a Brandwatch user in order to authenticate. The good news here is that most Brandwatch accounts allow for an unlimited number of users.

2. Think strategically about the hashtags you need to collect

If you’ve been a Brandwatch user for a while you might have already collected a lot of Instagram data. It’s worth looking through now to see which hashtags are the most commonly used in the mentions that are important to you.

Or you could think about your specific use cases that wish to track Instagram data for. If you’re planning to measure campaign performance you will want to track your brand hashtags.

If you’re doing consumer research of trends in your industry you might prefer to identify the top hashtags that people use in those industries so you’ll have a decent sample of the public conversation to study.

3. Think about how Instagram data fits into your overall social data strategy

Instagram is encouraging people who want access to its data to use it in specific ways – mainly to help improve brand performance on Instagram. It is worth thinking about how well your intended strategy fits with that because we don’t expect these new rules to change in the near future.

There are a lot of other data sources out there, and while Instagram data is important to a lot of our users it is still only a small part of the sea of online content, conversations, and opinions available to research.

If you have a clear strategy for how you are going to use the data from all the different sources you have access to you should find that deciding how and what to listen for on Instagram will be a simpler question to answer.

As always, we at Brandwatch are working hard to make sure our customers will have access to as much available Instagram data as possible. We’ll be keeping you up to date with any important updates in future.

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