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Published April 3rd 2018

Your Questions Answered: Instagram API Changes

Amy Collins addresses the latest news on changes to Instagram's API

Following the wider industry stories around improper use of user data taken from Facebook, there has been widespread news this week about Instagram’s sudden throttling of access to its API.

We’ve had a number of questions come in about how Brandwatch is affected by this, so we thought we’d address them publicly, here on the blog – and will continue to update you if and when the situation evolves.

There are two groups of changes:

  1. Reduction of rate limit from 5000 requests per hour per token, to 200 requests per hour per Instagram account
  2. Restriction of certain types of potentially personally identifiable data that could be used for illegitimate purposes.

1. Reduction of rate limit

This will not impact your Brandwatch functionality.

Instagram gives every connected App a limit to how often it can request data. They have reduced this limit for all API users. However, this is a very reasonable, industry wide change that Instagram has made.

Firstly, it brings Instagram in line with Facebook user rate limits. Secondly, it will impact those that have been collecting data in a non-legitimate manner. In the past someone could create an Instagram app and use a single user account to make 5000 API requests per hour, which could be over 150,000 Instagram posts. It’s not hard to see how a small organization could build up a lot of data very quickly.

Fortunately, we’ve never relied on this huge rate limit – at Brandwatch we’ve always asked the users of our platform to authenticate their Instagram account with Brandwatch Analytics.

This means we’ve never come close to hitting our rate limit and means we still have enough capacity to continue crawling despite these changes.

It’s worth a quick note to say that if you are a Brandwatch Analytics user, please do authenticate your account as this helps support your ongoing usage.

2. Data restrictions

In this second area, these restrictions are again designed to target organizations harvesting massive amounts of personal user data, rather than the more generalized consumer insights and marketing performance use cases that Brandwatch offers. So while we have lost some functionality, we are still in a good position.

So what’s affected?

  • Owned Channels (For your brands’ own Instagram accounts):  We can still gather all of your owned posts and associated metrics to support most of the marketing performance use cases. We still have access to comment data, but are required to make a small change to our platform architecture to continue to do this. This will be complete in the next few days, and I’ll update this blog when it’s live.
  • Non-owned channels (For other brands or influencer’s channels):  We are no longer able to receive data for this use case. Unfortunately, based on the statements from Instagram, we don’t expect this functionality to return.  
  • Hashtags Operator (In the Query Builder): This feature is used for most of our Instagram consumer insights analysis. We are still able to gather all posts for hashtags. There is one small and very reasonable change that Instagram has made to its API, which is that a few fields that were personally identifiable (such as a user’s display name) are no longer returned. This does not affect usage of our app for any of the consumer insights use cases.

I want to stress again that these changes affect every provider in the industry. We will obviously continue to be transparent about our data as any further news unfolds.


Vice President, Data


Updated 5th April 14:35

Q: How do I ensure I authenticate my brand’s Instagram account in Brandwatch Analytics to ensure my Instagram Channel still works?

A: It’s really simple, when you create an Instagram channel it asks you for the account you want to follow, then on the next screen it asks you to authenticate.


Q: I have multiple Instagram accounts… One for each of my sub brands, how do I authenticate all of them?

A: As you add each channel, it will ask you for an account for that channel. Make sure you authenticate for that channel. We recommend doing this in a separate Chrome Incognito session for each authentication:

  1. Open chrome in incognito mode.
  2. Log into the app
  3. Add your channel (under the data tab)
  4. Authenticate
  5. Close the browser
  6. Repeat for each channel

The reason for this process is it ensures that the same access is not used between channels


Q: With the Non-Owned Channels API being deprecated – will clients need to authenticate with the owner credentials for the channels they own, or how does Brandwatch recognise they are the channel owner?

A: If you own the Instagram account, you definitely need to authenticate that account against Brandwatch if you want us to continue to collect data going forwards, otherwise this will be treated as a non-owned page. Our app knows you are the owner of the page, because you are asked to log in with the account when you create a channel.


Q: What about my existing channels? How do I know if they are set up and authenticated ok?

A: We’re in the process of rolling out a new interface to let you know which of your Instagram Channels require authentication. It will be live within the next 24 hours. Here’s a preview:


Q: Will my Query volumes go down for my Hashtag searches?

A: No. There’s no change Instagram data collected using Hashtag searches. 


Q: What can I do to ensure I get best data coverage for my Hashtag queries?

A: The best thing you can do to ensure your queries get the most hashtag data to to also authenticate your Query access for Instagram. You can use any instagram account (it doesn’t have to be brand’s instagram account – any account is fine). The process for doing this is a little different to the above. Log into the app, click on the top tight menu and select the Authenticate Instagram Queries option:


Q: Does your Image Analysis for Instagram product still work?

A: Yes – our Logo detection capability is completely unaffected.


Q: Have you received a similar drop in Facebook rate limit access?

A: No – actually. Facebook Graph API already has the lower (200 requests per hour) rate limit. This change simply brings Instagram inline with Facebook


Q: Do these changes affect historical instagram data that I’ve collected for my marketing campaign?

A: No – this only relates to ongoing Instagram data collection from this point forwards


Q: You recently added Likes metrics for Instagram… Do you still get this?

A: Yes, this is unaffected

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