Everything Marketers Need To Know About The Latest Instagram Changes
Instagram is deprecating personal profile access from their API. What does that mean?
There have been a tremendous number of developments, changes and upheavals when it comes to social networks and social media management tools in 2018, particularly for Facebook and Instagram.
Surprising to some, these changes did not originate with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, though that event certainly caused some changes and sped up others.
In January of 2018, Facebook, which owns Instagram and houses the develop teams for both platforms, announced a number of changes to expect in the coming year. This announcement was posted to the Facebook for Developers blog because the immediate impact of these changes is to tools and other vendors that work with Facebook or Instagram - not users of the native platforms.
But there are two aspects of life as a social media manager we’ve gotten used to:
- Tools are an extremely efficient way to manage social media activity, and
- Social networks and tools typically add capabilities, not remove.
So while the first half of that announcement includes the to-be-expected list of new features, it’s the second half that’s a bit unusual.
That’s not a word we’re used to seeing or using in normal conversation, is it?
Instagram's announced API changes for personal profiles.
Let’s break this down succinctly.
An API - Application Programming Interface - is an interface that lets tools “talk” to a platform and communicate information. For instance, a tool like Agorapulse might tell a platform like Instagram that at 2 o’clock you want to post a certain picture and caption. Through the use of the API, that data can be submitted to Instagram and the post can be published just as you wanted, at the time you specified.
That means, in order for a tool to do something with a platform, the platform has to allow it through the API. There has to be language - hooks - there which other tools can understand and utilize.
The other aspect of what you’re seeing above is that Facebook replaced their old API with the Facebook Graph API some time ago, and is in the process of doing a similar transition with Instagram. Tools which had been using the old Instagram API have to move to the new Instagram Graph API by 2020. Along the way, some features are being removed completely from the old API, while new features are only being added to the new API.
With me so far?
So the list above is a number of changes to the old Instagram API.
As of July 31, 2018, tools could no longer view any data on who was following you or who you were following, could no longer follow or unfollow users on your behalf, and could no longer comment or delete comments on other people’s posts on your behalf.
Also removed (in April) was the ability to see user profile information on Location and Hashtag searches, making those features relatively useless as well.
Most of you probably never noticed this change as it was 100% focused on the practice of using Instagram “bots” to automatically comment on other people’s posts, follow them, and unfollow them after a few days if they didn’t follow you back. A perfectly disreputable method for trying to grow an audience.
Now hold on, we’re about to get into the news that’s really having a widespread impact this week.
The next set of changes is due December 11th… basically NOW. And these are already being talked about a lot as they effect legitimate use of Instagram with legitimate tools like Agorapulse and others.
The capability of tools to do the following is being removed immediately:
Commenting - to post and delete comments on the user’s behalf on owned media means that, using a tool, YOU cannot post or delete comments on YOUR OWN posts!
Public Content - to read any public profile info and media on a user’s behalf means that, within a tool, you cannot see the name or image of any other Instagram user, nor can you see their posted images. This means you cannot search for individuals or content, and even if you could see the comments on your own posts, you wouldn’t be able to see who left those comments.
Likes - to like and unlike media on the user’s behalf means you can’t even engage with Instagram posts.
Subscriptions - to receive notifications when media is posted is how some folks kept up with key people they wanted to follow, but cannot now using a tool.
That all means that social media management tools like Agorapulse cannot show you who is commenting on your posts, cannot let you like or comment on those posts, and can’t show you anything else about the people you might want to engage with.
But the news isn’t all bad…
These deprecations are for the old Instagram API. Not the new Instagram Graph API. So does that means tools which have already migrated to the new API aren’t affected? Not exactly.
The new API does have a lot of these permissions but only for Instagram Business profiles.
So anyone who is still using a personal profile on Instagram would be so limited as to make the tool useless. Therefore, most tools are simply removing support for personal profiles entirely.
“Everyone running a business or a brand of any sort should be using a Business Profile on Instagram - not a personal one. The benefits to being a business account are so vast, that there's no reason to stay as a personal account. Some of the benefits include getting the in-app analytics, which are hugely valuable, and the Action buttons on your profile that allow conversions directly from Instagram. You can have up to three of Call, Text, Email, and Directions. Or even add in a 3rd party integration Action button that partners with tools like GrubHub and Eventbrite so that people can literally order or book with you directly from your Instagram account. If those two reasons aren’t good enough, then here are a few more... you get the option for shoppable posts if you have a physical product to sell, you get the swipe up link in Stories if you have over 10k followers, you get Quick Replies in direct messages, and you get the recognition of actually being a business account so you don't look amateurish. And, if finally, you're worried about some rumor of reduced reach by switching over - it's just that, a rumor. There is no penalty for being a business profile. You may notice a slight drop in reach or engagement immediately after switching but that will return to normal after 2-3 weeks. Oh, and the same drop happens if you switch back to a personal from a business so it's not a penalty against business accounts.”
So for most, the solution is simple. Change your Instagram profile from Personal to Business and continue to enjoy the scheduling and reporting benefits your tool of choice was providing.
At the end of the day, these changes are all about protecting the privacy and interests of personal users. And fortunately, Instagram has stated that some of these deprecated features that aren’t part of the new API will be available someday, like basic reading of user’s profile information and media.
Instagram wants to support businesses and changes like that make a lot of sense. If a user opts to comment on a business post, the business certainly has a right to see that comment and the person who left it.
For now, if you had a personal Instagram profile connected within Agorapulse, you’ll note now that it’s gone and cannot be reconnected. Simply go into your Instagram profile settings, scroll down to Business Settings, and tap on Switch to Business Account.
You’ll then be able to go back into Agorapulse and add your profile back in.
And if you’re not already using Agorapulse to manage your Instagram and other social networks, definitely give it a try. As an Instagram Partner, Agorapulse is one of the few social media management tools that’s actively implementing the new API and will be on top of future proposed changes, like direct posting of video content.
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By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner - a title he invented to represent his holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blogging, social media, email marketing and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales. He is an award-winning Blogger, Speaker, and Author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse (formerly CMO at SiteSell).
As Brand Evangelist, Mike works directly with other social media educators, influencers, agencies and brands to explore and develop profitable relationships with Agorapulse.Follow @Mike_Allton