On April 4, 2018, Facebook announced a number of important changes to the Instagram APIs. These changes were, in part, an acceleration of their plans to move all developers using their original API (from the moment Instagram was an independent company) to Facebook’s Graph API. Although not explicitly said, this was believed to be in response to the publicly well-known Cambridge Analytica case. These changes had an immediate and direct impact on third party developers and platforms using these APIs.
On this blog post, we’ll do a review of these changes, what they mean for brands and media working with UGC on Instagram and how Flowics has successfully updated its platform to comply with this new APIs.
Handling User Rights on Instagram content. The @username is the new #hashtag
A first and immediate impact of these changes was on the possibility of leaving comments, through third party tools, on Instagram posts retrieved via hashtags or location search. This is not permitted any more. This had direct impact on how brands and media handled user rights on user-generated content on Instagram, by means of public comments.
This possibility of automating comments through 3rd party tools is now only available for posts mentioning a Business Profile you own. Flowics has restored support for automating user rights management on Instagram content, but only on posts including a direct @mention to a Business Account associated to your Flowics instance.
These changes imply that Facebook understands that a consumer mentioning a brand’s @handle is a stronger signal of engagement with that brand that just using a hashtag: direct mention of a brand within an Instagram post can be considered a stronger indication that a user is trying to start a conversation. Also, business profiles, in particular, can be controlled and verified by Facebook, hashtags cannot. This restriction gives a lot more control to Facebook over which applications are monitoring which hashtags.
From a social media communication point of view, we recommend now that you start encouraging consumers to share content mentioning your @handle instead of using just a #hashtag. You can do both as well, but always ask users to mention your account. And of course, you should make sure all your brand profiles are business profiles.
This change in particular can be seen as beneficial from another perspective as well, it goes far beyond the process of requesting rights: this new communication strategy could mean more brand awareness. Spam and bot-like behaviour would be reduced too. Before these changes, it was much easier to get undesired comments & noise from other brands exploiting a public hashtag with automated tools.
Our new "Instagram Mentions Stream" filter is the new way Flowics offers to monitor public posts (and even comments in public posts) mentioning one or more Business Accounts you own or have access to.
It's very simple to set up. Just add the new filter to your Flow and select those accounts you want to monitor from the modal window, as shown in the examples below:
Retrieving posts: via #hashtag vs via @handle
The distinction between how Instagram now treats posts obtained through #hashtags vs @usernames has even more implications, not only on the rights management part (discussed above), but also with regard to which information is available to 3rd party tools in one case and the other.
Since December 11, 2018, the old search API to retrieve Instagram posts through hashtags is deprecated and has ceased to work. As a replacement, Instagram recently released a new Hashtag Search API, built on top of Facebook’s Graph API. But this new API comes with certain restrictions and limitations, which we list below:
Instagram seems to want to keep control of how many and which hashtags each account is monitoring. That’s why now each hashtag you want to search for, will need to be associated to a Business Account you own.
You’re allowed to track up to a maximum of 30 Hashtags per Business Account at any time. This limit is renewed after a 7-day period.
Also, as privacy is now a big concern for Facebook, certain post details won’t be available anymore: avatar picture, username and published date will not be available for posts obtained through this new type of search API.
Retrieving posts: using a Business Account to monitor other Business Accounts
Another support that Instagram included as part of their move to Facebook’s Graph API is now the possibility to monitor all posts published by one or more Business Accounts on Instagram, but only if you have a Business Account yourself, of course. This is particularly useful for Media who may want to monitor photos or videos posted on Instagram by popular accounts and notable sources (athletes, singers, celebrities, etc). It can also be used to easily curate content published by your own accounts and then embed it (through any of our different widgets) on your websites and apps.
Our new "Instagram User Stream" filter is the way Flowics offers to retrieve public posts published by any Business Account, either yours or 3rd party.
We have also added this support to our recently announced Social Content Discovery Tool, allowing now to rapidly search for recent content from any Business profile. See below:
We are ready! Are you?
Despite all these changes during the past months, we at Flowics have worked hard around the clock to update our platform to be compliant with all these new APIs and restrictions. We have successfully approved all our Application Reviews by Facebook and have full access to their APIs.
As part of our internal changes, we have updated our widgets catalog to be ready to display Instagram content with this new limitations (i.e. posts with no username, avatar or published date). We have also updated our Rights Management support to work only with posts obtained through the new Instagram Mentions Stream (posts mentioning your business account). And we have added a number of improvements to make it easy to connect your business profiles and listen to posts and comments to your profiles or other business profiles.
We know that many businesses (brands and media) are struggling with these changes, so we want to let you know that we are here to help you with this transition. Contact us if you have any doubts or want to schedule a demo to learn more about Flowics and our support for Instagram content curation and our display capabilities on multiple environments.