November 2018 has been a busy month for Instagram. With the social media industry constantly changing, the platform is continuously shaping up how marketers and users will be interacting with it.
Earlier this quarter, Instagram changed how third-party vendors and social media listening platforms crawl its data. The upcoming change on Dec. 11 will affect the platform’s API crawling rules. While this predominantly concerns social media marketers and not users, that can perhaps be treated as a sign of the platform’s long-term plans on how they will be manipulating users’ data. Facebook applied similar changes a few years back, as well as after the Cambridge Analytics scandal, which affected multiple social media vendors and changed the rules for data crawling permanently. Facebook, similar to this Instagram update, also implemented new data purchasing programs for third party vendors. Whether social media data buyers will see the same with Instagram, we will soon find out.
The API crawling change will impact those who do social media listening.
The Instagram API change coming in December is seeking to improve Instagram users’ privacy and security. Instagram advises that “all remaining capabilities to read public media on a user’s behalf on December 11, 2018” (source Instagram). Along with the crawling updates the blog post provides, Instagram urged all users who have received any in-app messages to update their password credentials as an extra precautionary layer of security.
What does that mean for marketers conducting social media listening?
- You will need to authenticate with a Facebook business account in order to crawl some Instagram data in your social media vendor platform. The official “calls” for Instagram data will now be done by that official Facebook account.
- Marketers will only be able to crawl up to 30 hashtags at a time.
- Volumes in your reporting efforts will inevitably change, so be advised that you may see a decrease in your tracking numbers M/M and Y/Y.
- Less Instagram data in your queries. Ask your vendor’s Account Manager to advise whether your boolean queries need to be rewritten in order to grab more data in your searches.
If you’re the person behind the numbers, proactively reach out to your managers, teams, and clients. Be sure to advise them on the potential decline in data and volume for the Instagram platform after Dec. 11. You may also need to revise how you handle Instagram campaigns and influencer activations.
Why Your Instagram Followers, Likes and Comments May Experience a Change
Just like many of us, Instagram may have had enough on fake accounts and influencers. As a social media marketer, I am sure you’ve experienced clients asking you for recommendations on influencers their brands can hire. And only marketers know how hard it is to make a comprehensive suggestion, given multiple influencer accounts are artificially boosted by bots and the likes we see are not real.
The account cleaning has begun immediately as of November 19th so expect to see influencers’ accounts be affected soon. The cleaning will be executed by machine learning tools that will help Instagram better identify which accounts use third-party services and will automatically remove the inauthentic activity.
The platform also advised that “Since the early days of Instagram, we have auto-detected and removed fake accounts to protect our community. Today’s update is just another step in keeping Instagram a vibrant community where people connect and share in authentic ways. We’ll have more updates in the coming weeks on additional measures we’re taking to tackle inauthentic activity on Instagram.”
While the account updates will only affect inauthentic accounts, be advised that your brand and work may be affected by a change in previously reported metrics. Often, those monthly reports you provide to key stakeholders will contain information on social channel follower growth analysis; if that applies to you, make sure you reach out to your team to advise them on the possible follower count changes before they happen.
If you’re a PR / influencer campaigner, ask your social media vendor to help with more accurate account identification. Software vendors can use multiple ways to set up internal network analysis on their platforms to see how influencers’ messages spread in the network and whether they are really as powerful as they claim to be. Vendors are also a great resource in setting up specific queries that will exclude bots via their tech support teams, so don’t underestimate your Account Managers and reach out to them for help.
- Image sources: www.google.com & Instagram
About the author
Tsvetta Kaleynska is a SaaS consultant, motivational speaker, and author on the topics of A.I. and technology and their impact on international development and safety. She is the founder of RILA GLOBAL CONSULTING, a boutique consultancy in New York City. As a thought leader, Tsvetta’s work is regularly featured in top media outlets such as Ted X, Cosmopolitan and Elle magazines. Kaleynska is fluent in five languages.