While the headlines have been filled with the fallout from Facebook’s (a.k.a. Instagram) involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, anyone involved in influencer marketing will be aware of a less dramatic, but still significant, consequence of that story.
Earlier this week the Instagram API (the application programme interface, which is basically how third-party apps are able to interact with Instagram) was suddenly reduced from its usual allowance of 5000 calls per hour to just 200.
And while this may seem like a headache for developers more than marketers, it has important implications for brands and content creators who have built an influencer marketing strategy around Instagram.
Admittedly, the change to the API should not have come as a huge surprise to anyone who keeps up-to-date with Instagram’s development plans – even if the timing of the change has caught everyone off guard.
Instagram had already announced in 2015 that they would be phasing in the API changes over two stages later this year – part of a proposed ‘clean up’ operation designed to restrict what feed-reading apps are allowed to do with Instagram data.
But with their parent company facing uncomfortable questions about compromised data for 87 million users (and a growing #DeleteFacebook backlash), it’s perhaps not surprising that Instagram have rushed through such a dramatic change to how their data can be accessed.
The immediate fallout was when feed-reading app developers and users began to see error messages and a loss of functionality – including on Instagram approved apps.
As the new rate of 200 calls per hour significantly reduces the amount of data these apps have access to, brands and businesses who have been freely gathering huge amounts of Instagram data to help with their campaigns, suddenly find themselves having to be far more selective about what they choose to see.
Similarly, popular feed-reader apps that provide everything from audience insights and hashtag tracking, to testing the authenticity of an account’s following, are now either significantly restricted or no longer functioning at all.
(Also, for anyone currently working on a new feed-reading app, Instagram have joined Facebook in freezing the acceptance of any new submissions.)
Such a sudden restriction in live insights will understandably concern brands and influencers used to a stream of comprehensive and uninterrupted data – not to mention the platforms and agencies that are contracted to provide that data for their clients.
So, the big question that remains to be answered is what impact the change will ultimately have on Instagram’s role at the heart of virtually every influencer marketing strategy…and whether the content creators and brands can – or want to – adjust to these new conditions.