The much loved and ridiculously popular photo-sharing app Instagram recently threw its users a bit of a curveball, temporarily blocking its application programme interface (API) to third-party apps. Sounds confusing, right? These changes are equally a blessing and a curse, but might have some serious knock-on effects for our favourite brands and businesses.
All social media platforms and apps have an API that provides communication between other third party apps. These apps usually have access to user data that allows them to obtain information that will help them to function and offer their services. A lot of these include things like Instagram Bots and analytical and scheduling apps that can be used to control Instagram accounts and to see who is liking, following and unfollowing your account.
Earlier this year, Instagram put out an announcement that in July they would be changing their API in order to increase data protection for its users. With fair warning to affected apps and businesses, Instagram made plans to start retiring their current API. However, when Facebook suffered its most recent and most brutal data breach, Instagram unexpectedly blocked their API, throwing third-party apps into a panic overnight. Instagram then started approving certain official apps, leaving the unapproved with crashing problems and limited function.
So what does this mean for users? With a more restrictive API due to take place there will undoubtedly be a lot more restrictions on data. Instagram Bots will be dead, meaning lower engagement on posts as it adjusts, but all followers will be genuine. Your personal ‘likes’ will be completely private, meaning that third-party apps cannot tailor their advertising to the things you have liked on the site. This will affect a lot of shopping apps that would originally send you information about influencer items.
All of this seems pretty much like it will leave a lot of influencer brands in the lurch as Instagram is such an important source of income and engagement for these accounts. However, Instagram’s main concern is the protection of its user’s data, and it is clear now that they will go to any lengths to ensure this.
“To continuously improve Instagram user’s privacy and security, we are accelerating the deprecation of Instagram API platform.”
Many influencer accounts and brands rely on these third-party apps to engage people in their content and to use shopping apps, such as LIKEtoKNOW.it, to purchase their products. With no information due to be allowed past the new API, consumers won’t be able to use these apps, meaning that the brands could suffer. This is especially threatening to brands that solely rely on Instagram as their marketing platform. Accounts that cover multiple platforms are less worried about how the changes will affect them.
With all this development, it is unlikely that users will discontinue their Instagram marketing, as it is such a popular platform that provides extremely powerful advertising. Our favourite fashion brands and influencers will just have to adapt to these changes and find other means of advertising in order to sell their products. For example, LIKEtoKNOW.it have started a screenshot system that allows users to screenshot the Insta snaps they like, in order to be given purchasing information on that product. This then bypasses the need for user data to be obtained through the app.
All in all, the changes mean better privacy and the reduction of potentially abusive behaviour on Instagram’s site, which is the main goal of any social media platform. Brands and businesses continuously dodge these kinds of glitches, and there will be new ways for these to thrive on the changes.
So, equally a blessing and a curse. What do you think about Instagram’s changes?
Text: Laura Tozer
Images: Youtube, Zoomph, Socialfly