Instagram for Business: What’s Changing with the New API and How to Prepare Your Brand

Erica Jenkins Erica Jenkins

Big changes are coming to Instagram on December 11. Find out what advantages they bring to brand managers, and how to apply these changes to your social media strategy. To ensure you’re equipped with all the info you need, Erica Jenkins, the head of product for Sysomos, will break it all down below.

If there’s been one continuously hot topic for social in 2018, it’s been user privacy. From GDPR to Cambridge Analytica, social networks have had to reevaluate their social data policies and make adjustments throughout the course of the year—impacting brands who rely on that data for their social intelligence. Throughout the year, Facebook and Instagram have changed and limited what types of information can be accessed by social analytics providers like Sysomos and Meltwater. They have also deprecated several capabilities brands depended on for accessing user-generated content.

But fear not—with some preparation, your brand can leverage these changes as a competitive advantage. Use this post as a guide to understand what’s changing and what steps you can take to continue to safeguard your brand.

Instagram for Business: What this means for you


In order to protect personal information, only verified businesses on Instagram are allowed to search for hashtags or track and analyze the activity of other verified business accounts. The verification process, which includes linking a Facebook page with an Instagram account, signals that you are opting in for public information to be shared about your business with others.

Rethink Instagram handles

Prior to these changes, listening across Instagram would work with any type of account. Now, you need to have a verified business account—which requires more forethought. If you’re a global brand with many country-level pages on Facebook, it might make sense to create an Instagram handle for each country. This would provide you with a larger number of accounts to power larger volumes of data because each handle is allowed 30 active hashtags, so the strategy of one handle might not be best in the long term.

Limited hashtags

One of the shifts in accessing public Instagram data is the limits on the number of hashtags you can search to prevent abuse of personal information. Verified Instagram business accounts may search up to 30 hashtags at a given time (or, to be more precise, during a rolling, seven-day period). This new hashtag search limit applies to your entire account—across all apps, no matter the service or administrator.

Instagram requires this data only to be used for your business purposes. These hashtags also apply over a set period, giving you sampled data over time. But working with a social intelligence solution can give you an advantage. Sysomos and Meltwater’s database, for example, saves user-defined hashtag content for clients, which they can access at any time for historical analysis or exporting—and provides greater transparency to other users in your organization.

Benchmark competitors

Verified business accounts also have the ability to track posts by other businesses that have verified their Instagram accounts, such as competitors or industry influencers. This example will allow you to understand what your competitors are promoting or how they are driving engagement with their audience.

Shifting strategies and scenarios

These changes to Instagram affect the entire social community—from service providers to brand managers. However, this new normal can benefit your social strategy while still respecting users’ privacy.

Share of voice

If you want to capture a broad range of content to use terms such as #travel or #vacation if you were a hospitality brand, as an example. This gives you an understanding of a breadth of topical or industry content. From there you can leverage Sysomos keyword search against the content to find out how much share of voice your brand has.

Campaign monitoring

If you are running a campaign and you want as much focused data as possible, you can continue to search for the hashtag you’re promoting (just be mindful of your 30 hashtag limit). Under the new privacy measures, you won’t be able to see the authors’ names or any information about them, but you’ll see the full text and images or videos.

Competitive and industry monitoring

A additional use case is competitive or industry monitoring. Brands should be looking at how their competitors use the rich visual media tools to speak about their products or drive customer engagement. Are there new products being launched which could cause competitive intrusion? Are your competitors co-promoting with another company? How does your competitor position themselves on Facebook vs. Instagram?

New options for brand management

A new option, previously not possible in the legacy API, is searching for tags and @mentions of your brand handle. This will allow you to find out how users are talking about your brand—regardless of a hashtag—so you can engage in the conversation with a comment to their post. This capability opens loads of opportunities for brands to demonstrate their social savvy and brand values, such as commitment to customer service.

Steps to prepare

  1. Verify your business account: The most important step you can take is to ensure your Instagram account is properly linked to your Facebook page and verified. The little blue checkmark isn’t enough to ensure you’re able to search for hashtags or competitors. The next step is to verify.
  2. Hashtag management plan: Each handle will be limited to 30 hashtag search requests, so take a moment to examine internal processes for your brand management team. Understand who in your organization needs to scan Instagram hashtags, and collaborate to determine your organization’s “30.” Remember this limit applies to each of the tools you use connected to your account to conduct hashtag searches (such as Meltwater, Sysomos, Sprout Social, etc.)
  3. You can perform unlimited searches on the content posted by other verified accounts, including your competitors or industry players. Keep @mentions vs. hashtags in mind when creating your hashtag management plan.

Again, these changes are industry wide. So no matter which vendors you use, these preparations will be required for compliant Instagram access. Good news, it’s impacting your peers too—the difference is who gets ahead of the game.

Need help? Sysomos clients can read this article on our Support Portalor log in and ask questions via live chat about  these Instagram API changes and how best to take advantage of them.

Happy gramming!

Leave a Reply