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Instagram for Business: What Changed with the API?

Erica Jenkins

Feb 5, 2020

Big changes have happened to Instagram over the past couple of years which significantly change how social media marketing is done. Find out what advantages they bring to social media pros and how to apply these changes to your social media strategy. To ensure you're equipped with all the info you need, we invited Erica Jenkins, the head of product from Meltwater Social, to break it all down.

User privacy has been a hot topic in recent years, but this was especially the case in 2018. From GDPR to Cambridge Analytica, social media platforms have had to reevaluate their social data policies and make adjustments, impacting brands who rely on follower and community data for their social media intelligence strategy. Throughout 2018, Facebook and Instagram changed and limited what types of information can be accessed by social media analytics providers like Meltwater. They also deprecated several capabilities marketing teams depended on for accessing user-generated content.

But fear not—with some preparation, your social team can leverage these changes as a competitive advantage. Use this post as a guide to understand what changed and what steps your marketing department can take to continue to safeguard your brand and the success of your social media marketing strategy.

Instagram Marketing for Business: What this means for you


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

Rethink Instagram handles

Prior to these changes, social media listening across Instagram would work with any type of account - business or not. Now, you need to have a verified business account—which requires more forethought. If you’re a marketing pro working for 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 follower and community data because each handle is allowed 30 active hashtags, so the social media marketing 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 your followers and wider social media community's personal information. Verified Instagram business profiles 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 business profile account—across all apps, no matter the service or administrator.

Instagram requires this social media 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. 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 social media business accounts also have the ability to track Instagram 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 to engage their followers. It's also wise to approach influencers in the same manner. Take a look at what they're sharing and what engages their followers the most. If you notice alignment in what their community is interested in versus what interests your followers, the influencer may be a welcomed tool to boost your social media marketing efforts.

Shifting social media marketing strategies and scenarios

These changes to Instagram affect the entire social media community—from service providers to marketing teams. However, this new normal can benefit your social strategy while still respecting users’ privacy. Below we've included a few ways marketers can still use insights from Instagram users to get ahead.

Share of voice

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

Social media campaign monitoring

If you are running a social media campaign and your marketing team wants as much focused follower and community 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, marketing pros won’t be able to see the authors’ names or any information about them, but they’ll see the full text and images or videos.

Competitive and industry monitoring

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 their 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? Such insights are critical for strategic marketing decision making.

New options for brand management

A new option, previously not possible in the legacy API, is searching for tags and @mentions of your social media handle. This will allow social media marketing pros to find out how users are talking about their brand—regardless of a hashtag—so they 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

Verify your business account: The most important step your marketing team can take is to ensure your Instagram business profile 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.

Hashtag management plan: Each Instagram business profile will be limited to 30 hashtag search requests, so take a moment to examine internal processes for your marketing. 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 your marketing team use connected to your business profile to conduct hashtag searches (such as Meltwater, Sysomos, Sprout Social, etc.)

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 while you may feel that they're a little restricting for your marketing department, your competitors are feeling the same. No matter which vendors you use, these preparations will be required for compliant Instagram access.

Need help? Want to spar your social media marketing strategy to make sure it's compliant? Meltwater clients can reach out to our Help Desk, or log in and ask questions via live chat about Meltwater Social and the social intelligence solutions we offer.

Happy gramming!