Don’t Cry, It’s Just Another Facebook and Instagram API Update

Data privacy has been headlining news recently. Because of increasing worry about who has access to information and the use of that information, social media platforms are trying to find ways to maintain customer trust while providing a space for businesses and marketers. Some of the changes during this time are updates in the Facebook and Instagram Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). While these changes may not necessarily affect Facebook or Instagram functionality, they do impact the performance of third-party tools, which many businesses and marketers rely on. We use third-party tools, specifically Hootsuite and Gain, to engage with users, create, approve, and schedule content. Below I share my frustrations and excitement about the recent and upcoming API updates.

Facebook released the API updates at the beginning of 2018 and Hootsuite recently began to roll back features to align with those changes. Hootsuite states:

  • Facebook Pages added or reconnected in Hootsuite after April 4th will no longer support Facebook private messaging functionality. This means that the following will no longer be available:
    • Messages stream for Facebook Pages.
    • Automation and assignments for Facebook private messages.
  • Mentioning Facebook Pages in posts will no longer be supported.
  • Tagging Facebook branded content will no longer be supported.

One of the biggest changes is the deprecated Facebook private messaging functionality. I am no longer able to see, respond to, or assign private messages in Hootsuite. This change is particularly frustrating because I used to manage all engagement within Hootsuite. Now, the updated API fragments engagement management and I am constrained to respond to messages natively. The change decreases efficiency and workflow while increasing eye-rolls.

Other changes in functionality include the deprecation of mentioning Facebook Pages in posts and tagging Facebook branded content. This simply means that we have to natively publish posts that have tagged pages and natively tag branded content. While this does not signal the end of the world, it does decrease efficiency and decreases the need for third-party tools. If we can’t use them to publish a large majority of content, is it really worth paying the money to use these tools? Of course there are still advantages to using third-party tools such as content library use, managing some engagement, and approval process. But, as a company, we are always asking ourselves these questions and constantly adapting in the ever changing world of social media.

The deprecation of Instagram’s API platform comes with challenges as well. While they continue to add features to the new Instagram Graph API, we are still going to have to adapt the way we engage on third-party platforms. As listed on their website, the old API platform will be fully deprecated by early 2020, with considerable changes happening in 2018. The blog states:

The following will be available until July 31, 2018:

  • Follower List – to read the list of followers and followed-by users
  • Relationships – to follow and unfollow accounts on a user’s behalf
  • Commenting on Public Content – to post and delete comments on a user’s behalf on public media

A glaring change to the API is the suspension of our ability to comment on public content. Without this feature on third-party platforms, we will be unable to interact with users directly on the platform, which we currently do. This change will force us to use the native platform for each client, which significantly decreases efficiency. It renders third-party tools impractical and ineffective for engaging with Instagram users. The next change, coming in December, further decreases the amount of engagement possible on third-party tools:

The following will be available until December 11, 2018:

  • Commenting – to post and delete comments on a user’s behalf on owned media
  • Public Content – to read any public profile info and media on a user’s behalf
  • Likes – to like and unlike media on a user’s behalf
  • Subscriptions – to receive notifications when media is posted

Instagram is essentially blocking out access to engage in any sort of meaningful way on third-party tools. But, instead of grinding our teeth over this deprecation of the Instagram API, we can look forward to the new features on the Instagram Graph API. We have already taken advantage of the content publishing feature, which allows Facebook Marketing Partners and Instagram Partners to post an image to a feed. Instagram finally answered our pleas to allow us to schedule content!

Other features on the Graph API include:

Business Discovery [NEW] – Discover and read the profile info and media of other business profiles.

Mentions [NEW] – Read public media that a business has been photo tagged or @mentioned in. Post comments on a business’ behalf on media it was tagged or mentioned in.

Insights – Help businesses access and analyze valuable metrics about their own Instagram business profile. Enable them to understand and optimize the performance of their organic content on Instagram.

Comment Moderation – Drive interactions at scale. Enable businesses to more efficiently interact with their audience through comments under their media on Instagram.

We are still waiting for some of these features to come into effect on Hootsuite but are very excited about the different ways Instagram is allowing us to efficiently connect with people. While some of these features seem a bit vague (will the Comment Moderation feature allow us to comment on other public media? Will we eventually be able to like media we’ve been mentioned in?), we’re looking forward to testing out all the new features.

While most of these changes to the Facebook and Instagram APIs are frustrating and cumbersome, there is still value in relying on third-party tools to help schedule and process content. After all, engaging and relevant content is all that matters at the end of the day. In a recent study done by Buffer, content published on third-party tools performed no differently than content published natively; the major factor in performance was the content itself. If these tools can continue to provide the platform to help us create engaging content and connect with our audience, then count us in. Let us know what you think about the new changes and if you think they really negatively impact the effectiveness of third-party tools.

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