Instagram has gained popularity over the pandemic. It’s one of the most popular social networking applications, with over 2 billion active members. The term “Instagram” has also been officially recognized as a verb — a testament to Instagram’s popularity and power as a photo and video-sharing platform.
Being the social media marvel that it is, Instagram offers a slew of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that let you link your account to third-party programs. These APIs help you engage and serve your consumers more easily. However, the functionalities of these APIs have become limited lately.
It wasn’t always like this. Until late 2018, Facebook allowed reasonable open access to both Facebook and Instagram APIs. However, unlawful activity prompted Facebook to review developer access. They promptly trimmed access to the Facebook and Instagram APIs.
This article will provide an updated look at Instagram’s API limitations.
Application Programming Interface (API) is a software middleman that allows two apps to communicate with one another. You’re utilizing an API every time you use an app like Facebook, send an instant message, or check the weather on your phone.
So, how does it work? The application that requires information (e.g., flight prices for specific dates) or functionality from another software makes a call to its API, explaining the requirements. The other software provides the data/functionality that the first application requested. The API is the interface via which these two applications communicate.
So you’re only interacting with Instagram’s API every time you go to Instagram on a server or open the Instagram app. The API is the part of the server that receives and responds to requests.
APIs enable users to a website to execute certain tasks. They also serve as gatekeepers, preventing site users from engaging in specific activities. Instagram can only be interacted with in ways that its API allows.
What does this mean for companies that use Instagram for social media marketing and other uses? Allow us to explain.
History of Instagram’s API Changes
From 2015 to 2018, the parent company of Instagram, META (previously Facebook), had a security issue when a researcher from Cambridge Analytica obtained data on millions of Facebook users for a British PR firm, SCL Group, to employ in the Trump presidential campaign. Subsequently, the data of 87 million Facebook users was made public by Facebook.
Additionally, a Facebook quiz was created by Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American researcher at Cambridge University. It gathered information from those who completed the quiz and raw data from their Facebook friends, owing to a loophole in Facebook’s API.
The consequences were massive. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, had to appear in front of the US Congress, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted in May 2019 to fine Facebook $5 billion for the data breach.
One other impact was that Facebook severely restricted API access across its entire product range, including Instagram. The existing Instagram API was deactivated in 2018, limiting what third-party apps could do with the site.
Some apps let you automate the entire Instagram scheduling process, just like you can with other social media platforms. Other platforms will allow you to schedule your Instagram posts in advance, but they will only email you a reminder to do so manually. The modification in the Instagram API is the cause for this divergence.
How Instagram’s API works today
In 2018, Facebook’s original API became unavailable. Most applications that had previously had access to Instagram’s API could keep it, but new apps had a hard time getting approved.
Facebook and Instagram have switched to a new API called Graph API to replace their previous one. Presently it’s the most common way for apps to read and write to the Facebook social network. The Graph API is used by all their SDKs (Software Development Kits) and products, including Instagram.
The new Graph API is far more restricted than the previous one, making it more difficult for developers to link their products to Instagram. Instagram’s new Graph API is also required for data collection, and its use is limited. To utilize Instagram data, you must first request permission, and developers must go through a lengthy approval procedure.
API limitations you need to know about
So, what kind of limitations does Instagram’s API have? Read on…
Instagram is all about the grid and the perfect resolution and cropping for your images and videos. These make the first impression on new audience members when they see your page, so they are pretty important.
When you upload files greater than 1080px, Instagram compresses and resizes them, resulting in fuzziness. Picture quality suffers from photo compression, which distorts details. When you submit pictures less than 320px, Instagram will pixelate the image.
Aim for a square photo or video size of 1080px by 1080px to obtain the best image on your feed. Instagram will display a compressed version of it at roughly 600px by 600px, which will look great on both mobile and desktop devices.
As long as the photo’s width is between 320 and 1080 pixels and the aspect ratio is correct, Instagram will keep the original resolution. If the aspect ratio isn’t supported, the photo or video will be automatically cropped.
To avoid automatic resizing, make sure to resize your image to a maximum width of 1080 pixels before uploading your photo. Various social media management tools in the market can help you do this while also helping automate the postings.
This rule also applies for Reels on Instagram, so keep these in mind, and also make sure to check out our top recommended strategies to make the best reels to engage and increase your brand’s followers here.
API rate limit
Every third-party application connected to Instagram’s API has a restriction on how many times it may access its data. Instagram has recently decreased its API restriction from 5,000 to 200 requests per hour.
This update is intended to align Instagram’s API rate limitations with Facebook’s current rate limits, effectively limiting the capacity of unauthorized actors (think of the Cambridge Analytica issue) to acquire vast volumes of user data over time.
While this may be a significant decline in API requests, individuals who use this API to aggregate Instagram posts may still obtain thousands of posts every hour.
Limitations on data collection
In plain English, the rate limit update implies that apps may now pull data from Instagram considerably less often than previously. These limitations can make it difficult to keep up with customer complaints or posts for businesses that rely on near-constant access to Instagram data.
It can also limit the overall amount of information available to outsiders.
When this new restriction was announced, developers noted that if they had to be more selective about the data calls, they might cease gathering data on topics or individuals they don’t need data on. So, it’s possible we may see further restrictions in the future.
Personal account limits
Because Instagram’s professional accounts are accessed through Facebook accounts, your API users must have a Facebook account to view content. Furthermore, the Facebook account must be able to conduct admin-equivalent tasks on a Facebook page that has been linked to the Instagram account being accessed.
All app users, including those who hold a role on your app or a role on a business page that has claimed your app, must comply with these standards.
Before data from Instagram professional accounts can be accessed using the API, they must be linked to a Facebook Page. Any Facebook user who can execute tasks on that page can provide your app with an access token used in API calls after connecting.
Connecting a Facebook page to an Instagram professional account is explained in our “Adding Instagram Business Accounts, and what to do if they are not showing up in Add and Manage Accounts” post.
Statistics show that 61% of users follow accounts on social media platforms based on how organized, memorable, distinct, and well thought out their profiles are. So, you could work with this limitation by creating a supplementary Facebook account to boost your Instagram one.
Manual approval requirements
Permissions and features are used to manage endpoint authorization. Before your app may utilize an endpoint to access an app user’s Instagram data, you must first get all of the app user’s needed permissions. The app user must then allow your app those rights. You can query the endpoints to access the user’s data after being granted access.
It’s worth noting that a permit only grants access to data generated by the user who issued it. A few endpoints allow apps to access data that the app user did not produce. However, the information that you may access this way is limited and public.
By logging into Facebook, you may seek permission from app users. Users with a role in your application can provide any requested licenses. Only permissions and features that have been authorized through the App Review process can be granted to users who do not have any particular role in your app.
Instagram has limited third-party applications’ ability to track how many likes a post has gotten and examine follower information and connections by removing the followers and likes endpoints. The goal is to prevent illegal programs from collecting data about users, their relations with other users, etc. Helpfully, this should also reduce the number of annoying bot accounts that auto-like Instagram posts.
Third parties will no longer be able to publish and remove comments on a user’s behalf for any content due to the removal of the public commenting endpoint.
Third parties on Instagram can no longer access personally identifiable information such as a user’s profile, bio, avatar, following list, media, posts, or name. In other words, with hashtag posts, the author’s name, username, and date will no longer be visible. As a result, you won’t be able to get or see the author’s details.
Ultimately, these restrictions make it recommendable for organizations to hire a remote worker or select an IT-staff member to take care of the API-related issues and maintain consistency while abiding by the platform’s rules.
Apply the API knowledge to your advantage
Instagram has been steadily updating its platform to give users a comprehensive social media and marketplace experience while maintaining maximum security and privacy.
While these changes caught many marketers and businesses off guard, they will help the industry move toward better data management by ensuring that only legitimate companies and organizations can access users’ data and interact with them on these platforms.
Brands have also been receiving platform enhancements to help them design stronger campaigns with shoppable content to increase consumer engagement and conversions.
So don’t be disappointed; rethink your marketing and social media approach with a clear goal in mind and devise a new strategy for your company.