As you most likely know, Facebook (the company) recently found itself under tremendous pressure after the news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal hit the headlines. Facebook scrambled to minimise the fallout. This has impacted both their social networks – Facebook and Instagram. It was inevitable that there would be changes to Instagram. One of their latest moves has been to cut certain developer access to the Instagram API. One side effect of this is the fact that it will be more difficult for companies to identify suitable influencers.
What is the Cambridge Analytica Facebook Scandal?
The New York Times, The Observer of London, and The Guardian worked together to uncover evidence of misuse of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica in the lead-up to the last US election. Digital consultants to Donald Trump’s campaign managed to gain access to millions of Facebook users’ details improperly. The data firm, Cambridge Analytica, obtained this data and allegedly used it to build voter profiles.
In the run-up to the 2015 mid-term elections a wealthy Republican donor, Robert Mercer invested $15 million in voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica. They managed to convince political advisor Stephen Bannon that they could create tools to identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behaviour.
The Cambridge Analytica staff managed to acquire the private data of more than 87 million Facebook users without any authorisation. They then used the data to create psychological profiles of American voters. They provided the data to Ted Cruz to use in his ultimately unsuccessful attempted to win the Republican nomination. Cambridge Analytica then presented the data to President Trump’s campaign team.
The true extent of the Facebook data leak has only recently surfaced. Cambridge paid an outside researcher to acquire the data on the basis that it was going to be used for academic purposes.
Although much of the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting occurred between 2011 and 2016, it has only recently hit the headlines. American lawmakers even demanded that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testify before Congress over the data breach.
Facebook’s reaction to the Crisis
Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged how important privacy is to people. He told a New York Times reporter, “Whenever there’s an issue where someone’s data gets passed to someone whom the rules of the system shouldn’t have allowed it to, that’s rightfully a big issue and deserves to be a big uproar.”
In the same interview, Zuckerberg promised to upgrade the privacy policies of Facebook (and its other related apps such as Instagram). “The first thing is, I really wanted to make sure we had a full and accurate understanding of everything that happened… The second thing is, the most important thing is that we fix this system so that issues like this don’t happen again… The third thing is, it’s really important that people know what apps they’ve authorised.”
He acknowledged that this meant that they would have to look at the relationships between the Facebook / Instagram products and thousands of other apps.
Going forward, Zuckerberg believes that there has to be much closer scrutiny between his company and any organisation wanting access to data. “It’s not going to be some terms of service that a developer can sign up for just on their computer when developing something… The point of what we’re trying to do here is to create a situation where we have a real person-to-person relationship with any developer who is asking for the most sensitive data.”
The Company Makes Changes to Instagram and Facebook
The Facebook company has begun to make changes to its platforms to restrict data access. One of its first reactions is to shut down part of the Instagram API. This significantly limits that data that Instagram makes available to other apps. This old API was going to be shut down anyhow, but Facebook has dramatically accelerated its timeframes. The APIs for follower lists, relationships, and commenting on public content have already ceased to function.
Facebook’s changes also limit access to data relating to Facebook Events, Groups, Pages APIs and Facebook Login. Although many of these changes appear to break apps, Facebook has stressed that the changes are not designed to be unduly restrictive. They are not making outright bans on accessing data, but merely implementing a requirement that developers need to consult with Facebook on a case by case basis.
Also, you can no longer find users by searching an email or username (on either Facebook or Instagram). They have also tightened the account recovery process. The loss of the ability to search by email or username may adversely affect user experience, as it will make it harder to find people with similar names.
Instagram has also reduced its rate limit on the API, i.e. the number of times an app can ping Instagram for information. Many developers found that it dropped from 5,000 calls per hour to 200 calls per hour without warning.
According to Recode, the API limitations are inconsistent, however. Some developers have had their data demands throttled back, while others have had their access removed completely.
The Changes to Instagram Make Finding Influencers More Difficult
To update on the Instagram Stats situation, it appears that for the foreseeable future, Instagram has cut off all developers from accessing follower data. This appears to be in direct correlation to the Cambridge Analytica situation where some third parties have misused data. pic.twitter.com/RUaOEAtHXU
— Social Blade (@SocialBlade) April 5, 2018
It appears that most apps used to find Instagram influencers have stopped working. Social Blade, tweeted on Thursday 5th April that “it appears that for the foreseeable future, Instagram has cut off all developers from accessing follower data.”
In particular, developers no longer have access to
- Follower lists
- Relationships (for following and unfollowing accounts on a user’s behalf)
- The ability to like and unlike media on a user’s behalf
- The ability to post and delete comments on a user’s behalf
- User information allowing developers to search and view users’ public content
- Public data relating to name, bios, comments, commenters, follower counts, following counts, post counts, and profile pictures
- Notifications for subscriptions
Likewise, Iconosquare recently posted about how the new API changes to Instagram heavily impact their business here.
The most significant problems will be for those apps that exist solely to find Instagram influencers. Most of their basic functionality will have now ceased to work. Also, most of the critical search capabilities needed for influencer selection have been removed in the recent Instagram API changes.
These changes to Instagram mean that most people searching for influencers on Instagram need to return to scrolling through page after page of Instagrammers, trying to work out who could be of value to them. Alternatively, brands will have to find other ways of distinguishing where to locate influencers and ways of selecting influencers.
Influencer Marketing Agencies May Be Your Solution
Searching for influencers manually has always been a long-drawn-out process. Until now there have been tools developed to assist you in locating influencers in specific locations. However, with the recent changes to Instagram, most of these tools no longer function as intended.
All is not doom and gloom though. Influencer marketing agencies already have access to many of the most effective influencers across Instagram, YouTube, Musically, Twitter and the other leading social networks. With problems surrounding fake influencer activity among micro-influencers and standard influencers, the changes to the Instagram API don’t make things any easier for brands.
Influencers are people who have strong followers, however, their large following does not always translate into conversions. For influencers to be influential, they must truly resonate with the audience they have grown. And that’s why we, in particular, at PMYB work with Chromo-Influencers®.
Chromo-Influencers® are the top 3%, highest-performing influencers we have encountered. To learn more about our story and how we went on to discover how certain influencers are likely to be more effective than the other 97%, see here.