There has been quite a few changes in the social media world as of late in an effort to protect your data and privacy following the whole ‘Mark Zuckerberg stealing our info’ debacle (Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are currently facing multiple lawsuits over alleged misuse of personal information, but that’s another story altogether).
As a result, many businesses that depend on social media for reach and engagement have well and truly felt the effects. Confused about what all these changes might mean for you as an Instagram or Facebook user? Read on as we help break it down for you:
Trying to beat “that damn algorithm” has been on the never-ending to-do list of businesses and influencers alike since the annoying change came into effect in 2016 in a bid to “see the posts you care about most.”
As reported by Later, the change altered the way posts were made visible to us, that is, feeding content that was deemed of most interest to users (based on likes, tags, follows, reach, etc) rather than in chronological order which show posts in accordance to the time they are uploaded, with the most recent appearing on the top of your newsfeed.
Instagram hoped that the change would mean people would see more content that was relevant to them, and the algorithm was a way in which they believed could help organise this content more effectively.
As a result, it is no surprise that users saw a massive decline in their engagement (Later reports a drop of 33%) and the idea is that the change was a move that would eventually force more businesses in particular to boost their Instagram posts or run ads in order to be seen.
So what exactly do these recent changes mean? Have we finally gone back to the good old chronological order that we all know and love? Well, not entirely.
Although there has been a shift back towards the direction of chronological order (giving new posts priority and a place at the top), there are a still a number of external factors that come into play.
As Later puts it, Instagram has essentially “shifted the importance or weight of [such factors] so that the time in which people post has most influence on what appears on your feed.”
This means that posting at “peak times” are going to be more important than ever as this is what essentially has the most pull when it comes to visibility.
The addition of the ‘New Posts’ tab is another feature that has been introduced which allows users to now manually refresh their feeds. According to an announcement made by Instagram, the button came as a result of users complaining that their feeds would refresh unexpectedly and automatically when scrolling. “The ‘New Posts’ tab enables you to choose when you want to refresh, rather than it happening automatically,” says Instagram.
That’s the algorithm sorted, now let’s shift our attention to the API.
First up, what the heck is an API?
In plain English, API stands for “application program interface” and is a software platform that allows for sharing of content (images, videos, locations, etc) without the need for user involvement during the process of ‘information passing’. This enables users to integrate the social media network even further into their daily lives and share share share away with the simple click of a button. Mashable gives you a nice example to help better your understanding of API:
“When you enter credit card information to make an online purchase, the website sends your credit card information through an API to another application, which confirms that the provided information is correct.”
This entire process is done without user input which is where all the privacy issues come into play.
Instagram did announce that they were going to make changes to their API, but this wasn’t supposed to come into effect until July 31, 2018, giving businesses time to update their apps until the deadline. So when Instagram suddenly restricted access to the public API without warning, it left many third-party apps broken—as in gone, kaput, never to be seen again.
It can be gathered that the early retirement of Instagram’s API endpoints is a reaction to the public pressure surrounding Facebook about private data, and Instagram itself alluded to this in their announcement on April 4th, saying “To continuously improve Instagram users’ privacy and security, we are accelerating the deprecation of Instagram API Platform.”
Here’s a list of some of the changes you’ll be noticing:
Insta bots are officially dead: That’s right. This means no one can use robots to follow and unfollow accounts or like any posts.
Lower engagement: This sucks, but at least you can now trust that most of of the engagement and followers you get are real.
Your “likes” will be private only to you: This is so that other companies won’t be able to see what posts you have liked or not (mainly affects shopping apps).
External apps will no longer work: This includes apps used to analyse Instagram followers or schedule in Facebook posts.
Personal accounts won’t be able to post or delete comments from anywhere except the Instagram API: In order to do so, you’ll need to switch to an Instagram business profile.
As for those selfies? Pay attention to peak times for max impact, people!