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When API changes hit – and you can bet they will with regularity – you hope and pray that your social analytics tool is on top of the updates, or better yet, ahead of them. But that often isn’t the case. And that’s when disaster strikes for brand marketers.

Is there anything worse than the frustration you feel watching from the sidelines as your brand misses out on valuable opportunities – and all because someone else dropped the ball and made you look bad to your CEO? Someone you’re paying for a service, no less? Frustration at its finest.

That’s why it’s important to carefully vet social listening providers to see how they handle API changes. Optimally, you should do this before you need to worry about it happening, but it isn’t a key checklist item one would typically consider.

Fortunately, for your purposes (and unfortunately for those who went through it), you have Instagram to use as a litmus test – and we’ll provide some key questions to ask providers to feel them out later in this post!

The More Things Change . . .

Instagram has gone through some changes this past year – quite a few, actually. And with a quickness that left many providers in the lurch.

In April, in response to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytics snafu, the platform locked down its data and deprecated Instagram’s API suddenly, months ahead of schedule. And they were very specific around what was and was not allowed, warning everyone to “not abuse the API Platform, automate requests, or encourage unauthentic behavior. This will get your access turned off.”

This didn’t mention, nor stop, some providers from making claims around capabilities that just weren’t based in reality, along with a healthy dose of false promises.

Instagram had limited social listening platforms to 200 API calls per hour for each individual user authorization, and this standard applied to every listening platform, but some claimed to have “special relationships” and “preferential treatment.”

Lots of third-party Instagram apps broke as a result of the sudden changes. We anticipate changes and watch closely for them, pushing new product out to clients every two months. The sudden shift was a challenge, but one we were ready for.

And then on December 11th, the newest API update when live – and this was the true test for social analytics tools to show their stuff. The pending updates were actually announced by Instagram in October, so there was lots of time for providers to prepare. We did, at least!

We were on top of it and our users were thrilled. Others? Not so much:

 

There were lots of excuses floating around though to account for things just not working the way they should be – things that persist from the previous update, never mind the latest one:

And weird workarounds guiding users to make much more work for themselves than necessary, and demonstrating an unprepared approach to problem-solving:

As a result, users were left with less than useful insight around owned channels, partner influencers and competitive insight. To make matters worse, with the latest update happening during the holiday season, some brands with left with less than stellar campaign capabilities, unable to understand what data was available, never mind how to best use it.

The main difficulties providers faced, seem to revolve around not planning far enough ahead for the changes, which (by all accounts) required a level of sophistication to master. It wasn’t just a change to the API, it was coordinating access via two APIs and understanding how personal and business accounts coordinated to provide data access, or as summarized by dialogfeed here:

  • Most difficult: besides Instagram API, you must integrate Facebook Graph API. Using Instagram requires using Facebook login for your end users, meaning managing Facebook authentication from a personal profile. This is a very long task for a developer.
  • Have as developer a Facebook business account and an Instagram business account. This also involves the end users to have both. Processes to create them . . . may be a little time consuming. Some end users will give up before successfully doing it unfortunately.

You can’t have a tool that will give up or learn on the job as you wait for access, and unfortunately, that’s what seems to have happened to many dissatisfied end users. They didn’t know what to look for ahead of time, but now they sure do!

Those Questions to Ask

So what were the questions to ask social analytics providers? Here’s a quick list, based on what we covered above:

  • How often are you pushing out product updates to clients?
  • How did your company do with Instagram’s API changes?
  • Did you have every customer transitioned to the new API on December 11th, the day it went live? If not, why not?
  • Have you been able to adapt your tool to API changes as they happen? Explain any delays please.
  • Can you provide three customer references, who could speak to their API transition experiences with me please?
  • Tell me about your Next Generation AI

That last question may seem a bit off-topic, but it speaks to an important capability that every analytics tool must have in place right now, or they’ll begin falling behind in the coming months and be fairly useless to you within the year. AI should be a deal-breaker.

And, coincidentally enough, NetBase has every one of those bullet points locked down, including AI. Clients consider us the gold standard when it comes to keeping pace – setting the pace, rather – in these crucial API and AI areas. It’s not a claim we make lightly.

Be sure to reach out for a demo and we can show you why we excel and how we help top brands win again and again.