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Timothy Gan and Prashant Saxena

The Instagram shake-up: What businesses need to know

BY TIMOTHY GAN AND PRASHANT SAXENA

On the whole, Singapore has a high (84%) penetration of internet users (4.83M), with 83% (4.8M users) who are on social media, and 95% of these social media users accessing social media sites daily. That’s really high.

Instagram ranks 3rd in non-messaging social platform usage amongst Singaporeans (with Youtube and Facebook coming 1st and 2nd respectively), with 38% (2.2M) of Singaporeans who use Instagram actively. (For a benchmark, Sweden currently has the highest Instagram penetration at 47% of monthly active users).

This signifies existing growth opportunity on the platform where it is yet to be saturated, and ample room for brands to engage with users on the platform where user skepticism / fatigue have yet to set in.

Almost every businesses / brands of all sizes in Singapore currently have an Instagram account and/or utilize Instagram influencer marketing to some degree. These range from local banks, the public sector, and even small businesses such as cafés.

What exactly is changing and what does it mean for businesses:
On to the issue: we are barely a month away from an impending industry shake-up. Instagram’s current ‘Platform API’ will be replaced with a new ‘Graph API’ in December 2018. This change will affect all 3rd party vendors who interact with and use Instagram’s data, where vendors will no longer be able to publicly obtain users’ Instagram data based on #hashtags, keywords, or locations. This is a continued part of Instagram (and Facebook’s) effort to address issues regarding personal data privacy / security and improper use of their users’ data.

For businesses, where analysing big data from all manner of sources are what we do constantly, this will result in a gap of organic conversations coming from a key social media channel that empower us to glean insights.

This is because we will be effectively limited to an ‘Owned Media’ use case, such as a brand monitoring their own Instagram business profile.

Fret not, it is not all doom & gloom
Instagram is – for the moment - simply shifting to a business-centric use case. First off, upgrade your Instagram account to a Business Account if you have not done so. This lets you unlock the following features which are touted to be new and, in our opinion, extremely useful:

Business Discovery API: Great for quick competitor intelligence and benchmarking. The Business Discovery API makes it easy to obtain basic engagement metrics (Likes + Comments) of other business accounts. What this means is a business can: 1) Obtain quick benchmarks, 2) Obtain intelligence on the performance of either your sister businesses or competitors.

Mentions API: This is an extremely useful tracking / monitoring feature. The Mentions API lets users identify captions, comments, and media in which their Business Account alias has been tagged or @mentioned. What this means is that a business can easily track: 1) Organic posts on people who are mentioning the brand and 2) Sponsored posts by influencers who may have been engaged by the business.

Silver linings & closing thoughts
I know what you might be thinking: What about non-business Instagram accounts? They will, according to Facebook, have some form of “basic permissions” in 2019. As there has yet to be any official announcement on how this will work, we are hopeful this will include some level of obtaining public data as before.

In the interim, there are still other sources of rich organic social media conversations. Twitter is a fairly neglected platform in Singapore, but some local influencers such as Xavier Lur are more active and have higher followers on Twitter than on Instagram. Local Forums such as Hardwarezone are also highly rich with organic discussions with an average of 18,000+ posts made daily (*based on Isentia data).

There are also integrated data analysis methodologies businesses can apply. Triangulation of different data sources for example, can be employed using a combination of publicly obtainable data from social media platforms, desk research (e.g. manual searches on Instagram itself), as well as historical Instagram data that can be harnessed for predictive analysis (extrapolation).

To close, change is the only constant, but we are excited for this new era and the new opportunities they bring. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Timothy Gan and Prashant Saxena

Timothy Gan and Prashant Saxena

Timothy is a Senior Insights Manager at Isentia. He has over 5 years of experience in media intelligence and insights, with client experience spanning the entire public sector and commercial verticals. Tim was twice nominated for ‘Young Professional of the Year’ award by international industry measurement and evaluation body AMEC. 

Prashant Saxena is a senior insights leader with more than a decade of experience with top Fortune 100 brands. At Isentia, he is heads insights in the S.E Asia region. An alumni of ASEAN Leadership Programme, he frequently shares his thoughts as a speaker at PR, market research and marketing analytics conferences in Asia.

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