Agencies that relied on the Facebook or Instagram application programming interface — a data communications system that can provide businesses with information about influencer followers and reach, among other things — are being forced to create workarounds in order to continue servicing their clients.
For now, the general vibe in the industry when it comes to the new rules is confusion. And sources said it’s likely to stay that way until the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which is credited with kicking off or speeding up the changes, is resolved.
“Privacy is super important right now — to everybody,” said Alicianne Rand, executive director of global consumer engagement and influencer marketing at the Estée Lauder Cos. “This issue is not going away overnight. The entire industry is following it and it will have business implications for some time to come.”
For the beauty category, which has seen sales skyrocket in recent years in part due to the widespread adoption of social media platforms and popularity of selfies, the shift is a big deal — one that affects the analytics and marketing services providers for the industry.
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One of those businesses, Tribe Dynamics, which provides data on earned media value to a large group of established beauty brands, sent an e-mail to customers on April 10 explaining that privacy-related changes are affecting its business, and that access to the Instagram API was cut off unexpectedly.
Tribe no longer has access to Instagram’s API, the company said, but it does expect access to a new system, the Graph API, in the future. That system should grant it access to data related to business profiles, but because Facebook has postponed approving applications for the new Graph API, Tribe (and other companies) do not yet have access or know that they will have access.
Also, not all beauty influencers have business profiles — meaning not all influencers will show up through the Graph API. Those who do are granted access to analytics, shoppable posts, mentions, swipe-up links and scheduled posts, which Tribe says incentivizes them to set up a business profile. (Instagram users can transition existing profiles into business profiles without losing followers). Business profiles on Instagram are growing — in November, the company said there were 25 million, up from 15 million in July.
As a workaround, Tribe is looking into manually tracking Instagram posts at the brand and campaign levels.
“We don’t expect it to impact our business long-term,” said Tribe cofounder Conor Begley. “It also shouldn’t impact the creator community…consumers will want to get information from the content creators…and brands will want to continue to invest in the space.”
The Instagram API changes were implemented earlier than expected, Begley explained, and the business expects further updates from Instagram.
Sources on the brand side have expressed concerns about the quality and depth of information they will receive going forward and how the business will continue to calculate EMV. Tribe’s EMV metric — which essentially tracks how much people online are talking about a brand — has become widely used to evaluate brand relevance in the beauty world.
“On our side, [what Tribe allowed us to do ] was see when people were mentioning us, which allowed us to cultivate one-on-one relationships with influencers,” said one Tribe customer who requested anonymity. The customer voiced worry about future access to micro-influencers who don’t always operate via business accounts out of concern it would cause them to lose their audience.
Tribe is certainly not the only analytics provider affected by the changes Facebook Inc. made in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Other social media analytics companies are also affected.
For Pixability, which does video ad planning, buying and measurement for both the beauty and fashion worlds, the Facebook privacy changes mean more work when it comes to providing insights to customers, said Theresa Moore, vice president of platform partnerships.
“It did affect us because we use a lot of those Instagram influencer insights and trends and contextual relevancy, and the rich data sets there, for the fashion and beauty verticals,” Moore said. “Those are really key verticals on Instagram as well, as far as engagement for viewers.”
The data sets have become more important as Facebook has transitioned to more of a pay-to-play atmosphere over the past few years, sources said. Just because a customer follows a brand on Facebook no longer means that potential shopper will see posts from the business.
Pixability’s European customers will be affected first because partner category changes are happening there on May 11, Moore said.
Pixability is also creating a workaround for Facebook’s decision to axe data partners, which have provided information that helped advertisers target their marketing campaigns as part of the Facebook ecosystem. Datasets that target certain segments of consumers can still be loaded into Facebook to target advertising, but it will create an extra step in the process, experts said.
It’s an extra step that Pixability intends to take, Moore said, noting that she will start working with third-party data vendors. Changes to data partners as part of the privacy shift don’t “mean [Pixability] can’t partner with partners that provide that data to Facebook,” Moore said.
“It’s a couple extra steps, but it’s time for all of us to own up and be responsible and make sure we’re taking care of the consumers at the end of the day,” Moore said.
Third-party data providers may be set to benefit from shifts in Facebook’s policy, according to Ari Saposh, vice president of data at OneAudience, which builds datasets that can be plugged into Facebook to target certain groups of consumers. OneAudience gathers data from online forms or apps.
“We have the capability to load our data to Facebook in order to run a targeted social marketing campaign,” Saposh said, noting that Facebook’s Audience Engine service is still running, but that the business’ decision to no longer work with data partners gives other data providers a chance to swoop in and acquire more customers. “It’s basically putting the onus on the data provider, saying … ‘you’re saying this data’s good,'” Saposh said. “Ultimately, they’re basically trying to cover themselves.
“From the advertiser or brand perspective … they don’t necessarily need to change that much,” Saposh said. “They can still find a solution. Facebook is one of the highest-generating conversion channels and advertisers and brands and agencies are a little scared that with all these changes they’re not going to be able to target in the same precise way that they’ve been used to. But the answer is they can — they just can’t do it in the old way they used to do it.”
Gil Eyal, chief executive officer of influencer marketing group HYPR Brands, referred to Facebook changes as “a temporary problem.”
“This isn’t going to kill anybody’s business — it’s information that you can supplement,” he said.
For advertising business Ansira, which has beauty clients, the shift affects about 2 percent of its overall plan, said David Pierpont, senior vice president of performance media.
“The only main difference is we’re not going to be able to use these partner categories that added an extra layer of targeting for us,” Pierpont said. “It only ended up being about 2 percent of all campaigns were using partner data. We were kind of like, ‘oh well.’
“We’ll work with Facebook to come up with different ways of targeting and we’ll do it in the right way and hopefully still be as efficient with our dollars as possible,” Pierpont said. “What kicked this all off was Cambridge Analytica.”