Instagram’s Hashtag Search API and Vessel: #WhatYouNeedToKnow

Instagram’s Hashtag Search API and Vessel: #WhatYouNeedToKnow

If you’re reading this you probably already know all about Instagram's (IGs) new hashtag search API for businesses and creators that rolled out last December. Admittedly, it does pose some major limitations, but it is not the end of social media marketing as we know it, as some have suggested. In fact, the new API reveals IGs continuing efforts to protect user privacy and guard against those greedy, no-good spammer trolls!!! *Ahem* I mean, those persistent and resourceful content-producers...  

Anyway! If you conduct a quick search through the internet archives, you will notice the change-cycle the tech community experienced as a result of IGs announcement to adjust the API. First, there was a sense of loss and doubt, which gave way to discomfort, but then a light appeared and there was discovery, understanding, and finally, for some, integration.  

What stage of the change-cycle is Vessel at, you ask? Integration, of course! The developers here at Vessel recently released our newest feature, InstaSearch, which is a hashtag search bar that allows users of our plug-in to discover visual content relevant to the brands and businesses they are promoting. I know, I know— it is very exciting! But before we dive into all of that, let me briefly recap the new API in order to provide some context for our new #feature.


  1. The API only allows those operating under a business or creator account to query up to 30 unique hashtags per seven-day period.

  2. The API will not disclose personally identifiable information attached to posts.

  3. It is no longer possible to comment on hashtagged media discovered through the API.


The purpose of these changes is to improve data protection and security for IG users. With the old API, ne'er-do-well developers could create automated applications to track an infinite number of hashtags. The application could then aggregate personally identifiable information (such as usernames and geolocations) via the hashtags and store them in a database. The database would then become a massive repository full of prime tracking information that could be used to identify users’ tastes and preferences, and profile them based on their use of hashtags. Needless to say, the old API contained some flaws that made it way, way too easy to collect, analyze, categorize, and even sell IG users’ information without permission. 


In the wake of some high-profile data breaches, Facebook, the owner of IG, has become scrupulous in its efforts to protect its users’ personal information, so much so that access to user-data will now require clear, express consent. This means that marketers will now have to create personal connections between their brands and followers through the use of more direct methods, such as @mentions, photo-tags, and registration forms.

Further, with the new API’s limitation of 30 unique hashtags per seven-day period, marketers will be nudged to tap into their creative capacity to devise strategies that are oriented toward quality rather than quantity. Shifting creative efforts to using fewer, more relevant hashtags can lead to a more focused, more sophisticated content strategy that ends up attracting and retaining a greater number of followers than before.  


As mentioned, this is great news for the Vessel community. With the release of our latest feature, InstaSearch, and restrictions on hashtag usage for IGs creative and business users, Vessel publishers will spend less time searching for quality content and more time perfecting their user experience. To see and experience InstaSearch for yourself, head on over to our Tips & Takeaways section for a quick overview and tutorial.