Hashtag Contests & Instagram’s API Deprecation: What You Should Know

Hashtag Contests & Instagram’s API Deprecation

Hashtag Contests & Instagram’s API Deprecation: What You Should Know

Instagram is deprecating features necessary for running hashtag contests via its API on December 11, 2018. Online marketers — commence panic! Now take a deep breath. At ShortStack, our team of engineers updated our hashtag contest capabilities to ensure you still have access to the Instagram features you love. In this blog post, I explain Instagram’s planned API deprecation, what the changes mean for you, and the new process our engineering team created for running Instagram Hashtag contests on ShortStack.

Instagram’s Planned API Deprecation and What it Means to You

Instagram announced the deprecation of their API platform on January 30, 2018. Over the past year, Instagram has been deprecating various features of their API in order to protect the privacy of users and increase data security. In its place, they created a new Instagram Graph API which is based on the Facebook Graph API.

In April of 2018, Instagram deprecated several features from their API, with changes that occurred helping to improve the security of the platform in the wake of privacy concerns. The April API deprecation round included:

  • Removing the opportunity to create Instagram bots that automatically follow/unfollow profiles and like posts;
  • Taking away the ability for folks to see your Instagram “Likes,” a tool which allowed companies to see your Instagram Likes and determine if you might be interested in purchasing their product; and
  • Shutting down access to analyze an account’s followers.

However, there are still more features of the current API that will be deprecated in December.

The next round of Instagram’s API deprecation might not seem like it affects you, but it does if you’re using Instagram for a business. In fact, according to the Instagram help documentation, the new Instagram Graph API is “designed specifically with businesses in mind.” Previously, any Instagram profile had the ability to pull in hashtag content from posts on Instagram. However, the new API requires you to have both a Facebook Page and an Instagram Business Account. With this change, applications using the Instagram API will no longer have access to read public posts on a user’s behalf. For businesses, this means you can no longer simply pull posts with a specific hashtag from Instagram.

The New Process for Running Instagram Hashtag Contests via ShortStack:

The Instagram API deprecation requires a new process from ShortStack users for setting up their hashtag contests and a new process for hashtag contest participants for submitting their entries. Let’s get to it.

NOTE: When describing the new hashtag contest process, I will mark the portions of this process that have not changed with *.

First, let’s cover the prerequisites for setting up a hashtag contest on ShortStack. Before Instagram updated the API, folks simply needed to be on a ShortStack plan that offered access to our Feeds feature – the feature that facilitates Instagram and Twitter hashtag contests within ShortStack – and to have an Instagram account. Now, there are a few additional requirements. Here’s what you need to do before setting up your contest:

  1. Choose a ShortStack Plan that includes the Feeds feature.*
  2. Create a Facebook Page that can be connected to your Instagram Business Account for this hashtag contest. Learn more on setting up a Facebook Page by reading our Facebook Page Primer.
  3. Create an Instagram Business Account if you have not already done so. Instructions for creating an account can be found in our blog post, How to Set Up an Instagram Business Profile.
  4. Connect your Instagram Business Account to your Facebook Page.

Right now, when setting up the ShortStack feed that will collect your Instagram hashtags, all you need to do is indicate the hashtag(s) that posts must include and the timeframe the posts must occur during in order for the posts to be pulled in as entries. The new process requires you to:

  1. Choose the Facebook Page associated with the Instagram Business Account — this should be the Facebook Page linked to the Instagram account you want entrants to @mention when submitting an entry.
  2. Indicate the hashtag(s) posts must include in order to enter the contest.*
  3. Choose the timeframe during which entries will be collected.*

Below you’ll find two example posts by a business advertising their hashtag contest. One version reflects the old hashtag contests and the other reflects the new hashtag contest with the @mention requirement.

Old entry requirements

New entry requirements

New entry requirements

Old entry requirements

In the past, you could simply tell folks to include your contest hashtag(s) in their posts to enter. Now entrants will need to include the hashtag(s) and they need to @mention the Instagram Business Account you indicated when setting up the ShortStack feed. Here are two examples of hashtag contest entry posts. The first post shows the old entry process, while the second post includes the new @mention requirement.

Old entry post

New entry post

New entry post

As you can see, one of the best things about this new process is that people who view the entry post will also see your business being tagged in the entry. The @mention in hashtag contest entries increases brand awareness.


Instagram is deprecating their API, requiring ShortStack to update how hashtag contests are conducted. Now, folks must use an Instagram Business Account that is connected to a Facebook Page in order to set up a hashtag contests. Furthermore, hashtag contest entries must include both the contest hashtag(s) and an @mention of the Instagram Business Account running the contest. An example of a new entry post might be “@ShortStack enter me in your #hashtagcontest.”

If you have any questions on setting up your hashtag contests in ShortStack, just shoot an email to theteam@shortstacklab.com.

See how easy it is to create your first Instagram contest or promotion.

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Jane Vance

Jane is ShortStack’s Client Services Director. She holds a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin. Jane has worn many hats at ShortStack over the years, including leading our customer support and success team. Read more articles by Jane Vance.