Changes to Meta’s API impacts some influencer marketing platforms
Listen to this article:
Grin, a popular creator management platform used by DTC brands like SKIMS, Warby Parker, and Allbirds, was dealt a hard blow last month due to Meta’s new API and service guidelines.
Most Meta-related features have been wiped from the platform, including Instagram creator search.
And that’s barely scratching the surface.
The platform removed unauthenticated Instagram creators along with the campaigns and content they’ve made for partner brands in the past.
On September 26, Grin notified customers via email that changes to the platform were imminent.
“To align with the requirements for Meta's API and service guidelines, our industry is going to undergo some changes, and Grin is on the front lines so that we make sure we remain the closest to Meta and all these changes," Grin announced.
Two days later, Grin sent another email requiring all users to export their content and performance data from the platform in two days' time to avoid losing their work.
""To reiterate, we will not have access to any content or data collected from non-authenticated creators via Instagram and Facebook available in GRIN after September 30th," the email from Grin states.
Since then, Grin users say they have received little communication from the software company on a plan to address and restore its offerings, according to Kendall Dickieson, a social media marketing consultant and Grin user.
That’s partly why Dickieson decided to write a Twitter thread to raise visibility of what’s happening, she told BANKNOTES.
“Anything that is Meta no longer exists on the platform right now. The one thing that really drove me to write the thread was this question mark of when are things going to happen? Because it's not fair from a financial standpoint to the small businesses and even big businesses who are paying tens of thousands of dollars and can barely use a platform that’s operating at a 50% capability right now.”
BANKNOTES reached out to Grin for an interview on this issue but did not receive a timely response.
(Editor's note: A PR representative for Grin reached out to BANKNOTES on Oct. 26 with a comment on this piece: "Creators were removed from the search database but they were not removed from active partnerships or from GRIN’s CRM," said Brandy Patton-Miller, a senior account executive with Bospar public relations. "The content is gone but the article explicitly called out that creators and campaigns were being removed, which is not true. Only the content from non-auth’d creators was removed."
Why did this happen to Grin and will other creator platforms be affected?
According to Dickieson, Grin promises to have 39 million creators in its database across Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube.
If 39 million seems like a big number, it’s because it is. A 2020 report by investment firm SignalFire shows that there are 50 million independent content creators—with 2 million of them considered full-time professionals and 46.7 million monetizing content creation part-time.
So what’s the issue with Grin having a big creator rolodex? Before Meta’s API changes,*none.* But now, Meta’s new API requires all Instagram creators to opt-in to the platform and be authenticated using OAuth.
And with that large of a ‘rolodex’, it stands to reason that a big chunk of Grin’s Instagram creators was never authorized. “We still don't know the percentage of unauthorized (Meta) creators, but I'm gonna go with huge,” Dickieson said.
Other creator platforms like #paid that emphasize a first-party relationship with creators and already have an authentication process in place shouldn’t be affected by the new Meta guidelines.
“Creators are required to (authorize) with Meta via OAuth in order to work with brands on campaigns; it confirms who the creator says they are and builds trust with the brand,” Phil Jacobson, VP of operations at #paid explained. “More specifically, getting creators to connect with Meta is what allows us to provide brands with real-time social channel stats and post reporting for organic results. It also allows brands to provide additional actions such as licensing creators for paid ads.”
How have brands using Grin been affected?
For starters, brands had less than a week to ensure their prospect, creator, and influential customer lists, along with existing content and reports, were downloaded before they vanished from the platform.
Dickieson had to go through the process herself, but she was more concerned for some of her peers.
“Think about all these big brands who have been on Grin for years, and had to download like 2,000 pieces of content and hope to God that they got everything,” she said.
As a result of the removal of unauthorized creators, social media managers now have to reach out to their contacts directly to authenticate and re-add them to the platform.
Dickieson said Grin has set up an easier way for experts like her to “bulk email” creators and get them authenticated.
But there are downfalls in having to manually add and email creators for authorizations, she explained.
“What I'm seeing, as a result, is some of those creators didn't even know that I wanted to work with them yet because they are prospects. So now I had to send out 157 emails, and I'm getting back 50 emails of ‘Hey, I didn't know that we were doing a campaign together yet.’ And yes, we’re not. But I'm now forced to send this email to prospects who didn't know I even wanted to work with them yet, and they're confused.”
Instagram creator search is also no longer available on the platform, making it harder for users to discover new talent.
Further, “influential customers”, a part of Grin’s integration with Shopify were also removed from the platform. The feature connected a brand’s Grin account to their Shopify store and enabled brands to find their top customers and leverage them for content—turning high-following, high-LTV customers into brand influencers.
Dickieson's Twitter thread sparked a dialogue between influencer marketers on the current situation and their plans.
It’s not the first time Meta breaks a software—and it won’t be the last
It’s not the first time Meta’s decisions have had a disastrous rippling effect on other businesses.
In 2018, Shopify quiz app Octane AI almost closed its doors because of (then) Facebook. The tech giant decided to shut down its API to audit the developers on the platform after the huge Cambridge Analytica data privacy fiasco. Back then, Octane AI’s business was built on top of Facebook chatbots, and without the API, the company was rendered useless. Luckily for them, Facebook opened its API again just in time for them to stay afloat and raise a new round.
But there’s a difference between accidental and intentional Meta decisions and the way they affect businesses.
Meta is well-known for making changes to its platform with the intent to take over and monopolize markets. In 2012, Facebook copied the functionalities of the voice messaging platform Voxer. And two weeks later, Facebook cut Voxer’s Find Friends access, which led the app to leave the Facebook Messenger ecosystem altogether.
In a 2013 email exchange, Mark Zuckerberg was asked by a Facebook engineer if they should cut Vine’s access to Facebook data, to which Zuckerberg replied “Yup, go for it.” Vine shut down in 2016.
And just recently on July 12, Meta launched its own Instagram creator marketplace, after Zuckerberg’s June post teasing “new ways for creators to make more money on Facebook and Instagram” were coming.
Instagram’s creator marketplace allows brands to find and filter creators by gender, age, number of followers, and demographics of their engaged audience. Brands are also able to correspond with creators, create campaigns, and structure projects and deliverables directly within the Instagram app. And a payment functionality has already been announced to be coming soon.
Instagram’s creator marketplace features don’t seem to match up to Grin’s offerings. Not until, of course, Grin had to make changes that obliterated most of its Instagram features.
Coincidence? Some influencer marketers say this is a calculated move as Meta is evolving to support a creator-first economy—trying to capitalize on creators and corner established providers like Grin and others.