Instagram is building a messaging API to help brands manage their DMs with users (FB)

Adam MosseriReuters/Beck Diefenbach

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Instagram is quietly building out software tools to help brands manage their direct messages with the app's users.

The Facebook-owned photo-sharing app is building an API (application programming interface) that will allow big accounts to access their messages through third-party services, Business Insider has learned — a long-demanded feature that will let brands and other accounts better manage their interactions with Instagram users.

It's not clear exactly when the tool will launch, or who will initially have access to it. In a statement, an Instagram spokesperson said: "We are always working on new ways for businesses to connect with their customers. Stay tuned for more details."

APIs are tools for allowing different pieces of software to interact with one another, and in the context on social media APIs often allow third-party companies to build software tools to help brands and organisations interact with other users more effectively.

They offer the advantage of scale: A large brand might have thousands of interactions and messages with users on a daily basis, which would be impractical to track or engage with using only the default, consumer apps. Instead, developers can build dashboards and tools for engaging with these users far more effectively.

Instagram already operates an API that allows brands to reply to comments, see the posts they're tagged in, and other functionality. There are also APIs for the core Facebook social network, messaging app Messenger, and WhatsApp.

The new API will help big accounts to manage their Instagram direct messages with other accounts. It's something that many brands and marketers have wanted for a long time; one marketing source said that it's the most-wanted feature for many in the industry. It's not yet clear exactly what functionality the API will offer.

Currently, brands have three options for managing their DMs with users. They can use the consumer app, or the Instagram.com website, both of which have only basic functionality. Or they can use Creator Studio — a Facebook-built tool for managing social media accounts that offers greater functionality, but not API access.

Contact Business Insider reporter Rob Price via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 650-636-6268), encrypted email (robaeprice@protonmail.com), standard email (rprice@businessinsider.com), Telegram/Wickr/WeChat (robaeprice), or Twitter DM (@robaeprice). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by standard email only, please.

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