This article assumes you know what Spark AR Studio is and that you know how to develop effects for publication on Facebook and Instagram. If you need help with getting started, you can download Spark AR, look at the documentation, walk through the tutorials, and join the Spark AR Community on Facebook.
The community is by far the best resource right now because you can search for previously asked questions and, chances are, they have been answered before. I also have a YouTube channel where I publish tutorials on how to build Instagram filters — go subscribe if you’d like!
Once you have built your filter and you’re ready to publish, you go to the Spark AR Hub. You click “Upload Effect” and you see an option to publish to Facebook, but no option for Instagram — where is the option for Instagram?
Well, anyone can publish to Facebook because it’s open for people and brands to publish effects to the platform. Instagram, on the other hand, is not.
This leads to the question that plagues the community hour after hour:
“How can I publish my filters on Instagram?”
First, you need to apply to the Instagram beta in order to publish to Instagram. Apply only once. You will not receive an email confirmation (at least, I didn’t) so don’t panic. You MUST complete this step in order to publish. Make sure the Instagram account you are applying with is your personal account with your name clearly displayed. It cannot be a pseudonym or anything that can be perceived as a brand or you will not have your filters approved. Mine, for instance, says “lukehurd”.
Now, you must wait until you are approved to participate in the closed beta.
“How can I get approved for the beta?”
Instagram is in a state of “closed beta” — that means it isn’t available for everyone to publish their filters yet. There are currently only a few thousand people who have access to this closed beta and can publish to Instagram — that is, until the beta is no longer closed which has been stated as being some time “this summer”.
It might take longer than that, depending on bugs and other platform stability issues that arise during the closed beta period so we might not see that happen until the fall — this is how all beta programs work.
Instagram genuinely wants people who are going to test the platform and supply bug reports and feedback in the community because that is how they move out of beta faster. It is also not a queue — meaning if you signed up a few months ago you aren’t guaranteed to be approved before someone who signed up last week. If you have ever been a part of a closed beta program, this is how it always works. You just apply and wait…
…and they might not accept you. Be prepared for that.
This is a reality of a closed beta. Until then, you can develop filters for Facebook and practice on creating filters that people actually want to use. Facebook is a great place to learn the development fundamentals, as well as getting familiar with the Spark AR Hub and publishing effects — and the review process.
Apply, and wait. Keep in mind that the closed beta program doesn’t exist to be simply exclusive and keep people out — it exists to make the platform more stable. They keep the creator group small because the support team at Instagram and Facebook are small — if a bug appears they only want a handful of reports and not 10,000 people reporting the same bug. During the beta period, there are a lot of bugs so they need to keep things as streamlined as possible so opening things up to everyone is not an option right now.
“My client wants to publish to Instagram now!”
They have to wait. All brands want access to this, big and small. They all have to wait. A few brands have been hand-picked to participate in the closed beta for brands — which is different than the closed beta for individuals that I have been talking about in this article. In order to sign up for the closed beta for brands, you’ll first need to be accepted into the closed beta for individuals.
Again, the reasons for this are because the platform needs to be stable and tested — which is the point of a closed beta. They don’t want to open this up and be flooded with hundreds of users freaking out that their clients are upset because the platform isn’t working right, so be patient. This is all part of the process of software development and, no matter how badly your client may want to publish to Instagram, they will have to wait.
“I applied and I’ve been waiting forever!”
Yep, loads of people have. You just need to wait for approval or for the beta to open up to the public. Posting, asking, and begging in the community will not get you approved any faster. Sharing an amazing effect you built for Facebook and mentioning how you want to share it on Instagram will not get you approved any faster. Tagging the administrators in the community and asking how long it will be will not get you approved any faster.
There is no way to get approved any faster. Just be patient and wait.
“How did you get in? How long did it take?”
I applied the day it opened, about 8 months ago. I was admitted about a month later. I knew Instagram was a going to be a massive opportunity and had been waiting for months before that for an announcement — and when it was announced I applied immediately.
Since then, there have been tens of thousands of applications submitted. There are roughly 5000 people who are currently part of the closed beta and maybe 10% of those people actively develop filters for Instagram. The others either applied and didn’t actually build anything, or applied and lost interest. The Instagram team actively adds more people when they feel like they can handle the load of new users — so people are still being added to the beta today.
“I got in!”
If you are accepted (congrats!), the next step is to go here and follow the official instructions. In short, they explain that you must apply with a personal account — not a business account, that you must disconnect your IG account from a page if it already has been connected to one (i.e. it’s already set up as a business), and that you can convert back to business once approved but you CANNOT connect it back to a Facebook page during this process. You will not be able to publish if you do. When you get to this step, click “skip”. This is so you cannot monetarily promote your filters and posts on IG during the beta, which is against the rules.
Now, you’re in!
“I have access — I don’t see a way to publish my existing filters to Instagram”
Currently, you cannot publish one filter file for use on both platforms. You’ll need to upload a filter for Facebook and one for Instagram — and they both need to go through approvals. Instagram has different rules and limitations than Facebook, so you’ll want to make sure you follow them. There are capabilities that Spark AR can do that Instagram does not support — like iris tracking, hand tracking, networking, 3d text, etc — and there are rules about how overlays work on Instagram that differ from Facebook. You’ll need to make sure any existing effects follow the rules for Instagram or they will not be approved — even if they work in Spark AR and are approved for Facebook.