Author, Yuval Ben-Itzhak
Earlier this year Instagram, the most engaging social media platform for brands and influencers, began experimenting with hiding the public “like” count on posts. According to Instagram head Adam Mosseri, the rationale behind this change is to “reduce anxiety and social comparisons” on the platform.
This change left many brands and influencers in a reel as likes have traditionally been a really simple way to measure engagement and therefore success on social.
Both brands and influencers have long seen likes as a validation that their community is engaged and their content is appealing, but in the age of bots and bought followers the “like” has lost some of its validity. The influencer market has exploded over the last few years and is expected to grow to a $6.5bn industry by 2020 and the issue of influencer marketing fraud is only increasing. According to a report from Cheq, fraudulent activity is costing advertisers $1.3 billion this year, so depending on “vanity metrics” such as likes will no longer cut it. The brands who have built successful influencer marketing campaigns understand that in today’s digital world, it’s community management and engagement with the fanbase that results in success, not superficial likes.
So if brands and influencers are no longer measured by likes, what’s next? Simple, they will have to work more smartly to make sure they are managing their communities and their content is being interacted with in meaningful ways. When brands pick out an influencer to work with, instead of looking at the number of likes the influencer typically gets on their content, they need to look more closely at that influencer’s community and how well it overlaps with the interests of the brand’s audience. Only by understanding the personas within their own audience can they select an influencer whose content will resonate and bring much-needed authenticity.
So even without likes, all is not lost. Instagram Stories have no public metrics and that hasn’t stopped them from becoming a firm favourite with brand marketers. Realistically likes are just one of many metrics used to measure and compare success on Instagram. From the number of comments, number of existing followers and acquired followers, there are plenty of other success barometers brands and influencers should use. Don’t forget that profile owners will still be able to see their own likes, it is only their followers who will now not be able to see how many likes there are for certain piece of content.
All in all, the loss of the like is no cause for alarm. The brands and influencers that have been working on building and managing a strong social media community should just keep doing what they’re doing. What the loss of the like does mean, however, is that it will now be harder for them to hide behind vanity metrics. They will need to put more time and effort into three key areas – understanding their communities, creating content that engages those communities and developing more meaningful metrics to measure their progress.