Instagram’s decision to begin hiding likes was made with the hope of reducing influencer and brand competition and focus more on making authentic connection. According to Mark Zuckerberg, “We want people to be less interested in how many likes a post gets and focus more on connecting with other people”.
While hiding likes may not impact an average Instagram user, brands have used this basic unit of engagement as a metric for measuring competitor engagement in the absence of a rival’s analytics. Instagram is working towards eliminating the ‘popularity contest’, but when it comes to building brands, there is always a contest.
- Instastories are where the rubber meets the road. For brands that haven’t already, it is time to begin utilizing the ability to swipe on stories and directly link to third parties to extend narrative and capture engagement metrics. Unfortunately, at the moment this is only available for accounts with more than 10,000 followers. Stories are the new focus on Instagram, creating a more real time, original experience. Comments will be a sign of engagement more than ever as the opportunity for a brand or influencer to buy likes is no longer an option. Linking to e-commerce pages in posts to directly feature a product will enable brands to track engagement and watch analytics on user origin.
- Look deeper into Instagram Insights for analytics. While it is satisfying to users and brands to see “likes” that prove the content shared is valuable, there are ultimately stronger forms of analytics to gauge engagement. Ultimately, there is no relationship between likes and sales for brands; that relationship is seen in click throughs and swipe ups. Through Instagram Insights, brands are able to analyze just how many people clicked on a link in a specific post, track who swipes up on a link in a story, and from there, follow each user’s action on their sites where it may or may not end in a purchase.
- Brands will need to staff social channels and build relationships. Without the likes metric, brands will need to engage more authentically with online audiences. Compelling content is the first step and monitoring of all channels. Tracking comments, replying, and responding to private messages is a necessary second. To build authenticity, brands need to acknowledge negative comments, ask for clarification and provide a solution. Posts with the most engagement win.
It won’t take long to realize once likes are removed how irrelevant, empty or superficial they truly are. This decision is an important step in the life cycle of social media and efforts to create a healthier and more sincere platform. No more fights for likes or pressure to ‘succeed’. Instagram will simply be a photo sharing site for average users, brands, and influencers to post what makes them happy and build an authentic following.
By Allison Crowley
(Allison Crowley, a member of Lambda Pi Eta Honor Society, is a Marketing Communication major at Endicott College and Fall 2019 CGPR intern)