Removing Likes and Why We Are Fine With It

A few weeks ago, Instagram announced that they will test hiding like counts in the United States. Eight other countries have been like-free for over 6 months—and now the process is expanding due to heightened scrutiny and a push to depressurize the platform for youth audiences, prioritizing connections over popularity. Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri told Buzzfeed News that he hopes the removal of users’ likes will create “a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.” But it’s pretty clear that this is not an altruistic pursuit.

Removing Likes

What will it actually look like? 

Users will still be able to like a post, but the likes—or how many double clicks/hearts a post gets—will disappear from the feed and the user profile pages. The individual user and business can see how many likes they’ve received on the back end, but your followers won’t know the count.

So why the uproar?

First, it will make it more difficult to understand if a person or brand’s follower count is legitimate, without using tools to help determine abnormalities in follower count versus engagements. Second, given that influencers have mainly used Instagram as a brand builder, communicators speculate that this could result in a spending shift away from influencer marketing and towards paid advertising on Instagram instead.

What’s really happening?

While “like anxiety” is a very real thing, it’s also important to understand what is really at play here. At its core, marketing on Instagram and for influencers (when we contract influencers to create content for a brand) directly competes with Instagram’s own ad revenue. With the Influencer Marketing industry on track to reach over $6B in revenue in 2019, Instagram wants a piece of that pie. They’re hoping that by hiding likes, brands will focus less on buying with influencers themselves, while more spend goes towards ad buys and paid promotion, where the metrics will be easily accessible.

Luckily, we work with vendors and partners, including Tagger Media, who say that the API connection to this channel will not change. This means as long as the profile is “opted-in” we should maintain access to the data used for finding, vetting and choosing influencers, or for research on brand health and channel performance.

Is there an opportunity here?

We are looking forward to this change pushing individuals, influencers and brands to think harder about meaningful metrics of success. There are so many other ways to measure the success of your profile, your posts and their deeper impact. Instead of focusing on vanity metrics (likes and reach), we encourage marketers and brands to consider the action/behavior they’d wish audiences would take after exposure.

Here are just a few ways we currently help our clients evaluate and measure:

  • Greater transparency from brands/influencers: When working with our clients and influencers, we require transparency of post analytics and metrics from the back end for the greatest insight and accuracy in analysis.
  • Looking Beyond Vanity Metrics:
    • In-target reach: By analyzing the niche demographics and traits of your followership, you can get a good sense of whether you are reaching the right people with your message organically, and make sure they have authentic followership.
    • Volume and tone of comments: Are the comments positive, do they indicate behavioral change or purchase intent?
    • Tracking links to ecommerce/website: There is so much more rich data if you are driving people to a website or ecommerce portal besides clicks/swipe-ups. Depending on where you are driving them, you can uncover further consumer insights through pixel tracking, UTMs, behavior on a website, and sales/conversion data.
    • Brand health and reputation studies: By using pulse surveys and larger sales lift studies, we can measure the exposure effect of the messaging and posts on the target audience long term.

The hiding of likes is a great opportunity for us to push our clients to dig deeper in to what Instagram marketing can offer, and showcase our expertise—especially when it comes to data and analytics!