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We like where Instagram is going with likes. Pun intended.

Instagram is testing changes to the visibility of likes

We are about to find out how much value the almighty Instagram ‘like’ really has, both as marketers and as regular instagram users. For some of us in Canada, we are already getting a taste of an Instagram where we are unable to see how many likes a post is getting. That’s right, we get to be the test pilots for the most significant change the world’s fastest growing social network has seen since the advent of stories. As we have seen in the past, such test changes usually end up being rolled out universally on the platform. In our opinion, taking likes out of the equation is a good thing, and we’ll tell you why.

What do likes really mean.

One of the reasons we are excited about Instagram concealing likes is the possibility that we as marketers can shift our focus to creating great content instead of trying to play the game of producing content that garners the most likes. Some will argue that likes on a platform such as Instagram don’t have the same viral impact that they do on Facebook. The difference is, that on Facebook, our interactions with posts cause them to be shown to our network. This isn’t the case for Instagram. The problem with likes, aside from the negative role they play in causing users to determine their self-worth based on the quantity of likes they receive, is that likes don’t necessarily equate to engagement. For anyone who has ever watched another person scroll Instagram (particularly teenagers), it’s a blur of scrolling and double taps—mindless likes being doled out with little regard to why. Overall, there isn’t much in the way of ROI to be had based solely on the number of likes.

Influencers and the numbers game.

Influencers are likely the ones who will be significantly impacted by this change in the short term. For influencers, likes are how they communicate ROI to the brands paying them. Influencers have been cashing in on the instagram likes gold rush. Truth is, many influencers inflate their follower base and likes through shady practices and bots. It’s been well known that twitter and instagram are both subject to an infestation of bots and like-farming. What this change would mean for influencers is they would need to show better and more qualified engagement to warrant their rates. Their content would potentially need to show a more direct connection to sales or other important results based metrics.  Removing likes as the primary metric for ROI is a potential win for everyone as it motivates influencers to create better content, resulting in a more engaged audience for the brands they are working for.

So, what metrics matter if likes disappear?

Something we hear all the time from brands is “how many likes did our post get?” They are attributing ROI to the number of likes they receive. But as we have discussed, likes aren’t really that valuable as a measurement of ROI. Some metrics that actually have value are things like reach, which tells you the total number of people who have seen your post. Likewise, the number of impressions content receives is useful in telling us how many times the post has been viewed. That’s the goal after all: to get your content in front of your desired audience. The next big metric is engagement or comments. Not only is it important to keep an eye on what type of comments your posts are inciting, but knowing how much engagement and reach your content has can tell you a lot about how your follower base and if they are getting anything from your content. This is social media after all.

Should I even be using Instagram then?

Without question, yes. Take a look at stories as an example of why likes don’t have the impact that we may think they do. You can’t see how many likes a story gets. We aren’t engaging with that content based on inflated popularity. Instead, the ephemeral nature of stories is what makes it so hard to resist. We want to see it before it’s gone! The transitory nature of stories enhances their allure, and has broadened the reach of content in a whole new way.

Facebook and Instagram have already laid out plans to make stories the core of their platforms, and certain brands are already taking it seriously. The posts in an Instagram feed are where the brand image can be carefully curated to communicate the values and culture of the brand’s essence. While, the stories are the playground where users engage in an ongoing unfoldig a brand’s story.Take a peek at brands like Mountain Equipment Co-op or Coca-cola, and you will see branded feeds that carefully tell a brand narrative. Why? Because this sort of strategy plays into the Instagram algorithm.

Beyond creating relationships with your audience through social media, being active on instagram and other social networks continues to play a growing role in how search engines rank your website in organic results. So if ranking on the first page of Google’s search results is important to you, you’re going to want to get active and consistent on social media.

The take-away?

Creating great content that tells your brand story will establish your brand culture online and keep your audience engaged. Go ahead and leverage stories. Use them to get in front of your audience in a meaningful way. It’s not all about likes anymore. And at the end of the day this is social media, so let’s be social.

If you need help managing your social media or getting your strategy on track, drop us a line. We’re here to create great content when you don’t have time to.