What is Instagram without the like count? Seven countries are finding out as Instagram removes this signature feature from follower-facing content. Although users can still view the number of likes received on their own photos and videos, totals will be hidden for all other content in a user’s feed.
After introducing the update in Canada in May, according to the BBC, Instagram expanded to New Zealand, Ireland, Brazil, Australia, Italy and Japan. Although that list doesn't include the U.S., I think it's best for advertisers to prepare themselves for the change in case there's a stateside update in the near future.
Based on my observations, this change has consumers generally annoyed. ("First, it was non-chronological posting, and now this?") But as the founder of a social media marketing firm, I've seen that for advertisers, removing the like count can have more far-reaching repercussions. Not only are we losing a standard engagement metric, but this change brings up questions of how to continue our influencer marketing strategies.
We’ve seen influencers' impact grow immensely, and while this update has some advertisers jumping ship entirely, I stand true to the belief that this strategy is a vital tool for our industry. It only takes a few manageable adjustments to make the most of the update for audiences, advertisers and influencers.
Put your money where your posts are.
The most significant –– and some suppose intentional –– impact I believe Instagram will have on influencer marketing is the heightened priority of paid media promotion. By removing the like-count feature, Instagram doesn’t just alter the influencer economy; it gives itself a stake in the highly profitable industry.
Of course, paid media isn’t foreign to advertisers. However, promoted posts can leave a sour taste in consumers’ mouths, while more organic content and engagement breathes authenticity and trustworthiness to audiences. With the inevitable dips in engagement as users get used to the change and advertisers rethink measurements, paid promotion of influencer posts can accommodate any potential losses in engagement.
Provide more than just a snapshot.
Between younger generations' Snapchat obsession, Facebook and Instagram’s “stories” integration and the rebirth of Vine via Tik Tok, there’s no denying the growth of short-form video over the past few years. Moving toward video and away from static images opens up a new set of key performance indicators, including views and time spent on the platform.
Additionally, Instagram influencers can take direction from their YouTube counterparts when it comes to utilizing video to strengthen the community in their following, including Q&A videos, product tutorials and more. As advertisers, I expect that encouraging our partners to take this step will increase brand and figure loyalty, as well as bump content engagement.
Get on the same page.
If I’m being honest, I see losing the like count as simply hitting fast-forward on changes the advertising industry has already been making. We already knew that vanity metrics — including the like count, comments or follower counts — don’t serve as true engagement metrics. The quick-paced, scroll-through nature of social media doesn’t always translate clicks into impact. So, what do we turn to instead? Sales.
Again, we knew this. With Instagram’s business analytics tools, it’s become easier to track a consumer’s journey from post to site to purchase. In reality, this update isn’t changing the advertising landscape as dramatically as it sounds. It’s simply pushing advertisers to get on the same page about how they select, pay and work with influencers.
Instagram definitely has valid points for making this change; improved mental health for users and building a more authentic connection with influencers are values I fully back. As the seven countries test the like-less waters, we’re still watching the impacts of this change unfold.
Still, I think the increasing momentum of influencer marketing gives advertisers little to fear. By further integrating paid media and stories to current strategies, as well as valuing other metrics of engagement, advertisers will stay afloat with limited turbulence. And if you ever need a reminder, just tell yourself: We survived the algorithm, so we can get through anything.