A billion people use Instagram every month, with 200 million users visiting at least one business profile daily. Brands often track engagement success through Instagram likes — the more likes, the more power or influence an account supposedly has — but recently, Instagram has been testing hiding the number of likes displayed. This test has been implemented for users in Canada, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand, and for select U.S. users, and it's showing that companies need to set goals well beyond how many likes there are on each post.
If your account is part of the Instagram test, you cannot immediately see how many likes a person or a company received on a post. Instead, it will show one account that liked a photo or video followed by the phrase “and others.” When you click on “and others” you can view all the other accounts that have liked the post – you just can’t view the exact number unless you count. Business and personal Instagram accounts will still be able to see how many likes they received within their own platform — but their followers won’t.
The reason behind this test and potential permanent change comes from the detrimental impact that likes can have on users’ mental health. Taking away the number of likes removes immense pressure from users looking for that digital validation.
Here are a few ways you can expect this Instagram update to affect your brand:
1. YOU CAN STILL ACCESS LIKES
Even if you can’t see how many likes a person or a company received on a post, you can still observe those numbers on your own platform. However, because no one else can see those numbers, do they really hold as much power as they did before? Likes should never be the sole metric you measure — and that statement was true before this test update. This just puts more pressure on brands to turn their attention to metrics such as follower growth, reach, comments received, referral traffic, and more to properly measure social media impact.
2. INFLUENCER MARKETING WILL EVOLVE
The potential de-emphasis of likes will rattle influencers and brands that place a high value on the number of likes an influencer’s post might get. This is okay, because the number of likes isn’t always linked to impact or influence.
An influencer could get thousands of likes on a photo, but that data isn’t revealing the type of relationship they have with their audience. Plus, there are influencers out there who purchase likes, meaning the number of likes they’re getting on each photo is nothing but a hollow metric existing to trick brands and followers into believing they have a bigger influence than they do. The removal of Instagram likes will pull the curtain back on those false influencers. Brands should push for more authentic influencer marketing results, such as sharing or clicking through to a website.
3. GOALS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER
Companies should align their social media metrics with their marketing goals to be certain their social strategy is working. Here are a few sample goals, and the metrics that should be tracked to measure their progress:
- Goal: Increase brand awareness
- Metrics to track: Follower growth, reach, impressions, profile visits
- Goal: Drive traffic to a website
- Metric to track: Website clicks
- Goal: Increase engagement
- Metrics to track: Comments, replies on Instagram stories
- Goal: Build a targeted audience
- Metrics to track: Top locations, age range, gender
Instagram has not yet determined whether this test will be implemented permanently for all users. However, brands should not be worried about this change because likes should never be the sole metric tracked — there are many more valuable ones that can help you reach your marketing and overall business goals.
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