4 Ways Brands Can Prep for a 'Likeless' Instagram
We all do it. Brands and individuals alike. We obsess over how many “likes” we get on a post and use that as a yardstick to measure success. Shrewd marketers may have seen the writing on the wall, as the days of including this vanity metric atop your analytics' dashboards has started to fade.
Now, Instagram may be hiding “likes,” with a feature currently testing in seven countries. The intention is to incite the creation of more meaningful content, rather than a count displayed like a popularity contest in the feed.
While the move’s positive impact is hard to contest for many users, here are four ways marketing teams can start (and should already be) preparing their brands for a “likeless” Instagram:
Shift to Instagram Stories
The change would push marketers to rely more on other functionalities of Instagram like Stories and IGTV where “likes” are not applicable. Stories, the ephemeral feature of Instagram, now sees 500 million active users a day and may outgrow the use of the feed soon so brands should already be making that shift to meet users where they are.
Since there are no “likes” linked to these features, brands could instead rely on “views” as a representative metric of engagement, in addition to Story data that can be garnered when you use certain Story stickers. These features provide valuable insight into the engagement of an audience beyond an impulsive “like.”
A Different Approach to Influencer Marketing
Currently, social influencers are measured primarily against the likes their content receives as a way to show success. Identifying influencers off followings alone would be a mistake without “likes” as there would be no way to determine engagement rate, which is a key indicator of a quality audience.
With a shift away from “likes,” brands would need to take a closer look at the actual content influencers are posting to determine if a creator is a fit for their brand, rather than just basing decisions on performance metrics. With this in mind, we would see a greater focus on micro and nano influencers who are authentic and relatable rather than the mega influencers with large followings.
A huge benefit of hiding “likes” in the influencer space would be an end to fraudulent activity and “fake likes,” with no metric of popularity to mimic. The issue of influencers competing for, and even buying “likes” should be welcomed by brands and influencers alike.
However, without “likes” to show success, influencers may seek a move to other platforms like YouTube or Pinterest so brands should consider how to diversify their influencer strategies.
Increased Importance on Community
Without likes to indicate popularity we’ll likely see the importance of community groups and interest-based networks continue to grow. As users shift from what has been historically passive engagement to more active engagement, we’ll see them identifying and participating in the conversations that matter to them most.
For brands, having a community engagement strategy to drive 1:1 relationships through comments and DMs, and building communities like Facebook Groups will be key, so you can continue to reach qualified users who want to engage beyond a page follow.
If you’re a brand only focused on “likes,” this move is good for you. Earning those hearts has always been an implicit goal for brands as a form of validation, but does not show true business impact. With the removal of “likes” it will be more important than ever for brand marketers to outline the metrics that matter and how they will measure the success of social media beyond the “like”. For example, comments may become more important for your brand to drive conversation and measure how your community is engaged.
Social media should be focused on creating content that inspires, uplifts, or brings awareness. With so many data sources and tools out there, there are other ways to track data and make these connections but it will require marketers to think hard about what really matters to their business.
The removal of “likes” won’t be the end to Instagram, nor will it be the last change we should expect. With rumors that Instagram is also testing removal of followers, brands will always be adapting.
The update would push brands and influencers to be more creative with their approach, but that should be a welcomed opportunity to help foster more meaningful content and conversations, that in the end benefits everyone.