Instagram is trialling the removal of ‘likes’ on the app across seven countries including Canada, Australia, Ireland and Japan. While no date is set for a like overhaul in the UK, it is expected soon.
The announcement attracted a mixed response; from users welcoming the brand's admission that the app contributed to low self-esteem and poor mental health, to influencers condemning the move as a threat to their livelihoods.
A controversial move for the app? Yes.
An end to social media? No.
An opportunity for digital marketers to embrace an updated social network? We hope so.
Digital and influencer marketing isn't going anywhere. The removal of likes is essentially another moment that will test the industry’s ability to creatively adapt.
We have pulled together our top four learnings for this new age of Instagram:
Engagement is the most important metric
Vanity metrics, such as ‘likes’, only offer so much insight into the influence of a person or brand. Ultimately the dwell time of a ‘like’ is barely seconds. In that time how much of the brand message is conveyed? Does the like serve any purpose past instant gratification and an upped number?
The ‘like economy’ is inevitably only justified by commercial return. Even if a post receives a high amount of likes if they don’t convert to sales or business objectives, it poses the question: whether or not the campaign was worthwhile? If working with an influencer ask for comprehensive engagement reports that offer detailed insights of follower demographics. This will not only help you to gauge if their audience is authentic but also an appropriate fit for your campaign objectives.
Micro-influencers are small but mighty
When choosing influencers it can be tempting to go on following or ‘like’ count alone. Micro-influencers are the latest force to be reckoned with in the digital marketing world. Comprising of ‘ordinary’ people who influence one particular niche or area, they’ve attracted a smaller, but loyal following. This is an engaged following with genuine trust and a vested interest in the influencer and their actions. In fact, a study in 2018 found that 82% of consumers would be more likely to listen to a recommendation from a micro-influencer.
Authenticity is for brands and users alike
With the announcement of the removal of likes and the subsequent outcry from a select group of influencers, some users hailed the disappearance of likes as the end of influencers. Instagram, of course, began as a humble photo-sharing app, sharing, albeit filtered, memories among friends and family. The practices of some infamous influencers arguably turned the environment into a breeding ground for envy and commodification, turning consumers against influencer culture. All of a sudden the Instagram of old seemed like a much nicer place to share.
The removal of likes is an opportunity for a return to the authenticity and trust that we all want. But not just authenticity in content, but in interactions, value and results. Know your brand inside out, know the voice, what you want to say, and who you want to say it to. Like a micro-influencer, a brand that knows it’s identity and its subsequent audience can expect authentic engagement that far surpasses the value of likes.
Instagram is not the whole ecosystem
A synergy across platforms is essential in digital marketing, especially given the current shift with Instagram. The world of social media is vast, it is an expansive ecosystem of which Instagram is just one part. Removing the ‘vanity’ metrics from Instagram encourages brands to dive deeper into the world of owned, earned and paid social - something which should be embraced rather than shied away from. And it is important to keep in mind that within Instagram, there is also more to offer than the reach of an influencer. Paid content is valuable and the transparency of sponsored posts maintain value, ‘liked’ or not.
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