When it comes to social media, generating likes on posted content has become the focus for both marketers and individual users. However, with Instagram’s proposed plan to hide likes on its platform, many marketers are scrambling to determine other ways to measure follower engagement. As one of the leading social media platforms in the country, abandoning Instagram as a marketing tool is not an option. In fact, 78% of marketers rank Instagram as the most effective social media platform to attract, retain, and engage with customers.1 Since the platform is doing so well the question becomes: “Why hide Instagram likes”?
The answer is simple: to improve the mental health of all users. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri2 expects that with the emphasis taken away from the number of likes content receives, brands will need to build more authentic relationships with their followers by posting relevant and high-quality content. Many marketers are not sold on this idea, as most expect the Instagram engagement to suffer as a result of this new initiative, which could make it harder for new brands to gain traction.
What does this mean for Instagram marketing?
For now, likes are publically displayed on all Instagram posts as the “like hiding” feature is being tested with select user accounts. If Instagram does permanently hide likes, individual users will still be able to see who liked their content.
But, without likes as a key performance indicator for brand posts, marketers must look to other metrics to determine the effectiveness of their social media accounts. Many marketing experts suggest that this is good for the industry as a whole because it eliminates a vanity metric that is often overemphasized and does not translate into sales. Recent marketing research has shown that liking social media content does not influence or change a consumer’s behavior as now many users “blindly like” content.3 In this way, with likes out of the picture, marketers must instead examine more actionable metrics such as impressions, post shares, and website clicks to accurately measure the ROI of a social media campaign.
What’s coming next?
Marketers are already getting creative in how they use Instagram to drive sales. In the past year, Instagram has recently offered a host of new ways for brands and social media influencers to link directly to websites and e-commerce outlets outside of Instagram. For brand accounts with at least 10,000 followers, they can now embed an external link in their Instagram story to entice followers to buy products.4 Also, leveraging influencer relationships to garner social media mentions and shares will continue to be an important strategy for brands to get in front of a larger audience.
If Instagram does move forward with abandoning likes, it will be imperative for brands to craft more creative and interactive ways to engage their followers. The key will ultimately come down to which companies are posting the best, high-quality content that speaks directly to their target audience and, more importantly, moves them to take action.