How important are ‘Likes’ on Instagram, really?

Instagram ‘Likes’

The removal of the ‘Likes’ count on Instagram posts…

We can still sometimes hear the cries of despair, the torches being lit, and in the distance – sirens. But is there reason to panic?

The trial update was introduced to Australia in July, expanding on a similar change in Canada back in May and has since been rolled out to New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Italy and Brazil.

 

What is the trial update?

For anyone who wasn’t already aware, here’s a rundown of what specifically has changed. Previously, Instagram posts would display the total amount of ‘Likes’ a post had received. Now, the quantification has been removed. Instead, you are met with “Liked by [username] and others”.

 

Instagram ‘Likes’ Before & After

Previous Instagram Likes Example New Instagram Likes Example

 

Similar to before, you can still view the list of people who have ‘Liked’ a post by clicking on ‘others’, but only on your post can you see the total number of ‘Likes’. Sponsored Instagram Ads, on the other hand, have had all references to ‘Likes’ removed altogether.

Instagram 'Likes' (For Own Content) Example

Sponsored Instagram Video Sample

The trial update was inspired, in part, by the popularity of Instagram Stories, and aims to refocus the platform on self-expression instead of being a popularity contest.

“Instagram should be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, rather than judged.” – Mia Garlick, Facebook Australia and New Zealand director of policy

 

So how is everyone kicking on?

While this update was introduced to help relieve social pressures and improve mental health for its users, it’s difficult to ignore how this impacts advertising across the platform.

 

Influencers

For some users, in particular, Influencers, the ‘Like’ count is an important metric by which they can determine follower engagement and broker deals with brands. When the update took effect, some users noticed a slight drop in the amount of ‘Likes’ their content receives, and they were not happy, Jan.

After all, the amount of ‘Likes’ a post receives affects how the algorithm ranks it in the feed and in search, which then impacts their bottom line financially.

From here, you might expect there to be a surge in inauthentic activity across Instagram, where users buy ‘Likes’ and followers from bots to boost their visibility and popularity. But surprise, surprise – Instagram is cracking down on this too.

With the help of its machine learning, Instagram is identifying users who have shared their login credentials with fake engagement services and prompts them to change their password to revoke the service’s access to the account. Additionally, Instagram is removing the ‘Likes’, followers and comments that it can recognise as inauthentic.

The ‘Like’ count has long provided Instagram users with a basis of social proof that the profile, product or service being advertised to them is trustworthy. So, when it comes to deciding what is legitimate on Instagram and what’s not, users should exercise caution and do their research, as you would anywhere else.

“If business owners are investing into influencer marketing how can they determine those who have genuine followers vs. fake/bought followers? My advice? The safest bet is to go through a reputable agency or ask for influencer’s insights prior to committing to a collaboration.”

– Katie Stevens, Influencer and Business Owner

While there was an initial shock after the removal of the ‘Likes’ count on Instagram, the dust is settling and the outlook for influencer marketing seems to remain positive.

Australian entrepreneur, Sarah Holloway, who has over 62,000 followers, has noticed a slight decrease in the number of ‘Likes’ her posts have received since the update, but still welcomes the update.

“Even if it is not necessarily altruistic I think it will have a positive impact and lead to more diverse content rather than the type of posts that just get a lot of ‘Likes’” she says.

Influencer Marketing Platform, Scrunch, shared on their website that, the removal of the ‘Likes’ count isn’t going to impact their day-to-day operations as they continue to create high-quality content, foster strong relationships with their audiences and continue to provide value to the brands they partner with.

 

Businesses

It seems that the removal of ‘Likes’ is not only relieving some pressure for the average Instagram user but businesses as well.

The removal of all references to ‘Likes’ on sponsored content has meant that businesses with small marketing budgets are now able to advertise without the fear that their ads will have little visible engagement.

Businesses can potentially expect to see an increase in click-through-rates and web traffic as a result. Also, it will allow them to build a more genuine following as users are freer to discover and connect with brands out of their interests rather than basing their decisions on vanity metrics.

In terms of measuring campaign success, the update does not impact user analytics and measurement tools, so businesses are still able to see how their posts and ads are performing, including ‘Likes’ and engagement metrics.

However, the de-emphasis of ‘Likes’ as a metric is now encouraging businesses to pay more attention to several other metrics for a more holistic snapshot of their content’s effectiveness. These include story engagement, follower growth, attention metrics like video completion, audio on or off, and click-through-rates that measure new leads and website traffic.

Businesses can now experiment with their content and messaging without the fear of it being a public flop. This will mean that businesses can refocus their strategy on producing quality social content that connects with users, rather than pumping out content just for the quick ‘Like’ – which is the whole point of the update.

In a nutshell, ‘Likes’ are not everything.

 

Is the update forever?

A decision will be made at a later date on whether or not the trial update will be made permanent. Typically, Instagram will only permanently implement a change and roll it out to other regions if the feedback is positive or test objectives are satisfied. Given that this functionality has already been extensively tested in Canada, it seems likely that it’s here to stay.

 

What else is new on Instagram?

  • A new intervention feature powered by AI that notifies people when their comment may be considered offensive and gives that user a chance to reflect and undo their comment, preventing the recipient from receiving the harmful comment notification.

    Intervention With Offensive Comment

  • Testing of a feature called, ‘Restrict’, will soon commence as a new way to protect users from unwanted interactions. Once you ‘Restrict’ someone, comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to that person. You can choose to make a restricted person’s comments visible to others by approving their comments. Restricted people won’t be able to see when you’re active on Instagram or when you’ve read their direct messages.
  • Previews of IGTV videos can now be published to Instagram feeds, allowing a new way for viewers to discover IGTV videos.
  • New support for landscape videos in addition to vertical. Ultimately, the vision is to make IGTV a destination for great content no matter how it’s shot so creators can express themselves how they want.

    Landscape Instagram Video Preview

  • Accounts with a certain number of violations within a given timeframe will be removed. A new notification process is also being introduced to help people understand if their account is at risk of being disabled. This notification will also offer the opportunity to appeal content deleted. If the content is found to be removed in error, the post will be restored and the violation from the account’s record will be removed.

 

Final verdict on Instagram ‘Likes’

“At the end of the day social networks have the power to change the rules of the game any time they like. We have chosen to play in their world, so we must adjust to change to ensure it doesn’t affect our business or the businesses we serve.”  – Danielle Lewis, CEO and Co-founder of Influencer Marketing Platform, Scrunch

The bottom line is, as long as you are producing quality social media content that builds genuine relationships with your audiences, business should carry on as usual.

 

 

If you need help with your business’ social media strategy, we can help. Whatever your brand needs, we can deliver – because at NOUS, brands are what we make.

If you would like to discuss your social marketing strategy, please get in touch at hello@nous.com.au.

 

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