Since its inception, the double-tap has gone hand in hand with post success on Instagram. Likes have been the guiding light for brands and influencers to measure success and gather insights on what's resonating with their audience and what’s not. Heck, we even created multiple metrics industry-wide showcasing how likes impact engagement. So, when Mark Zuckerberg announced that Instagram will be hiding likes from users for the first time in 10 years (beginning in Canada), widespread panic from brands was sure to follow.
Why would Instagram hide these endorphin-inducing engagements?
Although the social channel has trailblazed unparalleled visual connection, storytelling, and creativity—everything can be taken too far. Since Stories launched, engagements on feed content have had to battle for attention with the purely authentic vertical video. It’s also no secret that there have been concerns of inauthentic content used to garner likes and followers, a flood of paid and sponsored posts, and increasing anxiety and FOMO across users. Instagram has recognized this trend and stepped up to uncover its most authentic self by removing its defining product feature—the like—and get back to what really matters in feeds: authentic visuals.
As they say, do one thing a day that scares you. Before the change migrates south after the rollout with our friends up north, we’re facing our fears and diving into the facts of a like-less Instagram and thinking about how smart marketers will take this new era and run with it.
First things first—what does this new world look like, exactly?
For scrollers, in-feed likes are hidden, however, they can see 2-3 users that have liked the content. If they really have time to kill, clicking the likes will open a new screen to scroll through all double-taps of the post, with a user search option but no automatic like count.
For posters, all engagements—including an auto-populated # of likes—is available on their owned content when they click into their likes.
Right now, the change is being rolled out only to a select user base in Canada. Users are met with a banner at the top of their feed with no opt-out or indication of how long the change is scheduled to last.
Not * so * scary, right? The main takeaways are that either traditional engagements are going to increase and provide more truthful and valuable feedback (because there's less influence to like a popular post), or likes will slowly become less relevant because users start to engage in a different way. Whichever road this takes, you know we’ve got your back on navigating this new feed and continuing to share photos and videos that your audience cares about. Scroll this way.
Back. To. Basics.
Pre like wars (RIP @world_ record_ egg), the most successful brands on Instagram built a cult following and an engaged audience by telling a compelling visual story that captivated their audience way beyond a single post. If your audience is invested in your brand on Instagram, they like what they see. How do you continue to give them what they were drawn to in the early days?
Step One: Authenticity and Introspection. Authentic creative has been the driver for most savvy brands on Instagram, hence the success of repurposing organic lifestyle content and working closely with micro-influencers. Followers are losing interest in engaging with overly curated content that fits into the classic “Instagram aesthetic” and unique perspectives are gaining momentum and catching their attention.
We aren’t saying reset your entire content strategy. But take this as an opportunity to dig into what’s worked in the past, express the brand's creativity, and tell a compelling organic story to your followers on Instagram. Likes or not, genuine interactions with your following fosters lasting brand value.
Step Two: Your community is your brand personified. Read that again. Followers are collectively the source of truth for a brand’s visual intelligence and what’s trending visually across the feed. Take every opportunity to leverage the story that your followers are telling on Instagram to create lasting impressions with existing and new followers, with or without likes. How does that take shape in the real world?
Segmenting your earned content based on visual queues is key. Dash Hudson’s AI-powered technology, Visual IQ, automatically collects, analyzes, and segments your UGC to show you key visual trends that emerge with your audience over time. Visual IQ constantly grows and learns with your brand, so you can rest assured that you’ll always have your finger on the pulse. Insights on how your ideal followers are telling your story will help you keep up with relevant content and build a following way beyond how many likes you’re gathering.
When it comes to measuring post engagement, smart brands are considering user behavior since it’s uncovered that there is still some access to likes, engagement, and all the metrics we know and love. Users are either going to continue to engage with content through likes—and give marketers a clearer understanding of what they are genuinely interested in without peer influence—or likes will decline.
The decline of one passive engagement, a like, makes room to focus on others—such as reach, impressions, shares, or video views to name a few. Sound familiar? For one of Instagram’s most viral features—Stories—success is based on authentic, easily-consumable and sharable content without visible engagements. This new focus on creative will hopefully encourage brands to get back to the content their people want, which results in meaningful and lasting ROI. Results you can continue to measure, genuine audience insights, and increased brand loyalty? Win-win-win.
It’s easy to see why influencers would be uneasy about this potential change in measurement. Their current report card with brands usually includes a grade for quality of engagement—often measured in likes. Without this north star for success, how do brands and influencers measure a successful symbiotic relationship?
Influencers and brands are still able to access metrics for engagement, effectiveness, followers gained, and EMV through Dash Hudson, so no need to panic. Influencers can also provide screenshots of their likes natively from Instagram for measurement. However, other more active engagements such as comments, shares, or reach could take a front seat in the future.
That being said, Instagram is looking for a change and there is no doubt this could impact influencer content strategy. For in-feed content, creators will be challenged to authentically connect with their following, and better understand what makes their followers tick. Luckily, this could help brands get a more truthful account of new markets they are working with without the inflation of mindless likes or fake accounts.
It’s no surprise stories are on the rise, and UGC Stories could become more critical to brand and influencer relationships (as they have never measured likes), but focus on reach, impressions, and shocker...authenticity!
So, rest easy. Although the impact on the engagement of hiding likes is yet to be seen, as far as we can tell this isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s an opportunity to garner more insightful interactions and capitalize on what Instagram is all about—sharing photos and videos that people care about. After a decade, it was about time for a little shake-up. Change is good. 😇