As of a couple of weeks ago, Instagram began hiding “likes” for some users globally after testing the tactic in some countries earlier this year. The move is designed to improve the user experience on the platform by removing the pressure of likes. How this affects brands may not fully pan out for months, so in the meantime, we’ve taken a preliminary look at what we expect will happen and how brands can continue to make Instagram work for them.
General Impact on Engagement:
Engagement is a measure of all types of interactions with a piece of content. Historically it has been used as a primary metric for success. This platform change will not impact the calculation of engagement rate, because while likes may no longer be visible to all external audiences, they are visible to the owner of a profile. Konnect will now require back-end analytics (likes/engagement) from each of our influencer partners as part of our agreement for working together in order to report on the success of the partnership.
One area to monitor is whether engagement rates will be impacted by this change. The question that needs to be answered is, will people still “like” a photo if they can’t see how many others are liking. Our guess is there won’t be a discernible change because anyone who was motivated to like photos in the first place will continue to do so regardless of if they can see who else is liking.
It’s important to recognize that there are many ways people interact with content beyond a like or comment, so likes were never an accurate measure of effectiveness. Someone may see a post and never like it, so you still get brand awareness and this person is no less likely to make a purchase or take an action than someone who likes a post.
As Instagram aims to grow monetization by continuing to be more of an e-commerce and advertising platform, features such as “view products” and “shop” via direct links on images are increasingly important in order to drive action on a brand’s content. Note, functions such as these are not available to all profiles and require an application process. Instagram is likely going to make them more widely available in the near future.
It’s become increasingly important for brands to think about their audience first to deliver quality content that will catch their attention and inspire action, especially comments which can be hard to come by organically.
Influencers who are looking to get noticed and/or grow their following spend a lot of time engaging with other profiles (brands and other influencers). Hence we could see influencers start commenting more on brand and other influencer profiles in order to draw attention to themselves on the platform. This may work in a brand’s favor as influencers look for profiles to interact with.
Already established influencers on the platform are likely to keep their engaged audience, however, it might become more difficult for new influencers to grow their following.
A positive that may come from this change is that pricing might shift. As we require influencers to share back-end analytics, that access might drive costs up. On the other hand, more access to analytics may result in more demand for clarity on ROIs.
As of now, the algorithm on Instagram is not changing. Likes are not going away, just being hidden. Interactions will still be a major part of how posts end up on your audience’s feed. Likes are not the only way to rise to the top. Other things to pay close attention to are:
- Content: Making your content interactive, visually appealing and useful so your viewers still want to like your post based on the visual itself and not the influence of other likes.
- Community Management: Making sure you are not only replying to all comments on your posts but also commenting on others’ posts keeps your audience engaged. You should always interact with influencers and brands you’ve partnered with, consumer posts you’ve been tagged in, like-minded people and brands, etc. to create a stream of sharing and engagement.
- Stories: Stories are the fastest way to get through to your audience. The simplest form is sharing stories you’re tagged in by your fans. Try using polls or questions to get your audience to engage with you on your Stories and boost your engagement. Also, create your own Stories as a way to get your audience to “tap and hold.”
- IGTV: As Instagram continues to focus on IGTV, content that lives here is favored in algorithms. Partnering with influencers to create long-form content for this purpose may be a different way to gain engagement.
Again, we don’t yet know what the new rules of engagement for this new Instagram will be, but we sure do look forward to the idea that, as intended, it will lead to more freedom to experiment and have fun while connecting with our audiences. We’re here to lead you in the discovery of what’s next!