Why Instagram’s latest move to remove ‘likes’ might prove to be beneficial for brands in the long run

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Published: December 2, 2019 6:38:24 AM

Industry calls it a move that shifts focus on quality content, which will stop the online race to accumulate 'likes'

InstagramInstagram’s move shifts the focus from ‘vanity metrics’ to quality content.

Instagram’s experiment of eliminating ‘likes’ on its posts has marketers and influencers in a tizzy, as they struggle to figure out a new normal when it comes to engagement metrics. Will ad rates and user engagement really change as a result of this move? BrandWagon asks three experts to pen their thoughts

“Not much of long-term impact” – Neena Dasgupta, CEO and director, Zirca

Instagram’s move shifts the focus from ‘vanity metrics’ to quality content. It should ease the pressure to win approval for posts and instead focus on, well, the post.

While some argue that this move will reduce engagement and make it harder to attract brands, many spot the opportunity in a more sophisticated audience measurement approach. Here’s why: the hiding of likes shouldn’t impact how brands work with influencers to develop engaging, successful content. Such content is the end result of brands building real relationships with credible influencers. There isn’t a problem with measurement either — brands can work with third-party vendors that are part of Instagram’s API partnership programme to access influencer metrics — likes, impressions and reach. So, there shouldn’t be much long-term impact on influencers’ earnings even if there is a short-term dip as the industry realigns itself.

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It’s about time brands look beyond likes anyway. An influencer’s audience demographics, how well their persona matches with the brand’s, etc, are critical and often not paid attention to enough. A ‘vanity metric’ is not an indicator of the influencer’s effectiveness. Once these new parameters take root, I expect Instagram ad rates to stabilise and lead to a more sustainable model. Lastly, is this a model that would suit other platforms like Facebook? A lot will depend on how it does on Instagram.

“Influencers need not worry about perception”—–Pranay Swarup, co-founder and CEO, Chtrbox

Twitter’s experiment with hiding the number of times tweets were ‘liked’ or ‘retweeted’ resulted in people engaging less with tweets when they couldn’t see the counts. The biggest experiment in not displaying ‘likes’ has actually been Instagram Stories. The number of views and engagement a Story gets is not public, and that’s the reason we have seen users create and consume Stories all day long.

This move will allow influencers to go beyond the average three posts per day, and not have to worry about the public perception of how much their content was liked or viewed. It heralds the shift into new measurements that are actually more important than likes. Likes as a metric doesn’t mean much. Instead, reach, impressions, comments, shares and saves are all important. With Instagram Shopping being rolled out and with new ways of tracking purchases, we are moving to outcome-based performance anyway as an industry.

The one limitation will be measurement in terms of who exactly has liked or engaged with the content, which, so far, served as an approximate way to evaluate the audience reached. It would be harder to understand parallels and how other influencers are doing; it may reduce the ability for teams without sophisticated tools to identify the influencers as engagement rate (number of likes per post) has been the key criterion for shortlisting.

“Focus will shift from ‘like’ race to quality content”———Tanvi Johri, co-founder and CEO, Carmesi

It’s a little soon for brands to be able to judge how concealed Instagram likes will play out for them. Instagram is a content platform, and it’s not unfair to expect that profiles with genuinely good content should be the ones benefitting from it. I think this move will bring a lot of focus to authentically good content. People will follow influencers and brands because they associate with a particular personality of content and not because there are a thousand more people who have liked it.

It will discourage people from the constant race of garnering more and more likes, and will make them focus on creating content that’s genuinely good. For example: if I have 10,000 followers on my Instagram profile, versus my competitor who has 50,000, the number of likes on my competitor’s post will most probably be higher than mine. But does that really mean my post is not as good as my competitor’s? Not necessarily. This might also mean more shareability of their post versus mine, because of the bias that higher likes means better content. In a situation where this statistic is not visible to followers, people will share and like posts they genuine resonate with. And the reach of my content will solely be determined by its merit, and not because of any biases. As a brand that has been vastly focussed on Instagram for brand building, I feel positive about the move.

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