At the end of April, Instagram announced it is testing hiding public ‘like’ counts on videos and photos. The test will only be in Canada, and likes will be hidden in the Feed, on profiles, and permalinked pages. The social media platform said that it wants followers to focus on the photos and videos shared, not how many likes they get.
We chat to Beca Alexander, president of American influencer marketing agency Socialyte, to discuss Instagram’s move to hide public like counts and the potential impact on the influencer marketing space.
With Instagram potentially hiding the public like button, how do you think it will change the way users and influencers interact with the social media platform?
Beca Alexander: Since likes are currently a way to measure the popularity of any given post, removing the quantitative value placed on each piece of content will relieve users of the visibility of what their ‘like’ action choice will or will not do for each piece of content. Users will be more likely to ‘like’ a piece of content if that action does not incur any consequences. They’ll be less bridled by whether or not that ‘like’ will affect the post and they will actually like the post based on whether or not they like the content.
Influencers will likely have an adjustment period. Naturally, being one of the only external metrics available, likes are a quantitative metric by which influencers measure their success. Many are concerned with the number on each post. By removing this visibility, not only will the pressure to receive maximum likes be relieved, but influencers will be less likely to buy likes. Engagement rate will also not affect the cost of a post as much as it does now, either.
Could the change be a sign that brands are now looking at different metrics?
Likes are a part of the engagement metric which brands currently use to place an ‘influence’ value on talent, assuming that people that engage are their most valuable audience members. Without this visibility, brands will have to ensure they have access to other analytical data before deciding if they want to collaborate with that creator and what fee they’re willing to pay based on those other metrics.
The potential hiding of the like button will push brands more so than ever to move towards using first- and third-party data access to receive an influencer’s overall analytics. We’ll also see more campaigns requiring influencers to connect to some kind of platform for real-time backend reporting. For example, Socialyte takes a well-rounded approach to success metrics (including reach, impressions, purchase intent clicks and saves), which I feel will become even more important if likes are not seen.
The ‘like’ button has been synonymous with influencers’ popularity and relevance – what ways will we see them measuring success going forward?
Maintaining a peer-to-peer average engagement rate is imperative to be perceived as an authentic, converting influencer. For a long time, likes and comments on Instagram were the only way to measure an influencer’s engagement. Now that we have business accounts, amplification, and better return on investment (ROI) metrics, importance has slowly moved away from likes and onto things like reach, impressions, and click-throughs.
Influencers will need to be more transparent about what those metrics are while they sell themselves into branded deals – and for a long time, the only two metrics were followers and engagement rate. By eliminating public like visibility, those deeper metrics will become more important in determining influencer growth rate.
Influencers will have to start engaging with their audiences in a different way as there will be a shift away from posting content that would produce the most likes. How do you think it will change influencer content going forward?
Influencers will encourage more comments on posts, start engaging with direct messages more and create content that’s more shareable. Content will become more interesting and more engaging than ever, in an effort to create community surrounding each post and each account.
Could hiding the public like count change influencer-brand relationships? How will it affect influencer compensation when working with brands?
Absolutely – influencers who currently have excellent engagement and use it as a bargaining chip will have less power in brand negotiations. It’ll also drive brands to focus more heavily on the look and feel of the content itself rather than the engagements. Brands will focus on backend analytics like those that you receive via first- and third-party data access platforms. There will also be heavier importance placed on amplifying content as brands have more control over who sees the content and how they interact with it.
Because the hidden likes could be detrimental to influencers with high engagement and lower following, it will be harder for brands to take notice of them. Influencers still have bargaining power once they show a brand a screenshot of their reach and/or impressions or if the brand has access to data tools, however, it could result in fewer jobs or receiving lower offers initially.
What do you think the next Instagram trend will be?
The new Instagram shopping checkout feature is the next big trend in the influencer marketing space. While some light-touch users may not yet understand the difference between in-app shopping and the old tag shopping feature (which would navigate you away from the app and to a brand’s e-commerce site), this tool will have yet-untold metrics and benefits to brand partners. Brands will likely require the use of this tool in the future as the need for firm ROI becomes more important.
With the social media platform constantly changing, what does the future of Instagram look like?
Instagram users will undergo a psychological shift. Influencers will feel less pressure to compare themselves to others, or to post content just because they think it will perform well. This could potentially drive more value back to their follower number. We hope that content will become more personal, given that likes have brought a gamification element to content creation.