What does the removal of Instagram likes mean for marketers?

You've likely heard that Instagram is trialling the removal of likes from posts. Individuals and businesses can still see how many likes they get on their own posts, but can no longer see the total likes on others' posts. Australia is one of seven countries involved in the trial, along with Brazil, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Italy and Japan.

What's in it for Instagram?

"We are rethinking the whole experience of Instagram to address issues around wellbeing and to ensure the Instagram community has a positive experience on our platform," says Facebook's Head of Policy, Mia Garlick. Instagram has been ranked the worst social media platform for mental health and wellbeing.

So, the aim is to get Instagram back to its original intended purpose – a curated portfolio of things that you love. We can go along with that. But we think there's an ulterior motive. While many influencers and brands are using sponsored posts, many brands pay influencers directly. Removing likes could make brands more likely to use Instagram's ad platform, because the power of influencers is lowered.

What will happen if the trial results in a permanent change?

We reckon there's potential for some real and positive change for everyday users.

  • Without the influence of "bandwagon likes", they'll feel more empowered to make the decision of whether to like or not, without the pressure of numbers to influence them.
  • They'll share more photos because we feel less pressure about how many likes a photo will bring. 
  • It could help, just a little, with the depression/anxiety epidemic in Gen Y and Z. If you can’t compare the performance of posts, the obsession with checking likes will drop, making everyone feel a little more at ease.

How will brands need to adjust?

In a word, quickly. Here are DPR&Co's top three recommendations to keep Instagram working for your business.

  1. There will be fewer likes across feed content with less "bandwagon" activity, so you should rely less on organic post reach/engagement and more on Stories and IGTV.
  2. You'll need to change the way you source influencers. Influencer agencies that offer exclusive access to metrics and influencers will become a better option. Plus, success metrics will move from a “double click focus” to an “engagement focus".
  3. Your brand content will need to be more creative to garner the success that "bandwagon likes" bring. Think personalisation, smart targeting and superior quality.

Social is the fastest changing environment in marketing. Instagram may well finish the trial and immediately change things back to how they were. But the chances are they're working towards a larger agenda to further monetise the platform. Marketers need to be prepared to shift just as quickly as Instagram moves the goal posts.

Are you looking to update your social media strategy? Talk to our Digital Manager, Madeleine Kemp, about how DPR&Co can help.

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