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With Instagram Likes Going Away, What’s Next For Brands?


The entire world is hooked on Instagram, and the likes are the drug!

Since its launch in 2010 and Acquisition by Facebook in 2012, the ‘Gram has evolved from a pretty straight-forward photo album app into a full-fledged, worldwide popularity contest and marketing powerhouse. Likes and vanity metrics have been feeding addicted influencer egos, tormenting brand’s reaches, and destroying society’s self-esteem for years now, but that all might be coming to an end… sort of.

Instagram is currently hiding likes for some users in a handful of markets and regions including Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. It’s been driving some influencers crazy, as you can see this Australian Instagram model bawling at the fact that she can’t show her likes anymore.

This social and business (risk) experiment represents a HUGE change to how Instagram works, and the existential flow of how its users engage with it. The number of likes a post gets has long been a status symbol (and vanity metric) on the platform which has launched the careers of influencers and helped generate revenue for brands both big and small. It’s definitely a social proof metric as well, and can be useful in that matter. So what’s next?

Here’s what our friends over at Giant Propeller had to say:

While it’s true that Instagram Stories don’t have any public metrics, that hasn’t stopped it from exploding in popularity with both users, brands, and influencers. In fact, brands generally care more about reach and engagement rates than they do followers, and it has become customary for them to ask for screenshots of influencers’ engagement metrics to see how effective they really are. So if the superficial popularity contest is going away, how will this affect the nature of the content itself?

Some believe this shift will encourage users to post content with more authenticity. Previous strategies – such as scheduling specific times / days to post – now becomes less relevant and therefore, more liberating for users. In order to optimize their Instagram engagement, brands and influencers have had to consider a long list of tips and tricks that, quite frankly, sucks the joy out of breathing. Without likes, the platform feels less like a popularity contest between professional influencers with carefully-curated aesthetics, and average people who use the app to share their lives with family and friends.

If this game-changer actually rolls out globally, here’s how brands can survive this brave new world:

• Brands would become more reliant on influencers to share first-party analytics to understand content performance.

• Content platforms within Instagram (Stories, IGTV, Shoppable IG) will provide actionable metrics such as swipe-ups and purchases — allowing brands to track performance as well as calculate ROI.

• Alternate behavioral metrics, such as video completion, must be valued.

• Video completion means high-quality content (that isn’t explicitly engineered to game engagement metric) must be produced. 

• With production of quality content and creative becoming more important than ever, it’s crucial for brands to partner with agencies and creators who know how to make an impact.