Recently, Instagram started to test hiding public Like counts to followers. What does this mean for marketers who use it as a metric to gauge success? Nothing.
Not ultimately, anyway. People have a tendency to like or support something more when a lot of other people do, so it is possible that creators will see a dip in their numbers, but what Instagram is trying to achieve is to place more importance on the quality of the content over the size of the count.
Photo credit: CNN
A double-tap doesn’t convert
The reason that this shouldn’t bother marketers is that the Like count is a vanity metric. It makes us feel good but it doesn’t do anything to accomplish what we’re really going after; better engagement and conversions.
Commenting on a post, sending a direct message, or clicking through to a page are all much more valuable to marketers and advertisers than a double-tap. This change from Instagram may force some creators to focus more on what’s valuable to their audience instead of what’s grabby to a passer-by.
Influencers needn’t be worried either. A brand that’s looking to work with an influencer may have initially judged candidates based on their average Likes per post, but now they’ll have to look deeper and consider more than that surface metric. There are other metrics by which to base influence, most importantly by successful conversions.
The number of Likes on a post will still be useful for getting feedback and adjusting the direction of our content, so creators will still have access to this information, just not in the feed. Hopefully, this will make Instagram posts less of a competition and more of an opportunity to showcase what people care about.
Why choose to hide it?
Mental health (and how it’s affected by social media) has been a huge part of the national conversation lately. For a lot of people (especially teenagers and young adults who are more impressionable), social networks are their social life, so a lot of weight is placed on the content they consume. People tend to only share the best parts of their lives on social media, so we tend to compare their highlights to our entire life. Obviously, that can’t measure up, which is a recipe for misery.
This is exactly what Instagram is trying to stop before it becomes too destructive. Feeds, posts, and profiles have become a competition to see who can get the most attention. What tends to grab people’s attention is perfectly polished or sensationalized content, which isn’t the complete picture of someone’s life.
Instagram is currently beta testing this feature in Canada, so it’s undecided what its future will be. Instagram will likely observe how usage of the app changes over the coming months and decide whether this is a worthwhile feature to implement in other countries and/or institute permanently.
As we mentioned, users will still be able to see the number of Likes that a particular post gets, and marketers can still use this information to plan their content or strategy going forward. Users will also continue to be able to see who liked the post. During the feature’s announcement, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said that nothing is stopping anyone from counting the number of people in that list. If someone were to do this, at least they’d be counting people’s names and faces which should increase connection as opposed to only looking at a number.
Adding other features in the feed
Instagram isn’t just taking features away, they’re also adding new features for marketers to get excited about. Instagram Shopping provides new opportunities for brands and influencers to link directly to a product page from within their feed post. No more “link in bio.” This will allow us to get conversions in a way that’s much more valuable than Likes in the feed.
Focus on other metrics
Whether you’re a marketer or a general user, there is always more value in building a stronger connection with your audience. It is called social media, after all.
Which metrics you focus on instead will depend on your Objectives & Key Results (OKR), which are the outcomes that you hope to achieve from any given strategy or campaign.
Reach & Impressions
Before you can get any other kind of engagement, you first need to reach new users.
- Use new hashtags. Jump on the bandwagon before it gets too crowded.
- Create posts designed for engagement. The algorithm will favour your posts and show them to more people if they get more engagement.
- Collaborate with other users. You’ll be exposed to their audiences and they’ll be exposed to yours, which may lead to new followers in addition to increased reach.
- Post at multiple peak times. There isn’t just one optimal time to post. Consider the times of day when people use their phones the most, and also different time zones.
- Instagram Live. Not only are live videos really popular on their own, but Instagram is giving them special attention in the Explore tab.
- Instagram ads. They’ll put your posts in front of a lot of new people, and ad targeting also allows you to reach people who you know will be interested in your content.
- Geotag your posts. This goes for feed posts and Stories because both will show up for other users who are looking in a particular area.
The Instagram algorithm helps those who help themselves. It shows your post to more people if it seems like more people would be interested in it, and it gauges that interest by engagement. Try to use that by encouraging your followers to comment.
- Hold a giveaway or contest. Followers can enter by leaving a comment.
- Do an account takeover. The person taking over your account will bring new followers who will engage with that person.
- Ask for people’s thoughts & opinions or to tag their friends. You not only get comments but, hopefully, interesting or valuable ones.
- Post something that piques interest or arouses emotions and makes people want to say something about it.
- Jump on trends. Take part in a conversation that’s already happening.
- Experiment by posting at different times of day and see when you get the most engagement.
- Posts with animals or people’s faces are proven to get more engagement.
- Reply to comments. People will be more likely to engage if you engage back.
You not only want people to find your content (through search, the Explore tab, an ad, or a share), you want them to come back for more. A follower is like a repeat customer.
- Cross-promote. Use your other marketing channels (social, digital, or traditional) to get the word out about your accounts.
- Use your bio URL. Cross-posting works both ways. Change up the URL in your bio to link to fresh, new content or to drive traffic to your other channels.
- Get creative with your captions. For some posts, the caption is like the punchline of a comic strip. Get creative, tell a story, create context, and use relevant & interesting hashtags.
- Collaborate. You’ll be exposed to their audience and they’ll be exposed to yours, which may lead to new followers in addition to increased reach.
- Develop a unique style. The accounts that have the most or most dedicated followers often do because their content can’t be found anywhere else. Be unique and make people enjoy visiting your profile.
- Get local. Even for accounts that aren’t location-specific, not only geotagging your posts but also posting local content will get you exposed to a demographic that you may have overlooked.
In some form or another, Like counts have been a staple of not only Instagram but most social networks. It feels good for a content creator to get positive feedback on their posts and it also serves as a guide for making future content & strategy decisions.
The choice to hide public Like counts on Instagram feed posts is a bold one, but since Instagram (and their parent company, Facebook) are so ingrained in our lives, it’s a responsible move on their part to acknowledge the effect that their platforms can have on mental health and take steps to try and improve that impact.
Since Likes are still being counted in the background, the algorithm should continue to operate normally, so this move shouldn’t affect how people consume content on the platform or how marketers use it. Only time will tell.