Removing the INSTAGRAM Like Count Won't Negatively Impact Influencer Marketing
Instagram recently added new countries to its test in which it's hiding the number of likes a given post gets from everyone except that post's creator. Social networks are constantly testing new concepts, but the fact that this test has expanded indicates how seriously they are considering it, with the main goal being to take the social pressure off acquiring likes.
The article was originally published on Forbes, on August 29, 2019.
Some have worried that hiding likes from public view would hurt influencer marketing, as influencers are judged, at least in part, on their ability to get people to react to the content they produce. Here are four reasons why I believe influencer marketing will be just fine without the ability for the public to view how many likes their content receives:
1. Professional influencer marketers don't look at public view counts.
All the social networks have APIs that let other software ingest the like count on the posts they are most interested in. With this ability, we can look at performance across a wide array of influencers and their posts very quickly and even make on-the-fly calculations in terms of engagement rates, cost per engagement and more. Only part-time influencer marketing folks are manually scrolling through accounts looking for the posts they care about.
2. The like isn't going away.
Whether we should or not, humans feel a certain positive way when they get another like on their post. While hiding these numbers could certainly remove the pressure of "only having five likes" that we've all felt, getting those likes still feels good. Even more importantly, engagement on what we post is the fundamental signal to the Instagram algorithm of what we like to see more of. By the simple act of liking, we're telling the algorithm who we want to see more often, whether we like video or not, and much more. Barring a seismic reinvention, the social networks can't eliminate the "like" as the easiest way for us to give a nod back to our friends' posts.
3. Engagement rate is relative.
While hiding public like counts will almost certainly decrease the total number of likes on the social network, influencers and content are compared against each other in terms of efficiency. So, if an average post once got 100 likes and that drops to 80 likes, the entire scale of what's good shifts along with it.
4. We've moved beyond likes for measuring success.
Just a few years ago, we were reporting "engagements" back to clients as among the metrics showing the success of a given campaign. Today, however, we're much more focused on measuring business results from influencer marketing programs. Many of our campaigns drive web traffic and measure that traffic all the way through to sales. For retail campaigns, we're still often tracking sale lift against a benchmark period to measure success. Improvements in measuring influencer marketing are accelerating rapidly and the few left only measuring engagements are likely going to be left behind anyway.
Social networks will continue to make changes to their platforms. When I formed Ignite Social Media in 2007, there were no brand pages and no ways to run paid ads. You couldn't even upload a video. Today there is another rumor that Instagram is running a test that will hide follower counts. As social networks make these adjustments in ways that favor quality content in front of people who care about it most, high-quality influencer marketing will have a place. After all, inspirational and aspirational content fosters brand discovery online and that is among the things people very much enjoy about social networks and the content we see there.