You’ve probably already heard the news - Instagram is removing likes on posts!
In the U.S, the change is rolling out now. Instagram announced in November that like removals would begin as soon as that month, and this was confirmed on Nov. 15 by CEO Adam Mosseri.
Instagram has already been testing removing likes in several countries before rolling it out in the U.S. For instance, people in many countries including Australia and New Zealand haven’t seen Instagram likes for over a year!
This change will have a major impact on how we use Instagram and engage with content, but in other ways, the difference will actually be pretty small.
This is the biggest change yet to the social media giant. Likes have been around since the beginning and are the simplest way to engage with the content you enjoy.
So, how will this impact influencer marketing?
We’re here to break it down for you on why it’s happening and how it will impact influencer marketing, Instagram influencers, and brands.
Why is Instagram hiding likes?
Instagram says they want to create a better experience for everyone.
Social media should be a fun place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing things they genuinely find worthwhile.
Unfortunately, likes have become a popularity contest. People constantly feel pressure to share what they think will get them the most likes, which creates a network of people competing for attention, overthinking posts, and feeling stressed or even depressed when they don’t get “enough” likes.
By removing likes, Instagram hopes to improve the experience by letting people be themselves.
This change is great for mental health and people’s happiness - which also means they’ll be more likely to actually continue using the platform. After all, no one likes to go to an app that just makes them feel bad.
It’s important to note that individual users can still see how many likes their own posts get.
As we mentioned earlier, likes are an essential part of social media and it would be difficult to get rid of them entirely. It’s a very different experience if this is a private metric only you can see as opposed to the whole world.
How will this affect Instagram marketing?
Likes are the single most used metric used by brands in evaluating which influencers to work with and how posts are performing.
Needless to say, this will dramatically impact all aspects of the industry, from influencer discovery to campaign recaps.
The good news is that smart brands have been moving away from this metric for a long time. They are now replacing it with more informative and result-driven metrics.
Smart brands have been focusing on quality over quantity for a long time when it comes to Instagram marketing. Don’t get us wrong - posts still need to meet a certain level of engagement.
Some brands have understood that it’s better to have a post go live that gets 200 likes and is an outstanding piece of content instead of a post that gets 2,000 likes but is an average photo.
Why’s that? Because they know the generating content is only half the story. Brands that are succeeding on Instagram then turn around and repurpose content for ads and paid social campaigns. Doing this consistently leads to higher return (3-5X more) on advertising spend (ROAS).
How will this impact influencer Instagram marketing?
Influencers, and brands will have to shift their influencer marketing strategy to center more around leveraging high-quality user generated content (UGC) and affiliate marketing as a result of Instagram hiding likes.
Just because brands will no longer be able to see how many likes a partnership generated doesn’t mean they should stop doing influencer marketing. High-quality influencers are still your best source of high-quality UGC!
Instead of focusing on likes, you should pivot to more action-based metrics. Look at how many swipe-ups stories receive or how often a promo code / affiliate link was used.
Affiliate links will allow brands to measure something far more important than likes. It allows brands to see how many people actually made it to their site, began the checkout process, and actually placed an order. This is invaluable data to have.
Influencer Marketing Networks will become even more important in a post-Instagram hiding likes world
To manage all of these interactions and data, brands will need a strong influencer marketing platform and network.
After all, if you can’t even see how many likes someone is averaging, how do you know they’re really an influencer? And even if they share numbers with you, how do you know those are real accounts based in the U.S?
Running influencer marketing campaigns in-house will become increasingly impossible since there will be no way of verifying any of the data.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of services that can help you out! Just like with content though, not all of these services provide the same level of vetting and quality.
Many influencer marketing platforms are giant databases, meaning they have scraped the data of millions of accounts and thrown it into one platform you can use to search. Unfortunately, this can end up being like finding a needle in a haystack, with thousands of results for your search, many of which may not be a great fit since there’s no vetting in place.
For instance, if you go searching for influencers in the automotive space, you’ll end up with hundreds of less than useful results like @Toyota and @ToyotaUSA.
And even when you find a good fit, you still have to reach out to them, hope they answer negotiate rates, figure out an address, and hope they post. Many influencers don’t even know they’re in a database since their data was simply scraped.
A network, on the other hand, is much more tightly controlled. They’re invite-only, meaning influencers request to join because they actually want to and as part of the evaluation share data about their account.
Curated influencer networks can help brands connect with high-quality influencers that are known to produce great content.
Influencers on a network have been vetted for high-quality content and engagement which will save brands time chasing down Instagram’s best content creators.
Being invite-only also means the network can reject accounts it feels are not up the standard with their content, and the result is a very engaged, curated network of talented creators. You can work with them and have peace of mind knowing that an impartial third-party has done the proper vetting needed.
Instagram hiding likes could mean more user generated content
By removing likes, you can expect people to start posting even more to Instagram. Now, users will no longer feel pressured to only share the “right” content.
This could mean that influencers could post more sponsored content without the worry of likes.
Of course, not all content is created equally. A bad, pixelated photo still makes for a terrible post. But, by removing likes, Instagram is clearing the way for high-quality UGC to really shine.
UGC relays authentic experiences about a brand’s products or services from previous customers, which boosts brand credibility. It’s even 5X more likely to produce a conversion than professional content.
An average of 60 million images are posted on Instagram each day. This makes UGC one of the most scalable ways for brands to market products, recognize fans, and drive sales.
Since Instagram is hiding likes, high-quality user-generated-content will become increasingly more important.
No likes mean that content has to be judged on content quality. The influencers that will cut through all the noise and grow their following will be the ones with the highest quality content.
How will this impact influencers?
Influencers have used likes as their main currency since the very beginning of Instagram.
This will be a big change, but just like with smart brands, smart influencers have been staying ahead of the game and are well-positioned to adapt.
Accounts that have always prioritized premium content and created an authentic relationship with their followers will continue to do great. On the contrary, accounts that have coasted on simply generating a lot of likes may be in trouble.
A lot of influencers also don’t have media kits, since brands have always been able to review a profile themselves and manually calculate engagement stats.
With this change, now is a great time to create a media kit that clearly breaks down your audience and your stats for influencers who don’t have one.
Don’t know where to start? You can download a media kit template here.
Influencers should also consider joining an influencer network as a way to connect with more brands and highlight themselves as a proven content creator. Affiliate marketing on Instagram is also a great way for influencers to provide value outside of likes.
It will be increasingly important to find and maintain relationships with brands.
Influencers that position themselves as quality content creators will be the biggest winners in a post-Instagram removing likes world.