Brands know that vanity metrics, specifically ‘likes,’ are meaningless without understanding the “why” behind them. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to do without them. And measuring awareness on Instagram once the likes are gone is a real concern for businesses – and influencers. But it shouldn’t be . . .
What is happening and what should brands do once the likes are gone, just in general? It will be important to plan ahead here as ‘likes’ are potentially not long for this digital world. And Instagram is just the first channel to lead the way.
Not Liking the Instagram Likes
Instagram started hiding likes in Canada and expanded the test to Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand in July of 2019. Why? To help users – and their followers – refocus on engagement:
“The test removes the total number of likes on photos and videos, but the owner of the account will still be able to see them. Likes will not appear on the main feed, profiles or permalink pages.
‘We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,’ an Instagram spokesperson said.”
And it’s supposed to remove pressure for users as well.
Mental Health Concerns
Kim Kardashian agrees with this move, as she feels Instagram has the potential to improve the mental health of its users:
“As far as mental health… I think taking the likes away and taking that aspect away from [Instagram] would be really beneficial for people,” she admitted. “[T]he Instagram team has been having a bunch of conversations with people to get everyone’s take on that and they’re taking it really seriously, and that makes me happy.”
“I find myself to be extremely mentally strong and I have people who are obsessed with the comments, and I find that to be really unhealthy,” she continued. “[And] I struggle with having to step outside of how I feel and thinking about, ‘What if one of my children was like one of my friends who wasn’t as mentally strong and would really be affected by the comments?’ That would really affect me.”
And the conversation online around it has been largely supportive . . .
But others are skeptical and think this change misses the boat. Online influencer and popular musician, Cardi B is one of them:
But, during its initial announcement of this feature at F8 in April of 2019, Instagram/Facebook did address managing comments and other anti-bullying measures:
- Comment filters – if you say something aggressive, you may get a nudge (a warning of sorts)
- Away mode – to take a break from Instagram during big life changes
- Creating distance – if someone is aggressive toward you, Instagram is trying to find ways to help you create distance. Its “restrict” mode is said to be in the works as of this writing.
And regardless of which functionality is most damaging to individuals’ mental health, brand marketers relying on either (likes or comments) for meaningful insight are damaging their brand’s health.
Misunderstanding Brand Health
Brands are hurt when relying on “likes” or an eyeball estimation of positive/negative comments to measure impact. These businesses are missing so much CX insight online, along with indicators that could help predict challenges ahead of a crisis.
So, brands are actually better off without either, as the temptation to misinterpret this data is one that many succumb to. And it’s entirely unnecessary, as there are amazingly accurate social analytics capabilities available. These tools, NetBase chief among them, can parse audience comments and posts across the social web – and more.
We aggregate it all along with a variety of structured and unstructured data sources to generate an accurate, in-the-moment look at important sub-groups.
Let’s see how it looks for brands in the know – and how your brand can get there too.
Who Measures Brand Awareness with Likes Anyway?
Recently, some brands have become a bit vocal around their disenchantment with the awareness online offers. And who can blame them? Cumulatively, brands are spending billions on social media awareness campaigns, sold on the potential of viral word-of-mouth. So, to tend toward the other extreme and experience lackluster results has to sting.
Not all brands have been relying on surface insights, of course. And that is where you’ll find brands with a realistic understanding of many things:
- Where their brand (and competitors) stand from a share of voice standpoint
- Trending topics across segments and knowing which are relevant
- Who their audiences are (and discovering new audiences all of the time)
- Adjacencies with other offerings to bundle options/capture a larger group or create a new categories
In short, they get the true power of social media.
And these brands measure influencer impact with behind the scenes channel metrics regardless, so removing likes won’t affect them in the least.
This change is really a blessing in disguise for those who do rely on likes, because it will force them to take a hard look at what they’re tracking and why.
Does that mean this change a boon for influencers as well then? Not so much. That is, not if they’ve been flubbing their numbers a bit!
Life After Likes
Some influencers aren’t happy about this proposed change. And that discontent is likely to get louder in the coming week as this test seems to be moving ahead and coming the US very soon (maybe even as you’re reading this!).
Does this mean that they’ve been gaming the system and are annoyed at being found out? Not necessarily.
Kate Weiland, a Canadian influencer known for matching family outfits, said it’s been a “bummer” to post a picture and not be flooded with the droves of likes and comments she’s used to receiving. It’s affected how she’s able to evaluate her audience’s interest in a post, which she uses to figure out what content she should keep posting or move away from.
Seems her following is pretty solid though. So, maybe these influencers worrying over the change are just not aware of the opportunities they have with advanced social analytics. A told capable of digging in to their results and really showing how valuable they are to brands will mean less work for the to “figure out” and more time left to create visually stunning content. Win-win.
Harder to Hack Instagram Comments
And, from a money saving standpoint, removing likes makes it harder to fakes to hack the system. Although comments can be bought as easily as likes, they’re much easier to spot.
Overall, that’s the biggest issue brands face when it comes to any social network – understanding the true impact of their efforts. So the change is potentially very good for both mental health and brand health.
And transparently sourced, next generation AI-powered social analytics makes separating real influencers from fake readily apparent. It’s insight that often flies in the face of assumptions that rely on likes, and after the initial shock around being duped, strategic planning becomes much clearer. Many things do.
We love offering platform demos to show this in action. Be sure to reach out for one today!