What does removing likes from Instagram mean for brands?
Hiding Likes may have been churning in the Instagram rumour mill for some time (since 2019). We’re bringing it back on your radar as the latest feature update has officially entered the testing phase for selected users in the UK.
According to Adam Mosseri, Instagram CEO, the feature was initially introduced to make Instagram “a safer place on the internet” with the hopes of improving mental well-being and decreasing the social pressure on users to achieve vanity metrics. But what impact will that have on brands?
What this means for luxury brands
Likes won’t be completely removed for those involved in the test; they can still view the like count on their own content, just not on other accounts. But what does the removal of the ultimate social media vanity metric mean for brands? We’ve had some thoughts…
- User generated content may increase – With the pressure off for every photo to be ‘likeable’, it’s predicted that there will be more Instagram content than ever before. This could be great news for brands who could see an influx of user generated content. Whilst that is a positive, it is also worth noting that more content would mean a more saturated platform. Brands may have to be even more strategic in terms of gaining organic reach, or pay for reach and engagement through Facebook’s Ads Manager.
- Likes metric may drop – In 2019, when the removal of Likes was tested for users in several countries outside the UK, content creators claimed their engagement rate dropped significantly. Could this be due to a lack of incentive or prompt to hit the like button? Likes are the easiest way for an audience to engage with content. It takes less than a second to double click, while commenting takes that bit longer.
- Other engagement metrics may increase – With Likes no longer on the map, comments could take the lead. We predict that posts will now have more meaningful interactions and generate more conversation, building a deeper sense of community. This could see Instagram become a key platform for peer to peer recommendations and product feedback.
- Social Media reporting may need to adapt: Here at VERB we measure Likes as a key determining factor amongst other metrics such as saves, comments, profile and product clicks when evaluating engagement rate and content performance. Therefore the removal of Likes could force a shift in this way of analysis. With both measurement limitations and a potential engagement decline, our reporting metrics and KPI’s may have to adapt. We could see reports focusing more on qualitative sentiment value rather than just quantitative data. Sentiment tracking can be a bit of a grey area with social listening tools with a lot of manual work involved to achieve an accurate read. Fingers crossed we see some developments in this aspect of social listening.
There’s definitely pros and cons to the update, but we’re yet to see the full impact. Perhaps Liking is ingrained into our social media user behaviour and not much will change, however…
In the longer term, we might see a shift in user behaviour which will potentially give luxury brands more of an opportunity to interact and build a community with their audience through the comments feature. Without likes, people may be more inclined to more actively engage and thus generate more conversation to tap into. If our prediction of increased user generated content comes to fruition, luxury brands will have a whole load of content to react to and potentially repost. And of course, ultimately, the ways in which we analyse what is resonating well with luxury brands will have to adapt.
It now seems most countries have been introduced to an Instagram feed without Likes, however Instagram have yet to make a statement about whether or not the change is permanent and if it will affect all users.