Instagram is hiding your likes. But it’s not the end of the world.
The last ten years of social media have been measured and judged by likes. Smashing the like button as we scroll through our feeds is a reflex.
We use likes to measure engagement and as a benchmark for social media strategies. Liking content even affects the algorithms that determine what content we see on social platforms.
Likes were everything. But now they’re not. And really, they never were.
Nobody likes you
Our relationship with technology is changing the way human beings behave. And as we move further into this digital age, what it means to be human will be affected more and more by technology.
One of the most widely discussed examples of this is how social media affects our mental health.
Too many people are judging their self worth by their likes. This isn’t an issue that’s affecting fragile snowflake millennials, it affects anyone who shares things on social media.
Assigning a value to your thoughts, ideas and creativity in the form of likes is only going to end in self-doubt and unhealthy introspection.
Instagram recently came under criticism from Selena Gomez, one of the most followed people in the world. “It would make me feel not good about myself, and look at my body differently,” Selena said in a recent interview. She’s fallen out with Insta so much she’s deleted the app.
The platforms they are a’changin’
Social media platforms are continuing to update and improve their services in response to user criticism.
Due to the public interest in the impact of likes on our mental health, likes are potentially on the chopping block.
It started with Facebook, who diversified the generic like with Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad & Angry responses. The goal was to enhance engagement by giving users more flexible ways to interact.
Most recently, Instagram announced a trial in Canada where the number of likes on a post was hidden. Instagram wants “your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get.”
With the test, Instagram plans to remove the total number of likes from photos and videos on that show up on the main feed, profiles and permalink pages.
Only the account user will be able to see the number of likes a post receives. It will show a few, but you’ll no longer see the exact count. Twitter has also tested an update to tackle like visibility.
YouTube has been making similar moves with its subscriber count. The plan is to cut down those subscriber count battles we see every now and again.
They’ve also tweaked the algorithm, focusing more on viewers than on subscriber numbers for the purpose of search optimisation.
No likes. Good for us, bad for brands?
So, the message is clear. Who would’ve thought that applying an arbitrary value to your online life would result in a toxic environment that slowly eats away at your worth as a person?
It’s like an episode of Black Mirror or something.
But in all seriousness, kudos for people trying to clean up their platforms and make our online lives less horrible. That’s great and all, but did anyone think about the poor brands?
No likes mean no easy way to measure engagement! No likes mean we can’t identify our true brand advocates! No likes mean that justifying our social media plans will be so much harder!
If these issues are bothering you, here’s some friendly advice: You are more than your likes! (We say the same thing to people who feel depressed about their Insta feeds)
Your social media strategy shouldn’t rely on likes alone
Anyone who’s had their finger on the pulse of the latest changes in social media knows that likes aren’t everything. They haven’t been for some time.
Engagement is key. Sharing is key. Generating a connection and a conversation is key.
Think about how many times you’ve scrolled through your feed and liked something automatically. Can you say that you’ve honestly engaged with that content?
People liking your post doesn’t mean they engaged with it in any way that matters.
“But the algorithm!” we hear you cry. Yes, we know that likes influence ad targeting and how often your content appears on people’s feeds.
But, if people don’t engage with your brand in the first place, seeing more of you is only going to annoy them and result in negative sentiment and the dreaded unfollow.
A good social media strategy should focus on meaningful engagement: replies, shares and interaction.
So now that likes are being diminished, now is the perfect time to rethink how you engage with your audience on social media. What does engagement really mean to you?
How to boost engagement without likes
A strong social media strategy focuses on creating meaningful experiences and building stronger relationships with your audience.
Brands that do well on social media don’t chase the numbers, they use social media to communicate and engage creatively. Here are 5 tips for how you can do the same.
1. Create content that is actually good
Once more for the people in the back: CREATE CONTENT THAT IS ACTUALLY GOOD.
Discover what your audience likes and deliver great content that they love. Looking for an example? Look no further than the Colonel himself.
KFC understand that their audience loves a bit of self-aware silliness, especially in the UK. From the gravy scented candles to the fact that they only follow 11 guys called Herb and the Spice Girls on Twitter, KFC gives the people what they want: great content. And chicken.
When likes go away, this becomes even more important. People love to jump on the bandwagon. That’s why posts with high engagement are more likely to get likes.
Take that bias away and your content has to stand up on its own.
2. Use all the tools on offer
Stories are the new hotness on the social scene. 30% of the most viewed Stories on Instagram come from businesses.
They can act as advertising as well as engagement in a way that is perfectly tailored to the user. There are no cynical likes to be seen, just fun video content (the best kind of social content).
This changes their content from a one way broadcast to a back-and-forth conversation. Stories are so good for brands that today, 50% of all businesses on Instagram are using them.
3. Be wary of influencers
Only 4% of people trust what influencers say online. Once the darlings of grassroots advertising, influencers have lost their purity as brands have sought to capitalise on their authenticity.
Today, when YouTubers talk about a brand, alarm bells go off in people’s minds. Of course, they’re going to say a product is good if they’re being paid to say it.
Influencer marketing is also getting more expensive and less reliable. There’s no guarantee on a return on investment and when influencers are charging $30,000 a post, that’s a big investment to lose.
But that doesn’t mean that influencer marketing is dead in the water. It can work for some campaigns, you just need to be realistic about how you use it.
4. Create with your community
User-generated content can be a huge asset if leveraged correctly. And now there are new ways to get consumers creating. For example, Instagram allows you to make GIF stickers that people can add to their own Stories. This means you can produce creative assets for your community to use the way they want to.
Is there a risk of your brand being associated with something negative? Yes. But, a carefully managed community of enthusiastic advocates are a force for marketing good.
5. Measure your successes and failures
All of these tips require you to understand your audience. The only way you can do that is by seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Part of your social media strategy needs to commit to reviewing the success of your approach. Listen to your audience, be present and mindful of their needs.
Continue to refine and test all aspects of your social media content. This includes:
- Video & image content
- Tone of voice
- Time of posting
- Calls to action
- The hashtags you use
- What conversation you want to join
- What platforms you’re posting on
Social media marketing is not about shouting
It’s about chatting. It’s about relationships and communities and the caring about your customers. Because being liked means liking people in return.
Social media continues to evolve as platforms change their approaches and try to build stronger, safer communities.
For businesses who want to succeed on social media, you need to do the same: evolve, grow and cultivate. And while there are no signs that likes are getting the full axe, this is the perfect excuse to take another look at your social media strategy.