As Instagram mulls concealing ‘likes,’ marketers must rethink their approaches

Because the visible affirmation is a key indicator for communicators using the platform, the shift would require a dynamic change in content strategy. Here’s what to bear in mind. 

Instagram has a billion active users per month, and a key change to the platform may be in the offing.

Platform users post photos or videos, share stories, produce live content, and interact with others by “liking” or commenting on posts. However, Instagram recently began testing the idea of removing public visibility of “likes” from photos and videos that show up on the main feed, profiles and permalink pages. 

That’s big news for marketers.

“Likes” are a primary way for businesses to measure engagement with their Instagram posts and, by extension, the likability of their business, their products/services and their competitors. 

If this trial run gets implemented across the platform, here’s what you should know.

Instagram will still be tracking the amount of “likes” a post receives. The ability to view how many “likes” a post gets will not be wiped out completely. It will be viewable only by the owner of the Instagram account and by whoever manages the Instagram page—the businessowner, its social media coordinator or a third-party agency handling the account.

The removal of the “like” feature would level the playing field among competitors. Many businessowners focus on “likes” as a validation for their business. There’s also the customer and consumer mindset that “if they have a lot of ‘likes,’ they must be good,” but that won’t be the case anymore. Consumers won’t be able to base decisions solely on the number of “likes” a business’s content receives.

Marketers must step up their game and produce high-quality, eye-catching content. An emphasis on comments and shares will shift in importance, making the need for excellent content crucial. This content can range from testimonials, workplace and office culture, employee profiles, or showcasing various products and services. Content will have to be appealing and compel Instagram users to comment on it or share it to their stories or their profiles. Comments and shares also show a much higher brand loyalty than just “likes” on a post, and that’s how businesses will have to measure performance.

Instagram Stories and IGTV—neither having a “like” feature—will grow in popularity, and companies must respond accordingly. 

The move could hurt influencer marketing, too. Influencers rely heavily on “likes.” It’s validation not only for them but for their partnering companies. Businesses should prepare to implement a different marketing strategy or put less focus on influencer marketing. 

The biggest takeaway from Instagram removing the “like” feature, if that were to happen? Top-quality content is the key. Research, strategize and identify high-performing content within your business’s industry and on its Instagram account. Content calendars in particular will become more important. 

Alexis Krisay is president of marketing at Serendipit Consulting.

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