Instagram’s Removal of Likes and What That Means for Brands

By: Anushka Pawashe

In the past few months, Instagram has taken initiatives to hide likes for a subset amount of its users. Instagram is still testing this new feature as a way to combat mental health concerns in teens. Instagram’s chief Adam Mosseri stated that the idea behind the initiative was to lessen competition for popularity and make Instagram a safer and more inclusive online community. “It means we’re going to put a 15-year-old kid’s interests before a public speaker’s interest,” Mosseri said at Wired‘s annual summit. “When we look at the world of public content, we’re going to put people in that world before organizations and corporations.”

So what could this mean for brands and strategic social media marketing? Brands and Influencers have come to rely on likes to run their business and make sales. They count on being discoverable on feeds and the explore page. Instagram’s algorithm is heavily based on likes, so could this be an issue for concern?

For the most part, brands will still be able to analyze the data and the likes they garner on their accounts. The only issue that might be of concern might be that brands won’t have a strategic way to vet influencers before recruiting for sponsored content. Access to users that have a higher amount of reach and engagement will be helpful for a brand that needs to that might not have the same presence on social media. A large amount of marketing and advertisement now days is done on social media and using influencers to reach a wide variety of audiences.

However, that does not mean that brands can’t develop new strategies to market on social media. The number of followers and the number of comments are still visible on all user’s profiles and brands will still have access to their data. This just forces brands to stop worrying about vanity metrics. Likes are a social marker; a popularity contest between individuals rather than a strategic way to reach a target audience. According to AgencyAnalytics, it is more important to focus on follower growth, engagement per follower, website traffic, link clicks, comments per post, Instagram stories engagement and reach.

Another reason why likes may not be as important as we think is the constant development of bots, and purchased likes. This skews data that might be helpful for brands and may not give them the results they need. By hiding likes, the production of likes might decline due to the original incentive being taken away. This is an advantage for brands now because they can analyze their accounts increase or decrease of likes without the negative influence of bots.

This Article Has 14 Comments
  1. Ty Hancock says:

    While at first look, this might appear to be a problem for brands looking to advertise via Instagram, but upon further investigation, this could actually be a good things. Brands might be able to take a more in-depth look at their influencers and strategy. As opposed to relying on likes, which don’t really amount to anything, other metrics will start to be used. Engagement-per-subscriber is a good one. This metric can help to be a true judge of the effectiveness of said influencer over his/her/their followers.

  2. Zach Newsom says:

    I agree with Ty on this one. It certainly seems like there would be ways to work around the visibility issue in vetting influencers. Perhaps brands will make it a contingency in a contract that the potential influencer release their private data to the brand in order to determine what level of engagement is achieved on their posts.

  3. Brandon Hargrave says:

    I agree with Ty I think that this will make “real influencers” stand out above the rest. I think that you get some herd mentality in terms of one influencer telling people to follow their friends which boosted their numbers as well even though they got help. It is also going to make the influencers have to become better business people because they will have to reach out to the brands to show their numbers rather than brands just coming to them. My question is, when are they taking the likes away? I don’t know anyone nor have I seen anyone in my feed with out the likes showing.

  4. Jackson Ritt says:

    Great post, the content was relevant to all of us who use instagram. But I think getting rid of likes is for the best, because its going to get rid of a bunch of the traffic and “influencers” that take up your feed when they don’t do anything for you. I think eventually they’ll come up with some sort of mechanism the replaces the functionality of likes, but I think the concept of likes ins’t in the best interest of instagrams users.

  5. Rhianna Comito says:

    Hi Anushka! I think this is an interesting blog post. I think you are right in saying that likes will affect influencers; however, if the likes still technically exist, then it won’t change brands getting on the explore page or anything like that. Other viewers just won’t be able to see a brands likes on an individual post, but the likes still exist. I do like that you mentions follower count is more important anyway because a follow is definitely more meaningful than a like.

  6. Bridget Kraus says:

    I enjoyed reading this post! This is a very important and relevant topic. I think it will be an adjustment that brands need to start getting used to, and they will have to start relying on other tactics to reach people and maintain their popularity. Influencers will have to manually ask brands if they can send out their data which will ultimately make them better at managing their business. I think taking the likes away will be a good thing for the most part, but it will definitely take some getting used to and habits will need to be changed.

  7. Brea Bechelli says:

    I agree that taking away Instagram likes may not hurt brands as much as we think. Yes, brands will have to adapt to how they research and study their engagement with their target audience, but I think they can find a better means of doing so. Furthermore, with bots and people aimlessly liking on Instagram, how would likes even be an accurate depiction of engagement? I agree there are better ways of determining engagement amongst target audiences, like comments and website traffic.

  8. Sarah Lovely says:

    I really liked your stance on this subject. I personally always notice the likes that a person has on their posts so I do think that it is a good thing for Instagram to do for users’ mental health and promoting a different kind of social media experience. However, I did not think about the implications that might have for brands while they advertise. I liked that you brought this to light and that you pointed out factors that could be already skewing likes, such as paid followers.

  9. Ramsey Sullivan says:

    This is such an interesting topic that I think could be really important to talk about. I remember when I first got an Instagram in high school, how much likes actually mattered to everybody. I don’t know if anyone remembers that selfie song that went viral but one of the lyrics had something to do with “I only got 10 likes in the last five minutes? Should I take it down?”. While it will take an adjustment, I think that there are so many other platforms that still have the likes option where brands could advertise on.

  10. Evan Spisla says:

    This is honestly such a good move, I often find myself wondering why we had likes or followers as visible data to begin with. Why did these become such critical metrics to social media that every platform needed to rely on them? Working on our final project, I struggled to find how ‘number of likes’ really connected to any of our brands goals. For some reason, we link this number to credibility, which is problematic when bots can just buy their reputation.

  11. Sarah Naciri says:

    Hi Anushka!

    Your blog post covers an interesting topic that I have never considered before. This will be very interesting to work with in the future when trying to discover Instagram influencers. Often, fake followers/accounts can be overlooked by seeing how many likes a profile receives. However, removing the ability to see likes will make influencers reach out to companies, rather than the opposite. In order to verify their reach, potential influencers will have to provide their engagement statistics to companies. With this, influencers have the potential to post their social engagement statistics online for the public to see. This factor could potentially solve the problem of there not being a platform that filters out fake followers/accounts.

  12. Tylar Blansett says:

    This is such an interesting topic to be discussing that a lot of people may overlook. In my opinion, it will flip the role that influencers have when dealing with a company and its products. Influencers will need to reach out to the company instead of it being the other way around.

  13. Kyra Hanson says:

    Hi Anushka,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I think that the removal of likes on Instagram is such a controversial decision, so I liked how you looked at both the pros and cons. I agree that it will be more difficult for brands to identify which influencers they should partner with, because they will no longer be able to analyze the influencer’s popularity through how many likes they get. However, like you said, this will force brands to focus inwardly on more important metrics, such as engagement per follower. Additionally, it will allow for individuals to not compare themselves as much to how popular other accounts are, which will have positive mental health benefits overall. In general, I loved this blog posr and all of the good points that it raised!

    Best,
    Kyra

  14. Lauren Cheever says:

    I think this transition will open doors for more creative and strategic marketing solutions on social media. Bots will no longer be able to have as much of an effect on posts and paying for likes will be deemed irrelevant. This is a good thing because there is so much focus placed on receiving or giving likes that its elimination will allow for more time spent focused on other features of the post, such as reach, captions, interaction with other accounts, and visual aspects. Hopefully, we will start to see more authentic strategies coming from influencers and brands on social media.

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