Instagram likes have always been a way to measure the success of your Instagram posts. Before business accounts were a thing, likes were the only way to know whether people were seeing your content at all.
Soon, this metric may be a thing of the past. Instagram is experimenting with hiding the like count from everyone but the creator of the post. Instagram is testing this in Canada.
Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri announced the experiment during his keynote at the F8 developers conference. (Skip to 1:09:37 if you want to just hear about private like counts.)
“We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they get on Instagram, and a bit more time connecting with people they really care about.
“As you scroll through your feed, there are no like counts. You can see who liked a photo or video, you can tap through it, if you have the time you can add them all up yourself, the owner can see how many people liked the photo but only if they ask.”
Is this move a good or a bad thing? What are the pros and cons for businesses and social media managers?
Let’s take a look!
Pros of Instagram Likes
No pressure, no judgment
It’s easy to think businesses don’t suffer from the same complaints as the public. But we do, don’t we? We measure our success against the success of others. In its most ridiculous form, doing so includes looking at how many likes our competitors Instagram post gets.
(We could even imagine our competitors looking at our like counts, quietly judging us, considering us a failure.)
A quick look through Instagram shows many people casting judgment on Instagram posts that don’t have likes or feeling shameful about their own like counts.
A world without public numbers, however, will put an end to the pressure of chasing Instagram likes and fears of being judged by others.
Focus on comments
Is it just me that scrolls through Instagram liking posts as I go? Everyone in my feed gets a like.
It’s my way of saying I’ve seen the post. But those likes are almost worthless aren’t they? Even if I genuinely liked some posts, there’s no way of knowing whether I gave you an authentic like or if it was just habit clicking.
Liking is easy. What isn’t easy is commenting. Commenting takes brain power. You have to formulate your comment, type it with fat fingers, add emojis, double-check there aren’t any typos, and then post.
All that effort to post a comment makes it a much deeper engagement that the double tap of the finger.
I’d say comments are a better gauge of Insta success than likes, wouldn’t you?
Unless it’s a bot doing the commenting. Which brings me on to …
Kill the bots
Instagram is at war with automation tools. There are bots that follow accounts for you (and unfollow), bots that like posts for you and bots that leave bland comments.
Bots are banned on Instagram, but they still find a way.
By devaluing the like count Instagram is stripping the value of bots. Why would I pay to give automated Instagram likes if the like count was no longer relevant?
Cons of No More Instagram Likes
How do you know if someone is influential on Instagram? One strong and easy place to begin a search is post likes.
Instagram uses likes to help them rank posts as “top posts” in hashtag feeds. Marketers use this like engagement to discover influencers.
We’re yet to see whether the lack of like counts on posts will affect the top post algorithm, but even if it doesn’t, we have to work much harder to find influencers.
It’s not the end of vanity statistics. Instead of Instagram likes, we will have to rely on vanity statistics like follower count and follower ratio.
Although comments have always been a stronger signal of influence, it’s something that’s harder to discover at the swipe of a finger.
I’ve put finding influencers in the cons pile, but I don’t think working harder to find influencers is always a bad thing. Maybe that extra work will pay off and we’ll find amazing content creators we overlooked before.
It’s easy to say that likes don’t matter, but they do. How much do you trust a brand that doesn’t get engagement on their posts?
A brand with a large follower count and no Instagram likes could suggest that follows were acquired unethically.
Online and offline, we look to others for signals on how to behave. When we see a lot of people like an Instagram post, we’re more likely to like it ourselves. This phenomenon is known as social proof. It might suck but it’s a reality of digital marketing.
If getting rid of likes kills the like bots, it could also encourage more comment bots. Will we see more fake and inappropriate comments popping up on our posts if this rolls out?
Only time will tell.
What Should Businesses Do?
We don’t know whether hiding Instagram Likes get beyond the experiment. But if it gets rolled out, how should businesses and social media managers react?
1. Focus on connecting
If conversations become more important, start some conversations. Find ways to spark conversation with your content, either in the imagery or in the first few lines of your captions.
Allot time each day to comment and get involved in conversations on posts from your followers and the people who influence them. If you are active, you’ll encourage others to leave comments on your posts, too.
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2. Insta like no one is watching
At last, you can stop fretting about what others think about your like counts and get on with enjoying and creating content that will resonate with our audiences.
3. Look at your like count
Just because no one else sees your likes that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look. Identify your own top posts and try to work out what your audience liked so much about it.
With Agorapulse, you can keep track of your likes/saves, comments, and total engagement. So, you’re not relying solely on likes but also discerning where to start sparking up conversations and getting true engagement with your followers.
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Love or hate hiding likes, I think we will see a trend towards hiding vanity stats from profiles. If we stop chasing Instagram likes and follows we could end up focusing on real connections. That can’t be bad for business!
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