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Instagram's test of banning likes is good for creators, brands and culture

In July, Instagram announced it was expanding its trial to hide “like” counts to seven new markets, including Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Brazil. The original test was announced in April and attributed to making a less competitive environment.

The influencer marketing business has been following these developments closely as engagement analytics play a significant role in the entire process of influencer marketing, from selecting the right partners to measuring success.

Important to note: creators can still see their analytics, such as total likes per post, but the public cannot. And if the public wanted to, they could count manually (see: scrapers)

Facebook (which we all know owns and operates Instagram) has upset users in the past by making changes to the platform that many felt were motivated by revenue (e.g. The Algorithm) and not the user experience. As such, we’ve heard plenty of speculation about Instagram’s rationale here:

  • Forcing advertisers to use the Instagram native ad platform (opposed to third-party platforms)
  • A move from vanity metrics to tracking direct sales (which would assume brands don’t do influencer marketing for brand building, rather as a bottom of the funnel sales tactic – we’d caution against this notion)
  • Instagram forcing brands to move toward Stories (feels like a stretch)

Any and all of this could be true.

In March, Instagram launched a dedicated platform to help brands boost content created by influencers as a major revenue driver. Instagram knows how important influencer marketing is to their business and wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize their bottom line, including harming influencer analytics.

Based on what we know, my point of view is this. While influencer ID & reporting capabilities will be affected for some, our investment in platforms that have legitimate API access will continue to provide access to influencer engagement data.

Organic likes are a minor consideration when considering creators to partner with and how to measure effectively, anyway. Organic reach (and thus the engagement metrics) is a low percentage of an influencer’s following (we’ve seen as low as 5% per post). Brands should partner with influencers whose content and audience aligns with their objectives (not their follower count) and leverage paid media behind influencer content as a way to achieve targeted scale, engagements, click-throughs, foot-traffic, sales and, all much more cost effectively.

Our influencers who have participated in the test feel that the results are a breath of fresh air: allowing them to create good content instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, which after all, was Instagram’s intent. Better content is better for everyone.

Consumers will see this as a win too; they will have the same opportunity to interact with their favorite creators. Now without having to filter through whether a particular piece of content is resonating with others, their engagement will be more about quality and connection vs. popularity.

There’s nothing for influencers, brands or smart agencies to worry about for the foreseeable future. There’s too much bad content out there. This might just make life a little better by giving creators the leeway to experiment vs. chasing “likes.” That would be good for creators, brands and culture overall.

Derek Goode is head of influencer marketing, social and digital at Endeavor Global Marketing.

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