In the spring of 2019, Instagram announced that it was testing, in select countries, the removal of the visible like counts on posts. The reason? Instagram wants users to not focus on the likes but rather on the quality of the content. While your followers won’t be able to see the number of likes, the page owner still can on their backend view of the account.
After testing this abroad, the removal of public-facing Likes is now affecting U.S.-based Instagram accounts, as Instagram slowly rolls it out to more accounts. A recent study released this past fall by HypeAuditor shows that, in most regions where this change occurred, total like counts have declined.
Should you be concerned? If you only keep track of vanity metrics such as likes and reach, then yes. Is it nice to have a post with 50, 100, or 1,000+ plus likes? Sure! But what does that do for your sales? Probably not much. What this change should do for you, as a social media manager or business owner, is adjust your focus on your content and your key performance indicators. Since the removal of likes is a new roll-out in the United States, all of this is speculation, but here’s what may happen, and what you need to do.
You may see an increase in comments. People will still like the post, maybe not as much as they used to, but in some cases, they may be more apt to comment. Comments are not only useful tools for you to gauge feedback and sentiment about your brand or product, but also provide a chance for you to engage with your customers. Comments are much more beneficial than a Like!
For some, liking a post is a way of being nice. They like the content, but it’s not really engaging. Maybe they support your business by being a customer, maybe they are a friend or family member. But commenting is key. If you do not see an uptick in comments, try creating content that will make people want to pause to type. Ask questions, create visuals that are eye-popping and appealing.
Another change that the removal of likes creates for many small businesses is a shift in why they are using Instagram. A successful Instagram post should be one that is in alignment with actionable performance indicators or goals. Did the post drive online orders? Did it cause X amount of people to take advantage of a special sale? Did followers respond to the survey or the question and provide feedback? Posting for the sake of posting is not how Instagram should be used, and this change will reinforce that.
Keep utilizing hashtags. They are a great way for people to find your content. Not only use relevant hashtags that tie into a specific post, but also come up with a unique hashtag that you can brand as your own and use every time you post. It can be your company name, slogan, or catchphrase.
Is Instagram’s removal of likes a game-changer for the platform? It’s too soon to tell. The best thing to do is work with the changes, keep your Instagram efforts fluid. Don’t be afraid to alter your method to find what works best for your business. n
As originally published on Forbes.com. Clearbridge Branding Agency is a digital marketing agency located in Glassboro. Visit ClearBridgeMedia.com.