If Instagram Hides Likes, Will Influencers Survive?
The business of social proof is about to change
Instagram wants to shift focus back to the content itself and get away from the cold, hyper-optimised, and fake content that was being posted on the platform.
Some influencers were known for faking their engagement rates by either using Instagram pods — that are also called Instagram engagement groups — or by simply buying likes and “genuine” comments (more than five words and relevant to the content posted — yes, you can buy anything online). The reason behind that was that brands and agencies are only working with influencers that had the best engagement rate in order to launch a campaign.
Here’s why that was the most important part: the higher the engagement rate, the better a post performs. So, the higher the engagement rate, the higher the reach. The higher the reach, the higher the exposure the advertised product was getting. The higher the exposure, the higher potential sales could be made. The higher the sales, the higher the revenue. The higher the revenue, the higher the price for the overall influencer campaign. The higher the price, the richer the influencer was getting.
All that is to say: the higher the engagement rate, the more money influencers make.
The number of followers is not really a figure that really matters anymore. Actually, brands prefer to work with smaller accounts (10 thousand to 15 thousand followers) because these accounts usually have a fairly high engagement rate, they are cheaper to work with, and therefore, they usually provide a higher ROI.
However, if Instagram does hide the number of likes on posts, that means that the engagement rate of an account suddenly becomes inaccessible.
Does that mean that the number of followers will be the only figure that matters again? I do not think so. Faking the number of followers you have is way too easy. It is even easier than to cheat on your engagement rate.
I think brands and agencies are way too aware of that now. Even without buying followers, simply by using a mass-follow method or any follow-unfollow bot, you can grow an Instagram account from 0 to 10 thousand subscribers in less than four months. These techniques are way less noticed by Instagram itself as the growth almost appears organic. However, tools like Auditor for Instagram can help you identify if an Instagram account is using such methods. Similar tools are becoming more and more popular among brands and agencies. Therefore, relying on such methods is not sustainable if you are an influencer or if you are trying to “make it” on Instagram.
However, we cannot imagine brands and agencies paying random influencers if they cannot be sure beforehand that the influencer’s account is legit. So how can this work?
Will hiding the number of likes on posts end the influencer era?
First, I was tempted to say yes. The engagement rate was all that mattered and that metric will be gone.
We now know that the number of subscribers is even less of a relevant metric to look at.
So I just thought that influencers would quit Instagram and go back to Snapchat, another very popular platform for influencers.
But that is it: influencers will just use Instagram stories, and they will sell companies product through the swipe up feature with an affiliate link. This way, the reach of the campaign and the ROI are totally accessible by the brand and/or the agency. This way, the influencer cannot cheat about the legitimacy his or her audience. Everything becomes measurable and even more transparent than it used to be.
We are also seeing that Instagram is working and investing a lot of money to make the process of buying through the platform easier, with the least amount of friction possible.
Influencers will just promote brands and products using stories, and they will just use regular posts to keep their community posted about what they do, their lifestyle, and so on.
Instagram only cares about stories
Instagram clearly cares more about stories than about the newsfeed right now. In fact, the soon to be gone number of likes is one of the very few updates about the newsfeed while stories keep being updated all the time with new features, new filters, new ergonomics, and so on. The thing is: so many people are complaining about that newsfeed, so many people are asking for a new sorting algorithm, so many people are begging Instagram to bring back the chronological feed, so many people are getting tired of Instagram because of that newsfeed. However, Instagram is concentrating all their efforts and innovation towards stories.
Instagram is making a smart move: they are pretending to solve the problem with influencers and wannabe influencers cheating on their engagement rate and number of followers by hiding the number of likes of the posts in order to make the content, the priority, like it used to be. While an update like this makes them seem caring and considerate, they’re simply giving up on the newsfeed and prioritising stories.
Instagram stories are way more used than regular posts. The engagement of the users and the attention span is higher on stories than it is on posts. Influencers already use stories a lot to promote a brand or a product because of the swipe up feature that is making the buying action easier for the end user.
I am very curious about how this update of the newsfeed will turn out for influencers, digital agencies, and most brands. This is a massive update that will totally change the approach on social media and on Instagram. While working on the engagement rate has been key for years on this platform, this new update totally changes that and will force marketers and people making a living out of their Instagram to adapt and maybe shift their strategy to a totally different one.
What do you guys think?