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Weekly News: Instagram and Influencer Marketing

Instagram is trialing the removal of ‘likes’ on its platform.

Instagram’s recent experiment to remove its “like” from its platform in several regions is an interesting measure. Though some argue that it may work to remove the incentive to treat social media as a form of numbers-based competition and align more with social collaboration, still, it doesn’t stop the viral posts of influencers criticizing the decision going frenzy on social media.

There is no surprise here. This counter removal could potentially affect brands and influencers. Instagram has long passed the point where it’s only used for sharing photos, interacting with celebrities and discovering trendy looks. Fashion houses, retailers and big brands all see the commercial opportunity in Instagram as a marketing tool to reach consumers. At the same time, the platform has made a series of moves to become a shopping hub, forcing companies to adapt their digital strategies (Read our “Social Commerce” article here!).

So, will this removal mark an actual turning point in social media, or will the experiment simply fade as everything returns to the status quo?

Not the End of Influencers

Instagram’s trial to conceal the number of likes a post has received has the potential to dramatically change the commercial and cultural landscape of the social media platform, Elfy Scott writing for The Guardian stated. While users can still see the number of likes their own posts have accumulated, the average user’s experience of the Instagram feed has changed quite dramatically.

This bold move has been criticized as threatening the influencer economy relies heavily on visible engagement with promotional posts. But it doesn’t stop Instagram influencers to take a slightly more creative, problem-solving approach to the supposed catastrophe.

A fitness instagrammer for example, recently captioned a photo with “1 comment = 1 like” in an attempt to secure the same public-facing recognition on her post. Another fashion instagrammer mentioned that as she was a model long before beginning her Instagram account, the disappearance of the “likes” has had little impact on her online life and she believes this decision could increase user experience with more creative and authentic posts.

This forces a conclusion that the changes to Instagram won’t likely make a great deal of difference in the long run, as users will invariably find alternative options as a new metric. In other words, once the “likes” disappear, people will simply start to focus on other measures of social validation, such as followers, comments and shares.

As such, from a purely business perspective, it may not be the end of influencer campaigns yet. The “like economy” is ultimately only justified by commercial gain, as the reporting and analytics features are still available in the back end of profiles for users with business accounts.

Brands Need to be More Sophisticated

If Instagram decides to remove likes , influencer marketing will need to become more sophisticated and higher quality, rather than chasing vanity metrics. That’s the verdict of several experts in influencer marketing, who view the move more as a growing pain in the evolution of influencer marketing, rather than a significant shift, PRWeek stated.

But, not everyone agrees.

The future of the influencer marketing industry is wider than Instagram, even though that platform is a huge part of the industry right now. The platform has been monetized and is an important part of marketing certain categories, such as travel, fashion, food, categories that are highly visual. But there are other areas of influencer marketing, such as CSR, venture capital and human endeavors that don’t work as well on Instagram.

After all, influencer marketing is a field that is rapidly changing. There’s a lot of hype and interest around Instagram, but it doesn’t change the fact that successful influencers has the ability to manage two things well : content creation and capture and maintain the attention of a large audience.

Hence, brands need to work smarter.

Brands who are collaborating with influencers need to a shift away from vanity metrics and place more focus on time spent on the platform, engagement, views and actual sales. Furthermore, brands also need to put paid media support behind their influencer posts and to focus on Instagram Stories. Brands and influencers will have to work harder at creating and building an engaged community.

Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

Higher quality content that showcases authenticity will also rise significantly since users won’t be able to lean on the amount of likes their posts are receiving anymore. Brands will need to think harder about what is going to resonate with audiences, driving quality over quantity from a content perspective.

Further, influencers with business accounts will still have all the other metrics in the back end, such as reach and impressions, as well as views and comments to judge how well their content is performing. Brands will be able to use this data to evaluate how to work with influencers, as well as the qualitative element of whether they fit with the brand values, campaign or product.

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