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How Instagram is shaking up influencer marketing

Posted by Fiona Todd on 6th September 2019

Last month, social media giant Instagram announced it would be trialling the removal of ‘likes’ on posts across several countries in a bid to remove social pressure from its users.

With recent backlash from the government on how social media platforms can contribute to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy in young people, Instagram’s new trial will hide the amount of likes posts receive to other users.

This is certainly a step in the right direction to ensure sharing on Instagram becomes less of a competition and more about embracing storytelling without the pressure.

But while this is a positive initiative for us, what does it mean for influencer marketing?

As it stands, influencer marketing is a tool that brands are jumping on to raise awareness and increase sales, and rightly so. But those brands seeking out the most influential figures on Instagram are focusing too much on the vanity metrics — how many likes they receive.

Of course, it makes sense that brands want to engage with those influencers with the highest number of likes, but they need to understand that influencer status goes beyond this. It’s also important to remember that likes have been a source of fake engagement, with bots readily available to purchase to boost engagement.

Instagram likes are just a range of non-specific measurements that can’t and don’t measure success of specific campaigns. And while brands currently rely on these metrics to determine achievements, this won’t be an option for much longer if Instagram decides to permanently disable likes.

According to Amy Luca, chief executive of TheAmplify, brands should rethink their influencer partnership and compensation models, meaning looking at different metrics that more accurately drive the business, from purchase intent, brand awareness and brand affinity. This means that influencer campaigns could be properly compared with other marketing activity.

In addition to encouraging brands to look at different metrics, the removal of likes would also mean brands need to focus more on quality content that would inspire its followers to engage in a more meaningful way — for example, with comments on Instagram posts.

It would also encourage brands to think about the type of content they are posting. Instagram is no longer just about the images on a feed, but more about short, snappy ‘stories’ or video content.

So while the removal of Instagram likes may come as a shock, I believe this is a good move for the social platform. Along with improving our mental health and reducing anxiety, it means that brands will be focusing more on better, high-quality content that we’ll want to engage with, as opposed to posting images for the sake of likes.