Instagram recently tested a feature that hid like counts from the public, meaning only the user would be able to see the total number of engagements.
This isn’t the first time Instagram has tested a feature like this. Previously, they’ve tested making viewing follower numbers less obvious on Instagram profiles as well. It’s clear that although Instagram is now owned by Facebook, they still care about the original goal of the platform - which was sharing cool photos with your friends and family.
This should be a wake up call for both influencers and brands. Brands should not be choosing to work with influencers based on vanity metrics like follower numbers or how many likes their posts get.
Likes aren’t really a good indicator of authenticity, anyway.
Instagram likes are a common way to quickly gauge engagement rates for brands looking to work with influencers. Engagement rates are usually a good indicator of how authentic a brand or influencer’s followers are because low engagement rates indicate that the followers may have been purchased and are fake.
However, there are still many bot services that automate liking posts based on specific hashtags, locations, or users you follow. And some influencers participate in engagement pods, meaning everytime they post, other users who have agreed to be in the engagement pod will like or comment on that post, helping ensure more people see that post in their feeds.
We’d still be able to see engagement rates with comments. If a post has hundreds of comments for an influencer who only has a few thousand followers, that’s a clear indicator that the influencer has quite a lot of engaged followers. And yes, there are still bots that automate posting comments, but it’s a lot more obvious when those are fake.
Asking More from Influencers
Influencer marketing via social media is still in its infancy, so many brands aren’t sure how to vet a potential partner. Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms, but it should not be the only platform a true influencer utilizes.
When I’m vetting an influencer to work with a brand I represent, I first look to see if they have a blog and/or newsletter or presence on other social media channels. Social media posts can be cost-effective, but it’s better to look for something that can provide a long-term impact, like a blog post that links back to a brand’s website.
Many influencers also aren’t upfront about providing metrics for brands, and hiding Instagram likes would be a good way to motivate them to work to secure meaningful partnerships.
That means influencers should be providing data-driven media kits with screenshots of metrics from partnership posts, as well as providing click-through-rates for Instagram stories and tracking sales from a specific promo code designated for their followers.
Preparing for the Next Era of Influencer Marketing
Regardless of what changes Instagram decides to make, influencers need to make sure they are building their brands outside of just Instagram. This means having a blog or website, Amazon store, YouTube channel, and/or email newsletter. Or, if an influencer’s specialty is content production, they still can create Instagram-worthy photos for the brand’s marketing purposes and get paid to do so. It’s a win-win for both parties.
I will appreciate when the days of influencers asking hundreds of dollars for an Instagram story (which lasts only 24 hours!) are gone. Instead, influencers should work to facilitate a long-term partnership with brands they truly like.