Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard that Instagram has started rolling out the removal of like counts on posts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Brazil. And while it is only a ‘test’ at this stage, the internet seems to be divided on what impact this will really have on social media users and the Influencer Marketing industry.
The change will see posts marked as a ‘username and others like this post’ as opposed to the previous ‘username and 637 others like this post’ when viewing your own content. When viewing others content, references to likes are removed altogether.
Instagram has been cited to say that this initiative is aimed at removing the pressure to gain likes as a form of social validation and that competitiveness amongst social media users has lead to mental health issues. Instagram also cited the rise of the ‘fake engagement industry’, where people fake the number of likes and comments they receive by purchasing them and participating in engagement pods as a driver for the test. Time will tell whether the removal of like counts will have a meaningful impact on mental health issues. Consideration must still be given as to whether there is a broader issue around screen time and posting life’s highlight reels to our feeds.
With respect to Influencer Marketing, the change has highlighted the need to leverage technology platforms to ensure that brands are working with credible influencers. For any brand or agency running Influencer programs in-house that rely on the manual collection of data (like scrolling through Instagram and updating a spreadsheet!), it will be harder to assess how engaged an Influencer’s audience actually is with their content and the potential for fake followers and engagements. To manually collect this data, the brand will have to reach out to the influencers for screenshots - adding both time, complexity and the potential for photoshopped images. Fortunately technology platforms like Scrunch, still have access to this data as well as essential audience insights removing the need for manual work by marketers and improving the accuracy of essential success metrics - leading to better ROI for brands.
While branded content is a huge value in Influencer Marketing, putting data at the core of the strategy is essential for long-term business success. Additionally, marketers know that real Influence is more than just a sponsored post on Instagram.
From an Influencer point of view, the removal of this data won’t make an impact in their day-to-day operations as they continue to create high-quality content, foster strong relationships with their communities and provide that value to the brands they partner with.
We ask the experts
Scrunch spoke to three industry heavyweights for their take on the change from the point of view of the Influencer, the talent agency, the business owner and the technology platform:
“At the end of the day social networks have the power to change the rules of the game any time they like. We have chosen to play in their world, so we must adjust to change to ensure it doesn’t affect our business or the businesses we serve. This change will affect all brands who run Influencer Marketing in house and highlights the need for robust analytics tools that can provide them the data they need to ensure they are working with credible influencers to achieve their marketing goals. PLUS, many of the clients we work with have diversified and integrated strategies that don’t solely rely on Instagram. Our hope is that this change has a positive impact on the mental health of society and their need for ‘like validation’ as well as disrupting the ‘fake engagement’ industry where individuals feel the need to pay for fake likes and comments.”
“As an influencer and business owner I see it from both sides. At first thought, it’s a smart move from Instagram. We live in a virtual world, where the “double tap” aka like button determines your success and popularity. This is causing mental health issues, increase in anxiety and constant desire to seek validity from people we perhaps don’t even know! From a business perspective, likes certainly don’t measure success and in most cases doesn’t necessarily turn in to a sale or make you $$. However, if business owners are investing into influencer marketing how can they determine those who have genuine followers VS fake / bought followers? Sure likes can also be bought, but it’s easier to decipher when there’s differentiation between trending posts. I guess time will tell, but for now.. I’m all for change! My advice? The safest bet is to go through a reputable agency or ask for influencers insights prior to committing to a collaboration. Do you homework or it may be a costly exercise!”
"This change from Instagram once again puts the importance on brands requesting audience insights and stats before engaging influencers for paid collaborations. All professional and legitimate influencers, such as our Day Mgmt talent, are more than happy to share this data! I don't predict this shift changing the popularity or effectiveness of influencer marketing, and could in fact weed out any inauthenticity and copy-cat posts simply fishing for likes."
It is clear that the resounding message from the Influencer Marketing industry is that, if anything, the need to pay closer attention to the data is more important than ever.
Want the real inside scoop on your influencers? Check out the data below available on the Scrunch platform or sign up to check it out for yourself.