Why Instagram Started Hiding Likes
Last November, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri announced that the platform will be “hiding likes” on some U.S. posts. The company had already been testing this service in countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand since July. And while these likes are hidden, they are not really gone because you will still see the like count on your photos, though you will not be able to see them on other people’s posts. Mosseri told Buzzfeed News that “removing likes was about creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”
While this is still relatively new, according to a recent survey of Canadian influencers by Hashtagpaid.com, a platform that connects brands with content creators, more than half of the influencers affected by this Instagram “test” had already seen their number of likes drop on their posts.
Business Insider reported that while influencers have begun worrying, “influencer agencies that secure brand deals and marketing campaigns don’t seem to be as concerned about the effects and likes disappearing.” If anything, this is probably even helping agencies and companies weed out influencers with inauthentic followers against influencers who can authentically connect with their followers. Likes are a mere vanity metric, but should never be used as the only barometer in determining an Instagrammer’s influence.
Lisa Maynard-Atem, an independent social media strategist and former digital director of Harrods of London, thinks that “brands have begun to understand that, whilst followers and likes are great, they are ultimately just a vanity metric and don’t necessarily guarantee sales. There is also the more pressing question of brand loyalty. I see many influencers working with several brands at a time. Whilst I understand the financial reasons behind it, as a consumer, it does make me think twice about their loyalty to the brand. If you are working with one brand today and a different brand tomorrow, how much are you really invested in them? Do you actually believe in what the brand stands for or are you just collecting your paycheck? Ultimately, whilst brands have become more intelligent in the way they approach influencer marketing, I believe that influencers, for as long as they continue to be the popular marketing choice, will always have the advantage.”
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How Much Influencer Fraud Will Cost Advertisers
Influencer fraud is projected to cost advertisers $1.5 billion next year. Ethically challenged influencers today continue to take shortcuts to inflate their numbers. They continue to buy followers, likes, and engagement, and somehow these purchases from follower factories and “click farms” still manage to get past Instagram’s regulators. Many of these influencers even managed to get their accounts verified with Instagram’s much-coveted blue check.
Companies will need to invest in research and exhaustively study today’s digital marketing landscape to prevent themselves from becoming victims of influencer fraud, if they hadn’t been already. This is why it has become important, if not paramount, for them to understand and use social media analytics and tracking tools as part of their research.
Free third-party services like Social Blade can already reveal basic information about an influencer’s follower/ following growth pattern and engagement rate. Paid-service analytics companies like Hype Auditor produce more comprehensive reports and can dissect influencers’ follower demographics, audience quality score, and authenticity.
In the end, brands, advertisers, and marketing agencies should know not to rely just on follower count, likes, or even follower authenticity. They should conduct in-depth research into influencers’ personal character and integrity, as well. Companies need to understand that they should be contracting influencers whose personal values and predilection align with their brand values. After all, they are investing big marketing money on them and will continue to do so, until the next big marketing platform comes along.
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