Dear DD, what is Insta doing to the likes? What can happen?!

Doctor Digital

Doctor Digital Says:

The sky fell in recently on Instagram when the platform designed (from a business perspective) to connect businesses, their products, services and influencers with customers made a radical decision to remove the ‘like’ button in the quest to improve the mental health of users.

Much controversy ensued, but what impact will this really have on your business? Spoiler alert: um, none, unless you are an influencer. The capacity to see likes are a vanity measure, a visual cue that your post (and naturally what is in it) has met the needs of your Instagram audience. For businesses, it was a component used to measure impact and if advertising dollars were involved, your return on investment. And for businesses and advertising, the likes are still available. You also have full access to the back end analytics to your account with the same detailed breakdown of users and engagement to help you measure how your spend is working for you.

From a business perspective, this is just Instagram doing what its parent company has been doing to businesses for evs, changing the goal posts, moving the ballpark and generally keeping users on their toes by living by the maxim that the only constant is change. This time, the change is being spruiked from a mental health perspective – remove the likes and the comparison and self-hatred of those who don’t feel they have enough will dissipate. In reality, likes are a small symptom of how social media impacts individuals, and are not in and of themselves the answer.

It could be argued that likes have always been a trojan horse for impact, and that it is easy to manufacture likes, but to not make any significant change to consumer behaviour when it comes to your brand. Many cynics in the industry believe that the removal of likes is a play to get more small businesses investing in paid advertising rather than using influencers to do their third party endorsements and game the system.

From a business perspective, as mentioned, your metrics are still available and the ultimate impact measurement is less about likes, and more about conversion to sales, signups or downloads. If anything, this move pushes businesses to make quality content that is genuinely engaging and speaks to their customers – who can now feel good that they aren’t being hoodwinked with purchased likes. For most people, the removal of likes is a storm in a me-cup and at worst will do nothing to help those who are a little to obsessed with their Instagram life and at best will bring the pressure down for individuals.

For business, it’s business as usual, with the classic Digital Ready caveats that Instagram is a tool in your social marketing and storytelling toolbox and no business should be solely reliant on marketing their businesses through a platform over which they have no control. Use this as a gentle prompt to look at your mix of channels, and which ones are performing, which ones are converting, and make sure you are managing your risk and rewards.