4 Things Marketers Need to Know About Instagram’s New Changes

by Hannah Kallady
July 23, 2019

By now you will have heard about Instagram’s latest update: they’re trialing hiding the number of likes a post receives.

Why? Here’s what Mia Garlick, Facebook Director of Policy ANZ, said:

“We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves. We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.”

At this stage, the trial is only being run in a few countries.

Here’s our take on the Instagram update.

1. This is part of a growing movement to address social media’s impact on mental health

Instagram said they’re doing this to “take pressure” off their users. While some have said these changes are based on increasing ad revenue, last week Instagram also announced two (less publicised) features to combat bullying. The first is already live: an AI function that identifies negative comments and asks users if they’re “sure they want to post” the comment. The second, called “Restrict”, is coming soon and will allow users to control the comments they see on their profile.

It’s good to see Instagram taking steps to tackle these issues, but they’re only the start. We know that social media is a big contributor to poor mental health, from screen time to the comparison trap, persistent trolling or a lack of authenticity. As a society, we need to be having bigger and better conversations about how to address this, and social media platforms should be leading the charge.
We hope to see the platform do more in this direction – and hope that this rubs off on its older brother platform, Facebook.

2. Changes like these impact brands that are driven by tactics – not strategy.

Whenever one of the tech giants update their product of algorithm, there’s a collective intake of breath amongst marketers worldwide. You’ve invested a lot into these platforms, and you want to see that investment pay off.

For example, when Google releases significant updates to its search algorithm which affects page ranking, some companies win, and some companies lose.

But overall, the user wins.

More often than not, it’s the companies playing the short game that tend to be negatively affected. If your digital marketing tactics are built around “hacking the system”, you’ll be more likely to be shaken.

Being user-focused is the foundation of any successful strategy. It enables you to set a clear purpose for Instagram: how, where and why does it fit into your big picture?

If you know your user, you know what resonates and you know how to engage them, you’ll always sail through these changes.
But if you’re just looking at your tactics, you’ll find life gets harder. It’s easy to waste a lot of time on social media without a strategy, and difficult to know if all that time is translating to the bottom line.

So if you’re really worried every time one of the digital behemoths changes something, ask yourself: is this because I don’t have a user-focused strategy?

3. Likes are the king of vanity metrics – we’re not sorry to see them go.

Over time, likes have become a poor proxy for influence.

With two minutes and a credit card, you can buy 10,000 likes for any account for about $50.

Vanity metrics are measures that don’t contribute meaningfully, for example, measuring likes and impressions when you really need to know how your ads or content are contributing to the bottom line.
If this change encourages Instagram users – especially brands – to focus less on vanity metrics and more on meaningful measurement, that will be a good thing.

4. Analysing competitors or influencers won’t be straight forward, but it’ll force our analysis to become more meaningful.

Not being able to see your competitors’ likes is an inconvenience, but not a complete game-changer. Data scraping tools will continue to improve and show what posts are getting the most comments and monitor how other brands are adapting their strategies over time.

The bottom line is that comments, sentiment and the quality of reach are much better measures of impact.

If an influencer is getting a ton of likes and few comments, they’re not inspiring much in their community. What you should be looking for is resonance: if someone resonates and connects with content, they’re driven to do more than like. They’ll comment, buy, donate and even better, they’ll spread the word for you.

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