Sitting here as a digital marketer and wondering how strategies will shift and collide now that Instagram has removed likes is somewhat bittersweet. On a corporate level, it presents a lot more challenges for being seen or perhaps measuring what it means to be ‘successful’. On a personal level, it’s a huge win for mental health, and the fact that social giants are event taking steps like this is a really big deal.
But sticking to the subject of digital marketing and the sphere of ad agencies and influencers, where exactly does this all leave us standing as brands? How do we know if we’re having an impact if we can’t easily note the engagement we’re reaping?
For those that have based their careers on sponsored content and paid opportunities, Instagram removing the like count may seem like a mammoth loss, but it’s not. It simply means influencers and brands alike have to shift their way of thinking to be more native; the content you’re creating suddenly carries a whole lot more value.
Luckily, there’s still a long list of ways you can still visualise your success on a platform like Instagram, now that those little love hearts have started to dwindle down.
How to get engagement on Instagram without the likes
Provide a clear call to action
Just because the number of likes isn’t so easy to see, there’s still no reason you can’t reap the benefits of a solid call to action. In fact, it’s still the most important part of your digital strategy on this platform, so spending time on coming up with an effective one should be on top of your list. That means sitting down and coming up with a few variations, and A/B split testing to see what works.
The swipe-up option on Instagram Stories still allows for a clear-cut way for users to access your desired action. If you want them to click through to a certain page, this is the number one way to do it. Add to that the ability to click-through from your bio, or see the number of comments on your posts, and there are still lots of ways to accurately measure your success here.
Hubspot demonstrates how you can use the swipe-up call to action feature.
If you’re still heading down the influencer path on this channel – and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t – you just need to think more strategically about how you measure your results. And that’s exactly where your call to action comes in. If that means tagging a friend in the comments is the desired action from your target audience, or redeem a promo code you’ve included, then all of these steps should be individually tracked.
Remember that content is STILL king
The (somewhat) old saying isn’t irrelevant: content is still king. Don’t forget it. In fact, it’s probably more important than ever on Instagram. Now that you can’t see a solid number of likes on your post, you’re going to need to think more strategically about the content you’re creating and how you’ll visualise success for that particular post.
High-quality, visually attractive content is expensive to make, but influencers can provide you with this as a cost-effective solution. You can then use all of this collateral across your other channels – including your website, email marketing and more. Compare this to the cost of hiring photographers, models, lighting equipment and makeup artists and it’s definitely a more tangible option.
Start with an online community and turn it into a real connection
Real-life connections are a growing trend when it comes to influencer marketing. Think meetup events, interviews etc. Take the interaction from behind the screen into real-life and allocate some of your resources to activating strong relationships beyond the digital realm. This is a measurement of success in itself, given word-of-mouth is more powerful than any other marketing tactic.
If you can start a conversation on your Instagram post, but turn it into a real-life connection (be it a brand, influencer or follower), you’ll be able to turn this into a passive advantage that delivers for the long-run.
Will Instagram likes come back?
It’s best to think about the removal of Instagram likes as a way to combat negativity in the online space. From mental health through to changing tides, even reps of the social giant have expressed that likes have just simply lost meaning.
Originally, the company noted that it was to ‘depressurise’ the platform and improve the experience, but it’s also a factor of improving mental wellbeing. For example, a UK study of those between the ages of 14 and 24 indicated that Instagram was the worst social media channel for their mental health, purely because of the pressure they felt to collect enough likes and comments.
Once used as a currency to drive engagement and measurement on the channel, likes are a thing of the past, so it’s best to consider it this way. Move on from it and learn from all the other ways you can still collect engagement.
Remember that part of being agile in digital marketing is being able to adapt to changes, not become stuck on them. Don’t let your brand dwell in the past – embrace the future of social media marketing for what it now is: more authentic, less shallow and dependent on quality content.
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