Will Instagram's Ban on Likes Be Good for Business? - John Bohan
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Will Instagram’s Ban on Likes Be Good for Business?

Instagram is running tests to remove the public viewing of Likes in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. While these are just tests, the speculation is that Instagram and possibly Facebook will remove “Likes” all together as a public metric. In these tests, the owner of the accounts can still see the “Like” counts, but questions about the marketing implications still remain among brands, influencers, and agencies. So let's clear these waters.

Why is Instagram doing this?

For three reasons -

1. Public Health. Facebook Australia and New Zealand director of policy Mia Garlick 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.” As reported in TimeBBC, and Forbes, this move is a shift towards quality content over the popularity of the publisher. This is an affirmation that content is still king. With this move, the platform aims to reduce the public pressure of "Likes" and support a more egalitarian creative space where the coolest content wins.

2. Video. Facebook & Instagram have been moving more and more toward short-form video for some time. Videos get a fraction of the “Likes” of Images. Without the pressure on “Like” numbers, more video will be created by consumers, content creators, and brands.

3. Stories. Facebook and Instagram are also moving more toward Stories that do not have “Likes”, just view counts and comments. Again, dropping Newsfeed “Likes” will act as a catalyst for Stories.

What does this mean for brands?

The writing has been on the wall for years. Keen brands have been moving more toward video and stories in various forms for some time, but now it's more important than ever to capture consumer attention. We're seeing the best results when marketers create at least 4 ad placements per campaign, customized for Newsfeed and Stories across both networks.

What do brands lose?

Not much. The account owner will still be able to see the “Like” metrics for now providing a good indicator of the relevancy of image creative. However, it's critical that agencies and brands work cooperatively to redefine KPIs, moving away from rudimentary success metrics such as "Likes."

How does this affect Influencer Marketing?

Despite the headlines, we don’t see how it affects influencers differently. With viewability by account owner, they can still report the “Like” numbers. Fraud is still an issue but only for those brands that don’t use the technology to detect it–as such, they are in the same position as before.

In sum, we are a big fan of the test and the potential move to drop publicly viewed “Likes” on posts. There is clearly a mental health epidemic that needs to be addressed and we applaud FB/Insta for potentially making this move across the social networks. We feel that “Likes” on image posts are a good metric to measure creative relevance but are not necessarily a strong metric to drive intent. Thumb-stopping, relevant content placed in front of the right audience at the right time has always been the best way to sway users and this move helps brands, agencies, and content creators to move in the right direction.