Instagram has begun hiding likes.
Well, from the public. You, as a user, will still be able to see your own likes once this reaches all accounts, but your followers (and their followers and their friends), won’t be able to see your likes. And if you look at your feed publicly, you won’t see likes, either.
As a journalist, you may be wondering why you should care.
For starters, consider the one billion (with a B) monthly active account holders on Instagram and the over 500 million daily users. That’s a lot of content consumers. As journalists it’s important to know your social audience — even if you’re not on the digital team. Instagram is the second most engaged social media platform (after Facebook) and it is the place where 70% of all users of the platform go to look up information. It’s also a space for direct engagement with your audience, allowing you to truly converse instead of simply broadcast.
So what is the likely impact of Instagram’s decision to hide likes?
Influencers won’t reign supreme
Most news organizations — especially small, local or niche ones — have a hard time standing out in the crowded newsfeed of Instagram. With likes out of the equation, hashtags, good content and quality engagement (saves and shares) can begin to truly make a difference. For journalists, this is easy because the content you’re sharing is always high quality and having the ability to have high quality content promoted (vs. viral content) means your content will get to the audience you desire faster and more consistently.
Less emphasis on approval
As far back as 2016, opinion columns and magazine editorial boards were questioning the effects of social media –specifically Instagram — on self-esteem. Without likes to monitor, there should be less focus on how well something is being received, reducing self-esteem and mental health complications.
Misinformation won’t go viral
OK, I can’t guarantee this, but misinformation/disinformation/false information won’t have as much potential to “go viral” because the driving factor of likes will be out of the equation. Sure, bad actors can still boost Instagram posts to a specific audience. But now that Instagram has eliminated the likes bots and the ability to buy fake likes, there’s more of a chance for authentic engagement. That means real people asking real questions and helping you grow your community online the same way we’ve been building community in our industry for decades — with figures, follow-ups and quality fact-checks.
There are downsides, of course:
It will be harder to prove ROI
Numbers rule the game these days and likes have acquired value. Teams (on both sides of the edit/business table) will have to understand a different set of metrics. Start by including shares and saves in your reporting and in your own media kits to help elevate those as measures of success.
It won’t “feel good” to post
Harvard’s article Smartphones + Your Brain and Business Insider’s What Happens When You Get A Like on Instagram stress the positive feelings generated by likes. I shared some thoughts on this with Salon.com and it’s important to consider your mental health and your physical/mental response when you post. When you post, you feel good. Or bad. Or nothing. This is what people often forget about when they lash out at a brand — there’s a human being feeling the brunt of their abuse — and that’s something that you need to think about as you assign people to manage your brand accounts. It won’t always feel as good to post — because of the lack of traditional metrics — and it will be harder for your team to count their wins, which is something to consider especially for the junior members of your team. There is nothing wrong with feeling like this — so be kind to yourself and your team.
Making the Most of the Change
Create better content
While content is — and will continue to be — king, communication is queen. Try using Instagram stories to poll your audience and answer questions in an article on your site. Use later.com to create a Linkin.bio page that offers a post for each individual photo. Plan content that generates conversation. While not every single post will generate hundreds of comments, the overall focus should still be on engagement. Consider the life cycle of your content beyond Instagram.
There’s only so much time in the day and social media teams are always on. This is a huge problem, time-wise. Engagement means responding to comments, liking photos, sharing and saving photos, responding to stories, responding to your own DMs. It’s a lot of work.
One possible solution: Swing shifts for social.
Social Media management requires a response grid and “office hours” (that is, the time when you’re online and time when responses will be delayed because, you know, you need sleep.). Train your audience to expect responses and work to avoid burnout among team members. The more you do this, the more successful your brand engagement will be. Video is a huge focus for 2020 and beyond — on ALL platforms and Instagram is, based on my personal research and the articles I read on a daily basis, prioritizing this type of content now and in the future. Make sure that you are using video as much as possible.
If you need some help? Slide into my DMs! @vixreitano.