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Instagram’s Vanishing ‘Likes’: The Joke’s On Marketers

Six Stages Of Coping With Instagram’s Disappearing Likes

As a marketer (and citizen of Earth) I presume you will have heard by now about the removal of ‘Likes’ on Instagram posts.

The feature rolled out in Australia yesterday, along with several other markets.

It’s a fascinating move from Instagram for a variety of reasons. We covered this back in April when we picked up the design leak and again in May when the first trial was officially announced in Canada. I’ll leave you to explore background via these.

Since ‘Grammers woke up to find their ‘Likes’ vanished, reactions have poured in left, right and centre, including:

  1. Denial – ‘it doesn’t matter, organic social is ‘dead’ anyway.’
  2. Humour –I’ll leave this one to the magnificent Betoota Advocate: ‘Influencer Visits Career Counsellor After New Instagram Changes Threaten Her Entire Existence.’
  3. Worry – ‘does this mean our current influencer campaign will flop.’
  4. Confusion – ‘will the Instagram algorithm still rank engagement, but users won’t see it?’
  5. Gratitude – ‘hopefully this can help offset the damage Insta does to mental health.’
  6. Ambivalence – ‘so what, why would that matter anyway.’

To say it’s been a mixed bag is not an understatement, and, depending on your perspective are all perhaps valid.

‘Let’s All Laugh At Influencers’

Much of the schadenfreude related to this trial has centred on the Insta-famous.

For example, take a look at some of the influencer comments on some of SMK’s latest Facebook posts here, here, here and here.

I could go on.

Despite what agencies, ‘talent managers’ and influencer platforms would like us to believe, the perception of influencers amongst marketers is quite negative.

Marketers are highly concerned about fraud, effectiveness and risk.

However, the current influencer narrative around this trial is misleading, since the real joke is on marketers ourselves.

Less Social Proof = Less Marketing Performance

Looking beyond the emotive responses to this latest update, the business impact is indeed very real. Moreover, in its current format, negative.

Let’s start with paid campaigns since they’re a lot less subjective than organic.

Typically, with paid social campaigns, if it is well developed, performance normally improves as social proof builds.

Look at this ad, which is running across Facebook and Instagram currently. This has been live since Monday, to the same audience, with consistent budget.

However, the click-through-rate (CTR) is higher, and cost per action (CPA) is lower, today than it was at the start of the week. This is the opposite of what often happens with ads.

Usually, especially with content aimed at a small audience, fatigue sets in after a few days, and performance drops and costs rise.

Over the course of this week, the social proof has built on this post, and that has contributed to stabilising costs and elongating the creative lifecycle.

The benefit of social proof on marketing performance is easy to see (and to A/B test yourself).

Given that this is a piece of content marketing, targeting feed placements on Facebook and Instagram, it’s not a stretch to use as a proxy for organic posts.

Bad News For Bad Influencers

Influencer marketing is rife with problems and scam artists.

However, there are also many excellent influencers, creating huge wealth legitimately and helping marketers drive fabulous results.

The kosher influencers will probably cry into their kombucha, but then dust themselves down, and iterate on their content.

Coming up with new ways to successfully execute, since they clearly know their audiences (assuming they’re not fake and purchased).

This latest update is likely to separate the influencer ‘wheat from the chaff’. With goodies going onto even bigger things and the rest, well…

As a result, there’s a good chance the removal of social proof from brand posts will hurt more than decent influencer posts.

Bad For Brands, Not So Much ‘Good’ Influencers

Iteration of content marketing doesn’t come quite as easily for brands, businesses and organisations.

Most lack agility, due to out-dated brand guidelines, a reluctance to experiment and wider organisational bottlenecks.

Also, the commercial intent on Instagram is weaker than Facebook. Meaning users don’t really want to hear from brands in the first place.

Sure, Instagram brand engagement used to be higher, it’s dropped lately, but much of this is to do with Instagram being less cluttered, more than anything else, relative to Facebook.

For example, the average click-through-rate on Instagram ads is around 0.55%, whereas, on Facebook, it is around 1.33%.

It is worth noting, however, that this Instagram trial is not operating in isolation.

In 2019 Instagram has rolled out a substantial number of updates impacting every aspect of the service.

Ergo, while Instagram takes away with one hand, probably leading to an immediate drop in Instagram marketing performance, it will likely give back with another. Especially related to eCommerce.

Remember, on social platforms opportunity simply moves around. It seldom dies.

 

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