Changes to Instagram – ‘What’s not to Like?’

Changes to Instagram – ‘What’s not to Like?’

How we’re responding to the removal of ‘Likes’ on Instagram

Selin Varol Research Manager Social Insights By Selin Varol,
Social Insights Researcher

It’s hard to remember life BI (Before Instagram), but it’s only been part of our lives since 2010. Like all new technologies, it has evolved continuously, from the removal of the restrictive square photos to the addition of Stories. And then there was the now infamous logo change. Through it all, users adapted, and Instagram’s user share grew, reaching the milestone of one billion monthly users back in June 2018.

In May this year Instagram announced a further change – and one that will impact professional users. They plan to remove the ‘Likes’ score from the main page. A beta test has been rolled out. Starting in Canada, the test hid the total number of Likes on photos and video views in feed. In July, Instagram expanded the test to six more countries – Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.

A Comment surpasses a Like

This change means there will be greater focus on comments, and as social media consultants, this has a significant impact on our research approach. Of course, return on investment and engagement rates are an integral part of our analyses to ensure our clients achieve social media marketing optimization and digital loyalty. We wholeheartedly support the move, as by focusing on Comments we can educate clients on how to use the platform to deepen brand engagement to realize that all-important ROI.

We are fully aware that many brands are using engagement statistics to evaluate their Instagram activities. Measurement of total number of Likes on Instagram posts allows brands to understand consumers’ interests and gauge engagement levels with their marketing activities. This in turn helps brands evaluate how their marketing is perceived. They can more easily identify which posts generate the most engagement and use this to determine when and what to post. They can also evaluate a campaign’s progress.

Of course, the total numbers of Likes will still be visible to account owners, but to the public, comments will become more interesting. Understanding user comments will allow brands to strengthen and build a loyal digital community. This is where the excitement lies for a social insights researcher like me. We go beyond the ‘Likes’ to analyze the more engaging and authentic content in the comments section. But we need to remember that at present, comments are more difficult to attain. For users, scrolling past content fast means that grabbing their attention for a Like is the ‘minimum effort maximum output’ metric showing online ‘success’ on Instagram.

We want to help brands encourage users to spend more time on their profile to leave those crucial comments. To do that, brands need to find the sweet spot where users interests align with a brand’s DNA. As brands get better at this, more users will leave comments, giving us plenty of rich brand-related consumer insight to delve into.

User generated content is the most valuable metric for brands

In our social insight analysis, user generated content (or comments) is our most valuable metric and with Instagram’s removal of ‘Likes’, it will gain in importance. Our Social Insights team slices and dices that online commentary into meaningful insights using AI-supported human analysis to interpret what consumers are saying about brands. The AI coding system helps us understand the target audience’s thoughts and the potential sales opportunities. The powerful combination of cutting-edge technology and human analysis means our analysis can claim 95% accuracy.

Through our expertise and technology, we know how we can get our client’s target audiences to spend more time on Instagram and leave comments. We can identify who is interacting with the relevant Instagram content, how many people are conversing, and what they are saying. Ultimately this allows for a more thorough understanding of marketing campaigns, trends, and influencer marketing. Let’s look at a case study to see how it works. Using Aerie’s own brand page and collaborating influencers post performance of the ‘#AerieReal’ campaign we can see what fans are saying. We can assess their comments on Instagram and evaluate if the brand message promoting body positivity is well received. We can analyze the conversations to see if topics related to inclusivity and body positivity are discussed. We can quantify qualitative insights triggered by the Instagram content.

Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

Telling brand stories

To maximize social media, brands need to understand that the more engaging and authentic content, the more people will participate in the comments section. Users need to dedicate time to leave comments, so brands can’t expect this to happen overnight, and will benefit from social media expertise in making that happen. We recommend that brands continue engaging with influencers but drive talk on brand by using questions too. Put the product front and center, and provide brand DNA specific content. Think creatively. Invest in paid partnerships through Instagram and tie-in with giveaways to create bursts of activity. We’ve seen that short bursts of buzz are important to keep interest high, but it’s also key to have a content calendar and look ahead. Don’t miss out on big events happening in your target markets and amongst your key audiences.

Understand your Instagram audience before it’s too late

The shift away from Likes to Comments won’t be easy for many brands when this change is no longer a test but is real. Partnering with a consumer insights agency specializing in social media will make the road less bumpy. Let us help you understand your Instagram community before Likes vanish completely so you can optimize your strategy and perfect your tactics.

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