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6 minute read

Yes, it looks like Instagram has pulled a veil over the number of likes your content gets — at least for followers.

Earlier this year, the social media company rolled out the beta feature in Australia, among a select number of other countries, and, surely, it will be pushed out to the rest of the platform soon enough.

But despite influencers’ tears, Instagram removing “Likes” from the front end of the app isn’t all bad. In fact, it could have a very limited impact on the digital marketing industry and savvy real estate agents who rely on the platform.

“We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram, and spend a bit more time connecting with the people they care about,” said Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, during the Facebook F8 developer conference this year.

“We don’t want Instagram to feel like a competition; we want to make it a less pressurised environment”.

The new design for the platform is part of Instagram’s wellbeing package. The goal is to make Instagram less toxic — which is a hard thing to argue against given the amount of social pressure and online bullying that can occur on it.

Influencers Freakout Unwarranted

So many users have become reliant on the metric of how many likes a post has gotten to the point that many take down posts that don’t get enough traction. Seriously!

As a result, it should be no surprise that some influencers panicked when the number of likes disappeared from below their posts.

Already, some of these influencers are claiming that Instagram removing likes has decimated their engagement and is ruining their abilities to make a livelihood.

“As you scroll through your feed, there are no like counts,” explained Mark Zuckerberg at F8. “You can see who liked a photo or video, you can tap through to see [the list], and if you have the time, you can add them all up yourself”.

Thankfully, this change doesn’t mean Instagram has actually gotten rid of likes.

All Instagram has done is they’ve hidden your likes from your followers, in the hope that people will be more focused on engaging with the actual content posted.

But, even though your followers aren’t able to see how many likes any given photo or video has gotten, you still can. Just like always, you can take a look at your own metrics for the total number of likes or views for a specific post. The only difference now is that you will have to tap through the post to find those digits.

It’s also important to note that there are no announced plans to hide follower counts (yet!) which would potentially have determinantal impacts on influencers and the brands that rely on those numbers for establishing audience reach.

Algorithm Remains Accurate

There are currently no signs that Instagram removing likes is impacting how Instagram’s algorithm works. The only way it will make a difference is if people start liking posts less because they can’t see the number of other people who liked the post.

Which is a totally possible phenomenon in light of removing this social proof.

The Instagram algorithm is still designed to present users with videos and images that it believes a specific user will like most.

“The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post,” Instagram explained back in 2016 when switching from a chronological feed to one driven by their algorithm. “We’re focusing on optimizing the order —  all the posts will still be there, just in a different order”.

At this point, it still looks like Instagram’s top three ranking signals remain the same (even if followers can’t see the number of likes a post has): relationship, interest, and timeliness.

The relationship signal tells the algorithm to prioritise content from accounts that users interact with a lot. This means that if a follower frequently comments, likes, or sends DMs to your account, you’ll be recognised as “close”, and they will see more of your content than followers who never interact with your posts.

According to Instagram, this is designed so users see about 90 per cent of posts from their “friends and family”.

The algorithm also curates content based on a user’s past behaviour. So, if a user seems to really interact and like drone videos of mansions, then Instagram will keep serving up that kind of content.

Last of the big three is timeliness. The algorithm is designed so that it shows newer posts to users first. This makes it vital to be aware of when your target market is most active on Instagram.

For real estate agents who use Instagram as part of their digital marketing strategy, not much should change — at least not yet. As long as you’re creating content in line with what Instagram’s algorithm is most likely to recommend to followers, you’re on the right track.

Canadian Glitch on Likes

It should be noted that, for a moment, it looked like Instagram had reinstated the visibility of likes in Canada in July. However, that turned out to be a technical glitch.

“Post likes were temporarily restored for a small number of people,” explained David Troya-Alvarez, of the company’s corporate communications arm.

“We’ve now resolved this technical error. We hope that by making the number of likes private, people will be able to focus more on the photos and videos posted in Feed and that this will ultimately drive deeper engagement. We’re excited by the early results from the pilot here in Canada, but there’s still a lot we want to learn”.

So, it was really just a glitch; Instagram removing “Likes” is something users will just have to get used to and marketers will have to adapt to.

Final Thoughts

If anything is for certain, it’s that this change by Instagram is yet another example of why you should NOT build your digital marketing house on rented land. You should bank on every social media platform changing its platform at some point, and they will continue to change. Or worse, it may cease to exist. These changes could impact your ability to market your services in a big way if you have relied heavily on that platform to build followers rather than building your digital presence and audience on your owned channels i.e. website, email list, CRM.

Though Instagram’s algorithm remains the same at this point, it’s something that marketers will need to keep a close eye on. If there is a noticeable difference in interactions due to Instagram removing likes, then algorithm tweaking may be necessary to ensure that the platform is still curating content in the best possible way.

No matter what, with Instagram’s 500+ million daily active users — about 9 million of which are from Australia — the platform will continue to be an important way to reach buyers and develop markets.

At this point, we can only hope that this change will have a positive impact on the Instagram culture, decrease bullying, and still highlight quality content — delivering it to followers who are genuinely interested and engaged. Of course, it’s still too early to understand the long-term impacts of this change.

Some have argued that this change has nothing to do with mental health, but all to do with getting small businesses to spend money on ads. Based on Facebook’s track record (Instagram’s parent company) of revenue generation through advertising, they could very well be right.

Only time will tell.

Need more help with understanding how to maximise your efforts on Instagram and other social media sites? Talk to our digital marketing advisors today.

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