No ‘Likes’ in 2020: The Struggle to Demonstrate Value to Consumers

In an effort to curb mounting mental health concerns, Instagram announced this month its intention to make the number of likes a post receives on the platform only available to the user. As expected, this announcement was received with mixed reviews from influencers and celebrities alike. This move will have significant implications for brands and influencers online, especially as they move to demonstrate value, authority and engagement for followers.

Influencer is someone whose authority and public perception can drive brand awareness and engagement, and increase product purchase intent. With the removal of likes on Instagram, how influencers will demonstrate their value to brands and consumers is in question.

As brands seek influencer partners, many are counseled to weigh engagement and engagement rates with the same emphasis as the influencer’s total number of followers—these metrics help underscore the actual impact the content has on fans. If an influencer has many followers, but low engagement, brands can assume that this influencer has fatigued their audience, or has an audience composed of bots or disinterested individuals. By limiting the number of public-facing metrics, influencers will have to be comfortable sharing back-end metrics to demonstrate content success. Further, many influencers may opt to pivot their channel strategy away from Instagram where possible.

With the removal of likes from Instagram, brands must be more deliberate in the messages and content they create and disseminate to consumers. Gone (in 2020) will be the days of getting by on just visceral messaging to elicit reaction and engagement. Messaging and content cannot be just “likeable.” Instead, brands must create messaging that aligns with consumers’ interest, all while articulating a definitive position that allows for meaningful dialogue to take place. The latter speaks to the burgeoning trend of increased advocacy from both consumers and influencers alike; voicing a distinct position has slowly become the new form of social currency.

Being deliberate in content and messaging creation also applies to measurement approach for brands as they develop campaigns. An influencer’s resonance—the propensity to which their content is engaged with—will command a higher emphasis when determining message penetration and who brands choose to work with in 2020. In addition, the model of consumer engagement will rely on different tactics. The reposting of an influencer’s content also needs to be a factor brands take into consideration as this signifies a much more deliberate action from the consumer—signaling a high level of alignment and resonance with an influencer’s content.

For both brands and influencers, emerging accounts will feel this shift most acutely. Likes often have a snowballing effect and serve as an external and public endorsement of an idea, image or thought. If your friend likes a certain post from an unknown account, it stands to reason that you would feel more comfortable engaging with that post. Without this connection, it will be difficult to generate follower momentum.