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What digital success looks like without all those Instagram likes

Ali Grant, the founder of digital communications agency Be Social, says we need to redefine how influencer marketing measures success.

What digital success looks like without all those Instagram likes
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The announcement of Instagram removing visible likes was twofold. The general public responded positively as it is an opportunity for improved mental health, removing the validation complex that can come from “getting enough likes.” On the other hand, many brands, agencies, and influencers voiced concern.

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In 2018, influencer marketing was a $4.6 billion industry, and it’s predicted to reach more than $6.5 billion by the end of 2019, according to an industry benchmark report. More brands are allocating budgets toward influencer spend, and influencers are continuing to prove to be a fruitful investment turning direct sales and growing brand awareness. Removing likes can be viewed as a threat to this growing industry. How will companies know where to put their budget?

It may seem an unlikely response from the founder of a digital communications agency to say I’m in support of removing visible likes, but I am, mostly because I think it will inevitably bring a new level of authenticity to the platform that has been missing. Without the pressure of obtaining enough likes, I hope it means consumers, brands, and influencers will start posting what they want versus what they think people want to see.

The removal of visible likes is by no means a threat to the influencer marketing world, but rather an opportunity to shift how we see success in the digital age.

Deliver a clear call to action

While brands may no longer be able to see the number of likes, there is still access to the number of swipe-ups on Instagram Stories, click-throughs from the link in your bio, new followers to a page, and the number of comments. Likes are by no means the only measurable KPI (key performance indicator). To better track an influencer’s engagement and results, brands will need to ensure a clear call to action, whether it’s tagging a friend in the comments, offering a promo code for purchase, or some other form that drives engagement and trackable results.

Content is still king

Creating high-quality, beautiful content for a brand is expensive. Influencers are a solution to this high-price-tag expense. This imagery can be used for a brand’s website, newsletter, ads, social channels, and beyond in what otherwise would incur a costly fee for hiring photographers, models, makeup artists, lighting, studio rentals, etc. Paying an influencer to create the content for you is a win-win.

Take online communities to IRL connections

Bringing these online communities to in-real-life (IRL) connections is a growing trend in influencer marketing. We’ve had brands partner with digital talent for meetups and events, drawing hundreds to thousands of people out from behind their computers and phones to actual in-person interactions. Influencers and brands should consider allocating some of that marketing spend to experiential activations to strengthen the consumer relationship.

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As a personal user of Instagram and a business owner, I welcome the removal of visible likes. Not only is it a step toward lessening the personal pressure many feel; it’s also an opportunity for influencer marketing to continue evolving and open the door for more authentic, in-real-time content.

Ali Grant is the founder of Be Social Group.

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