What’s up in social media? In a word, Instagram. This periodic look at the trends in social media is a special edition of sorts, as it will focus on some of the latest news coming from Instagram and what it means for marketers. Instagram stories adoption is increasing (and video is the medium of choice here), the algorithm is changing, hashtags are still important, but there are two big stories making headlines this summer: branding and likes.
A New Brand
Facebook (who owns Instagram) recently announced that it will rebrand Instagram to become Instagram by Facebook. This announcement has been met with mostly negative or indifferent feelings by the social media marketing community as AdWeek reports. I tend to agree with that. On the one hand, who cares? I don’t see how adding Facebook to the brand name improves the offering. And on the other hand, it’s funny timing for the company that’s been hit with one negative headline after another since the Cambridge Analytica scandal to draw attention to its ownership of Instagram (which most consumers are not aware of) and possibly drive customers away. Marketers will have to wait and see how this branding change plays out. It may be a non-issue in six months.
Likes are Likely on the Way Out
Instagram is currently testing removing “likes” from users posts. Right now, it’s testing the idea outside of the U.S. While I see this as helpful in combating the pressure to collect likes that can affect individuals (many of them teens), it will be a huge problem for marketers on business accounts.
Many in the industry media have focused on its impact on influencer marketing (read Ditching Instagram “Likes” will Require Brands to Become More Sophisticated at Influencer Marketing from PRWeek). And yes, I agree that influencer marketing will take a hit as influencers will have to demonstrate their value in other ways.
Even if considered low-level engagement, “likes” on social media content are an easy way (and a main way for some marketers) to gauge how well the content is being received by followers. If posts are getting a lot of likes, it signals to marketers that they are on the right track. Obviously, post comments and shares are more valuable to marketers than likes because they require more from a fan.
And that brings me to my next point. I’ve heard several people say that getting rid of likes could increase those higher level engagements because people will be forced to comment. I disagree, it’s easy to like an image as you scroll through, giving it a thumbs up of sorts. People don’t have time to comment with an emoji or a statement on every post they like so overall, I think engagement will go down.
It’s All About the Benjamins
In the end, these changes aren’t really designed to improve the platform for consumers…who willingly and eagerly connect with brands on Instagram. Now that 25 million businesses have registered their profiles on Instagram, it appears that we’ll be seeing more changes that drive organic engagement down in order to generate more advertising revenue. Marketers are familiar with this tactics as we saw the same strategy from Facebook, whose organic reach is next to nothing.
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