Walkie Talkie

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As you have probably heard, Instagram is likely to remove public likes after a positive test was run in several countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland and Japan among others) over the summer. There’s been further talk and speculation that Instagram will be rolling this out globally over the next weeks or months. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri confirmed that “It’s about young people, the idea is to try to ‘depressurise’ Instagram, make it less of a competition and give them more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them.

 As this roll-out draws closer, we thought it might be good to list our views on how removing the likes count will affect our industry in a positive way.


First off, at Walkie Talkie we welcome this change as we believe over the years many brands have been chasing likes rather than the production of meaningful and engaging content.

We understand the industry’s focus on this tangible metric as it often is harder to evaluate influencers’ impact based on clicks, view rates or swipe-up engagements with stories for instance. But with change comes the opportunity to adapt and re-examine your influencer marketing strategy towards driving business value, embracing more meaningful metrics.

Here is a quick rundown on how we believe Instagram marketing will further be affected in 2020:

Not just double taps: meaningful performance metrics

We should see this evolution as an opportunity to look past vanity metrics such as likes and focus on amplifying (influencer) content. This will also aid us in getting a clearer view on actual ROI and conversions. 

Obsessing over likes, a vain metric really, means we lose all sense of a post’s real engagement rate as research has shown that people often like content just because others do, without purchase intention. This way a campaign’s performance can become misleading, as likes often make up the majority of engagement numbers. This means we are likely to see an engagement rate decrease with the removal of like counts. As a more honest criterium for engagement rate we’ll need to further analyse exactly what people are commenting, doing a sentiment analysis to understand positive or negative reactions and how a brand or collaboration is being perceived among the influencer’s audience. So it simply is going to be about refocusing the attention to where it should be: away from empty likes and on consumer engagement.

The value of micro-influencers

The search for better metrics and insights will drive us further towards collaborating with passionate micro-influencers rather than celebrities. Celebrities tend to get lots of likes, but often lack a personal connection with their audience or even the brand they are collaborating with. Although they may generate thousands of likes, the end result often is a low return on investment as a high fee outweighs results. 

Our belief is that, as micro-influencers are people with an engaged and loyal following, a brand will be able to really connect with the viewers, yielding better results rather than just some likes on posts. Working with several influencers who reach different audiences, will therefore be more effective than doing a one-size-fits-all campaign with a few people who happen to have a massive (and often inauthentic or foreign) follower count. At the end of the day the best influencers tend to come from within their own audience’s demographics, these are able to take a brief and interpret it authentically. So they are, rarely, those with the most likes.

Fostering meaningful collaborations

Brands will need to get smarter about the way in which they approach influencer marketing, diversifying their strategy.  As creators will be empowered to create content that is more aligned with their interests, rather than solely pursuing likes. We therefore believe Instagram will become more a cross of micro-blogging and photography with room to focus on quality content that engages with followers, not just content that chases numbers. Taking into account the platform remains a very efficient channel, both in terms of reach/engagement and to support a brands message visually, we will continue to focus on attention metrics and analysing how users engage with shared content.

Research: identifying influential content producers

One challenge for marketers will remain: how to identify and choose the right influencers to collaborate with? Especially those with smaller followings. As an agency we believe it is important to develop a decent process for identifying the right people, focusing on those who actually build relationships with their audience through great content and who can actually get followers to eventually convert.

Using our network, database, the right tooling, metrics and experience this process can be simplified. We always advise our clients to take a deeper dive into proposed profiles, analysing their content, personality, audience demographics, authenticity and engagement. Being relevant and on target has a massive impact on the potential return, so a good match starts with measuring. We will therefore always consider a collaboration based on the following elements: (actual) reach, impressions, examples/results of previous campaign, authenticity and engagement rates.

Manual reporting is going to get harder

Throwing together reports in spreadsheets or relying on influencers to self-report on their results is going to belong to the past. With the increased need for performance metrics, accessing Instagram’s data is going to be essential. Because of this we had already, as one of the first agencies, implemented the right tools. If you are not able to access Instagram’s API, your manual reporting is going to get a lot harder once metrics are removed from public profiles.


At the same time, we are a bit sceptical to Instagram’s motivations as they also rolled out features that enable influencers and brands to directly link to products pictured in posts. This kind of links are more valuable than the number of likes a sponsored post gets as you can then track whether or not an influencer is really making a sale/return. 

Together with this year’s major shift towards stories we saw a decrease in feed-based posts which most likely means there’s less ad revenues for Facebook at the end of the day. By hiding like counts, people are likely to start posting more pictures again because they aren’t worried about performance. 

So Instagram (Facebook really) might state they are changing for mental health reasons, but as long as they do not get rid of public follower numbers or the backend stats they really aren’t changing anything and only looking for a way to “own” influence further and make more money as we shift to more click-through commerce on the platform.


But we really are excited for Instagram to take away like counts as this might push the industry forward in a really positive way. For us it is always about creating content that can capture attention in busy feeds as followers will still connect with posts that resonate with them. We already see this on the level of engagement for Instagram stories where viewer stats are also not public. 

With time Instagram (and other social platforms also) will continue to evolve, keeping us on our toes and forcing us to think differently and more strategically. Even without likes, the platform remains a very interesting channel for dedicated branded content as we can continue to collaborate with the best creators while accessing their unique audiences while their data remains available through the Instagram API. 

Either way, we are due for a change in 2020, our team is prepared and knows how to adapt when necessary. If you are unsure how Instagram’s changes might affect your marketing (campaigns)? Or you want to make sure you are implementing the right strategy? Get in touch with our team.