How will Instagram’s ‘likes’ trial affect travel marketers?

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Instagram has hidden the number of likes from posts in a bid to return to content over competitiveness.

Yesterday, Travel Weekly’s sister publication, B&T, reported that the Facebook-owned social media platform has removed the number of likes from posts by users.

The move, announced Wednesday, comes as part of a broader international trial in seven countries: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Ireland, and Brazil.

The change means users will still be able to see the number of likes on their own posts, but will not be able to see how many likes other posts have received.

Instagram said the feature will not affect businesses or creators on Instagram, and will not affect measurement tools like Insights or Ad Manager.

“We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves,” Facebook’s director of policy for Australia and New Zealand, Mia Garlick, said.

“We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.”

For personal accounts, the change might not be a big deal – it may even be a positive – but how will the change affect travel businesses and influencers using Instagram as a marketing tool?

To answer that, Travel Weekly spoke with Jade Broadus, vice president and creative director of Travel Mindset, a US-based international influencer marketing agency, about the change.

For big businesses and agencies taking advantage of third-party analytics tools, Broadus believes the change won’t affect them at all. But for small businesses, it could mean a bit more legwork.

“They are going to need to be more proactive in their influencer relations and management,” Broadus told Travel Weekly, adding small businesses would need to reach out to creators for behind-the-scenes analytics, media kits and case studies from previous campaigns, as a result of the change.

“Without likes showing in feeds, marketing directors will need to set more concrete goals and update … KPIs and strategy, which I believe will lead to more meaningful ways to measure success and ultimately have better ROI for our clients.

“While likes as engagement can be one way to measure the success of a post, it’s not as powerful as a comment, save or share.”

Broadus, who welcomes the change, echoed Instagram’s belief that the change would help users return to focusing on content instead of engagement and competitiveness.

“While third-party information is fantastic for quick reporting or finding very niche influencers, it is often relied on too much – where a marketing professional would never have to have an actual conversation with influencers, making it purely transactional instead of a collaboration – meaning the agencies are picking the influencers purely on niche and engagement rates (including likes), not the person behind the post or the content,” she said.

Broadus said she hopes the change will get social media marketers and influencers back to being more collaborative.

“For influencers, I hope this change gets us back to sharing amazingly creative content – the type of content that will lead to the most authentic engagement and more comments – ultimately leading to a deeper connection between the influencer and their audience,” she said.

“Huge likes created the ‘Influencers of Influencers’ accounts – where other content creators would often copy locations, poses, colours of other influencers who were getting loads of likes.

“I think the strongest creators who are true originals will come out on top and it will level the playing field a bit.”

In the US, chatter around removing viewable likes has been mostly positive, according to Broadus, who said creators were getting creative freedom back as a result of the change.

“Even as the weakest performance indicator (mainly because likes can so easily be manipulated), a post’s likes did give a quick glance on whether or not a creator had people’s interest,” she said.

“I think North American content creators are looking at Canada’s influencers and seeing how they are dealing with it; wondering how it will impact them.”

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