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The industry is abuzz with questions and theories about the expansion of Instagram's test to hide like counts in the US in an effort to support user well-being. Our team has put together a summary on what to expect moving forward, as well as our predictions on how this shift will impact the practice of influencer marketing.

Instagram reigns as the single most important social media platform for brand marketers (80% of marketers told us it's the platform they’re investing in most). Masking a public metric may seem a step backward in terms of transparency (after all, Instagram has dealt with controversies like inflated followers and faux engagement). We think the move will ultimately push the industry forward towards higher quality metrics, and encourage our partners to think of this update as a cultural evolution of the platform.

More detail on how the evolution will play out within your campaigns and the greater influencer community:

Our reporting workflow and data access will not change: 

For brands and agencies that have a rudimentary approach to influencer recruiting, campaign management, and reporting, losing access to the like metric will limit their ability to gauge a full picture of engagement rates and post performance. Thanks to our significant investments in technical infrastructure to power our influencer marketing work, Collectively’s client community will experience no impact and we'll continue to have access to like counts and engagement data from our commitment to partnering with influencers who authenticate their business or creator profiles through Instagram’s Graph API.

Creators with personal accounts are now at a disadvantage because the Graph API does not support authentication for them (like counts for posts from personal accounts will have to be reported through screenshots). At Collectively, campaign participation requires business or creator account authentication.

Engagement benchmarks may shift: 

Likes have always been a superficial metric. While they're not actually going away and remain accessible via authenticated accounts, savvy marketers should remain focused on high-quality engagements. Comments, conversation sentiment, and performance-based metrics like shares, click-throughs and profile visits are the future of our practice.

Data from test markets like Brazil and Canada—where likes first disappeared—is limited. However, an early report featured in Social Media Today shows that in most markets, engagement trended down after likes were masked. We have plans to monitor overall like rate and engagement rate across Instagram accounts and campaign posts, and we’ll modify benchmarks and goals accordingly. We will continue to keep our clients informed of emerging trends and KPI implications.

    Content strategies will likely start to evolve: 

    Creators are already shifting away from the Instagram Feed to produce more Stories that offer view-based metrics (not likes) and 1:1 engagement opportunities via direct messages. This trend will continue. We'll likely see more emphasis on Story content that can drive Swipe Ups, and as the Instagram Shopping feature evolves, purchase conversion will become a more attainable KPI.

    Amplification will become more important: 

    We believe Instagram activations should be supported with paid amplification to bring scale and additional visibility into performance, and ultimately increase return on investment. Boosting Instagram content is more precise than ever—with capabilities to track lower-funnel engagement from influencer audiences. With likes veiled, it’s possible that amplification budgets may need to increase. Boosting is primed to take off as the demand to measure higher-quality engagements from a broader set of audiences increases.

    Creators will have to evolve: 

    While most creators are no longer using personal accounts, anyone who hasn't made with the switch to a business or creator account will have to face the music. We predict that new creators will have to work harder to communicate their value when pitching brand partners, which may slow down the explosion of talent we reported on earlier this year, shifting some power back to more established creators.

    Instagram will need to keep an eye on sentiment within the creator community, as undesired friction could cause people who want in on the influencer economy to seek out other platforms. In our latest community poll, creator sentiment is split—with 51% of creators thinking the change will help their business, and 49% believing the move will hurt them.

    Seasoned creators know they'll have to prove their value through granting transparency to back-end metrics, and some creators feel their content may have a fair chance at getting more recognition from audiences and brands who aren't biased by like count. Others are anticipating another algorithm shift and wondering how their reach will be impacted.

    In sum: 

    At this point, we agree with top influencers' perspectives that putting well-being first and incentivizing quality content creation is a responsible move for our increasingly connected society. Over the next few months, we'll be having more conversations with the creator community to gauge impact.

    We welcome your questions and would love to hear about any additional perspectives or impact experienced within your organization.