No more likes: How Instagram's latest move might affect your marketing

Find out why the latest Instagram update isn’t going to completely ruin your social media marketing strategy in our blog.

Picture of Lauren Nuttall Lauren Nuttall

Published: 05 Dec 2019

8 minutes read

No more likes: How Instagram's latest move might affect your marketing

Brace yourselves, it’s happening: Instagram is removing likes.

The social media platform recently announced across its official channels that its trial of hiding likes from public view is now going to be rolled out globally. Having already been implemented in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand, Instagram stated that the feedback from their experiment has been positive, however they are continuing their test to “learn more from the global community”.

Instagram addressed the concerns surrounding the removal of likes, stating: 

“We understand that like counts are important for many creators, and we are actively thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners”. 

This is all well and good, but not particularly reassuring. 

The removal of likes is a huge concern for many businesses using Instagram as a way of driving engagement; but the question is will it actually affect your business?

In this blog, we’ll look at what Instagram's latest move actually means for businesses, especially those in the B2B sector and how you can still use the platform to your advantage, even without likes.

Why is Instagram removing likes?

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri told Bloomberg that the reason for the radical change was to “depressurize Instagram a little bit, and make it a bit less of a competition”. The timing of this seems apt, as it was only recently Instagram was rated the worst social media platform when it comes to its impact on young people's mental health, where issues such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying, body image and "fear of missing out" have been found to be elevated by the seemingly pressurised environment of social media.

In this context, it's understandable why Instagram has made the decision to remove likes completely to the public eye, hoping that this move will reduce the pressure felt by young people on the platform. But while the loss of likes might improve mental well-being of a select few, the loss of the little heart icon has become a source of great worry for businesses and influencers in particular. 

What does the removal of likes mean for B2B organisations?

With over 3.7 million brand-sponsored posts made on the platform in 2018, the concerns felt by businesses are completely valid. After all, without likes, how are businesses supposed to know which influencers to work with without seeing their like count? How are they supposed to assess what content is performing well without access to public engagement?

Don’t panic - there are plenty of other ways to measure the success of marketing and influencer campaigns beyond likes. When asked what qualities influencers should have, only 11% of social media users in the US and UK said the number of likes and comments an influencer receives were among the most important qualities, suggesting that while businesses may value number of likes - customers don’t.

This study found that the top four qualities for influencers in particular were trustworthy, informative, funny/entertaining and relatable content. Therefore, if likes aren’t that important to your customers, should they really be that important to you?

The answer is, probably not. Engaging potential customers clearly isn’t done by acquiring thousands of likes; instead, it's achieved by creating relatable content that is able to capture their attention in a busy feed filled with thousands of other posts. So, for B2B organisations to keep engaging their customers, one thing is certain - they need to adapt.


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Surviving in the post-like business world

Measuring Instagram engagement rates is crucial for businesses to assess and adapt content so that they can gain loyal followers and customers. The most obvious way of doing this used to be simply looking at how many likes a post had gotten. However, with likes becoming a less reliable source (even before their removal), it's absolutely essential that businesses are aware of other ways to gain more consumer engagement and apply them into their current Instagram strategy.


Forget likes - if you aren’t incorporating Stories into your Instagram strategy and measuring customer engagement with them, you’re missing out.

With over 500 million users now using Instagram Stories every day, businesses not using this feature are failing to engage with potential customers. With Stories, users can share with their fans and followers photos and short videos that are automatically deleted after 24 hours. Stories can help you get messages across to your followers in a simple and effective way. 

However, you must ensure that you are using different formats throughout your stories to keep your profile vibrant and engaging. 

Not sure what your potential customers want from you? Ask them.

Instagram polls are a great way of finding out what your customers want, be it products or content. Furthermore, when studies show that 15%–25% of people swipe up on a link in branded Stories, there’s no harm in posting a direct link to your products where appropriate. The best thing about Stories is it is completely free, requires very little effort or maintenance, and it can help drive engagement significantly. 


While likes are usually seen as the best way to measure customer engagement, many businesses forget the importance of the humble hashtag. Instagram is filled with millions of posts, and the difference between yours getting seen or ignored completely is often due to how you choose to position your content within the platform.

Hashtags categorize content and make it more discoverable, so anyone who clicks on a hashtag will see all images related to it and the higher your post is, the more likely your potential customers will see it. Instagram even allows users to follow specific hashtags, which means if you tag multiple posts under the same hashtag, your potential customers will see them even more frequently.

However, be warned. Much like the practice of users buying likes, Instagram doesn’t take too kindly to multiple, irrelevant hashtags - with their community guidelines explicitly stating that posting “repetitive comments or content” is perceived as spam, which is never a good luck for any business. 

Remember that no matter what Instagram feature you’re using, your goal shouldn’t be to get seen by lots of people, but seen more frequently by the right people. 

Authentic content 

Instagram’s decision to take away visible likes is also partially down to combating “vanity metrics” that place all emphasis on how many likes a post gets, not the authenticity of the content. It’s still fairly unclear how the ban on likes will affect Instagram’s algorithm (theoretically posts with the most likes will still have higher visibility), however what we can hope is that the move will result in better quality content being created.

The thought behind this is that businesses won’t feel the need to create content based on the latest craze or trend when it has zero relation to their business, and instead they will put more effort into creating more valuable content. However, while likes are still visible, you should be creating content that is engaging, because once they are removed your overall reach could be limited.

In an industry where it can be difficult to separate superficial engagement from genuine achievement, Instagram’s decision to remove likes is certainly a controversial one, and I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of it. However you feel about the move, what is clear is that now more than ever, B2B businesses need to be making sure that their content is relevant and engaging, as well as using all the other useful tools Instagram has to offer at their disposal. 

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