Life Without Instagram Likes

Now that it’s been at least a couple of months of life without Instagram likes for many U.S. based accounts, I want to share my thoughts on the experience and what I understand is Instagram’s intent in hiding public-facing, like counts.

It’s been a way to:

  • Depressurize the platform so users can focus on the content and experience, not the likes
  • Create a healthier, psychological environment for their users.

I should admit, I was not the least bit concerned about Instagram removing what I would call a vanity metric. This number has very little meaning. For businesses and brands, the focus should be on action metrics that improve the business and its goals. Additionally, likes do not equate to much more than that, likes. Likes are artificial, they don’t tell a complete picture. For example:

  • Bandwagon likes: there are hundreds or thousands of people who’ve already “liked” a piece of content, so other users hop on the bandwagon and like the content too.
  • Engagement pod likes: engagement pods consist of users ranging anywhere from a hundred to thousands, who reciprocate likes on each other’s content. It’s meant to give their content an immediate boost. Pod participants also see it as an easy way to game the Instagram algorithm. If they gain a decent amount of likes as soon as their content is posted, Instagram will count the content as worthy. In return, the Instagram algorithm will show the content to more of the users’ followers. As you can see, these likes are inflated, artificial and have nothing to do with the creation of amazing content that speaks to a targeted audience.
  • Mindless likes: it’s not too difficult to scroll the platform and double-tap on a piece of content, and keep on scrolling. I’ve been very guilty of this. To the point, if I saw a post without any engagement or very low engagement, I’d like the post to help the appearance.
  • Businesses and brands buy likes, using automation or other methods



Take the case of influencer, Arii, who has 2.6 million followers. Back in May 2019, Arii launched a clothing line, which failed, because she could not sell 36 t-shirts to her 2.6 million followers. It’s worth noting each of her Instagram posts generated thousands of likes.

Another example of vanity metrics meaning very little is the explosive story of influencer, Caroline Calloway. It’s reported, straight from Caroline’s former ghostwriter, Caroline bought many of her followers and built a fake fan base. She wanted to sell her $500,000 memoir proposal. Caroline then went on a speaking tour with $165 workshops that her audience called a scam.

The point is, likes (or followers for that matter), are not the metric brands or businesses should focus on. My best piece of advice regarding this topic is to:

  • Understand what types of content your community best responds to (hello analytics), and create consistent, quality content around that.
  • Create content that your community will want to bookmark, save or share with others. The types of content that will prompt users to navigate away from the platform, resulting in whatever conversion metric you’ve identified. These are the actionable metrics worth focusing on.

In the words of media personality Gary Vaynerchuk, “Create dope, curse word, content.” Likes have nothing to do with value. Removing likes has provided the much-needed atmosphere to focus on providing value.



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