by CLARK NESSELRODT, Brilliant PR & Marketing

Instagram announced last week that it will begin testing its “hidden likes” program in the U.S. It’s enough to ruin a chief marketing officer’s holiday season, but does it need to be? Perhaps there is a more thoughtful way to consider the value of influencer posts beyond engagement.

First off, we can all take a collective sigh of relief. While “like counts” will indeed be vanishing from public view on select Instagram accounts, the somewhat anticlimactic reality is that account owners will still be able to see which and how many users liked their content. It won’t be as easy to glean performance data, but we anticipate creators being willing to share the data with brand partners. But there is value in seizing this moment amid the evolving marketing landscape to consider the deeper implications of relying so heavily on likes — and even comments — to assess the value of influencer posts.

Imagine that it’s the height of the holiday shopping season, and a well-known and well-liked mom has offered to set her kids up at a table in front of the local toy store where they will play with your products. The toy will look great, the kids will be happy, and thousands of people walking by the scene will see your product in action with the opportunity to purchase only a few feet away. Let’s use this scene to help assess the value of its potential outcomes and their digital equivalents.

  • People who see the live demo continue on to the toy store and purchase the product: Mission accomplished! While we don’t typically recommend one-off Instagram posts for directly driving online sales, it can happen, and it’s great!
  • People stop and ask for more information: This would be the equivalent of clicking through to the sponsoring brand’s website, searching for them on Amazon, following their page on Instagram, or engaging with their posts. Each of these actions enables brands to follow up by retargeting those potential customers with digital ads. This is second in value only to landing the sale immediately.
  • People look at the mom and her kids and say, “I like this!:” What now? This feels good to everyone involved. But it’s arguably the least-actionable event along the pathway to landing a sale. People may have liked what they saw, but there’s not much you can actually do with that information.

Instagram Stories

It’s also a good time to reconsider the value of Instagram Stories. Many brand marketers still consider Stories to be less desirable than their static post counterparts. Though they disappear in 24 hours, Stories offer excellent reach, robust metrics, and the ability to deliver quick, snappy video content similar to what many brands are now coveting on TikTok. Just don’t forget to ask influencer partners to capture and deliver metrics back to you before they expire. They can also be added to Instagram Highlights.

Lastly, when it comes to any form of digital marketing, your tactics are only as powerful as your retargeting plan. Beautiful Instagram photos featuring your products and thousands of likes are great for awareness, and they look and sound wonderful in recap reports. But by themselves, they are only part of the funnel that leads from awareness to the ultimate goal of conversion.