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How should brands measure success on Instagram if ‘likes’ are no longer relevant?

By Emily and Sarah Hamilton, Co-founder and managing director

September 2, 2019 | 7 min read

You have probably heard the news. In July, Instagram announced their test of hiding “likes” on posts just expanded to more markets around the globe, including Australia. Instagram says the reason for the new feature is to have users concentrate on their posts and interacting with the app, rather than likes.


Likes are one of the most recognizable elements of social proof, and a core element to engagement metrics for brands.

However, the big question is, how will this affect a business that is purely built on social media marketing and relies on social proof? Our first thought - a massive change for the business.

Likes are one of the most recognizable elements of social proof, and a core element to engagement metrics of a brands’ social platforms. If not engagement, what social metric will drive business results at top? Nonetheless - the new era is here, and we believe it will be defined by personalized content.

More than just a like

At first, social media was a new way people used to connect. Over time, people started to rely on social media platforms more and more. As a result, business owners started to take advantage of the data to understand a specific audience to create strategies to market their products on social media. Today, social media has become one of the most important aspects of digital marketing.

When you think about successful social media content, you are probably already thinking of the generic metrics like the number of likes you get. The number of likes a post receives helps brands to determine how engaged their followers are, what works and what doesn’t.

Yes, the number of double-taps can be considered as an acknowledgement. However, today’s social media users want to interact with brands on a more personalized level, which includes much more than just a like.

Opportunity from customers

For us, the biggest marketing channel has always been social media. When we first started out, we saw the opportunity from customers, and how we could connect with them immediately through social media. Ever since then, we have been constantly engaging with and listening to our customers on social media to create content they love and want to share. By engaging with our customers, we saw what was working through views, likes and audience reach.

Now that Instagram has launched their newest prototype, brands need to think differently to stand out and position themselves in the ever-changing competitive environment. This is where personalized content comes into play. In the digital marketing space, personalization is critical when it comes to capturing the attention of your audience.

Today, consumers want to interact with brands on a more personal level and be treated as individuals. Content that is meaningful for your audience can help build social engagement, which can result in customers becoming brand advocates.

A community on social

We believe we have cracked the code to set ourselves from other retailers. At Supernova, we give back power to the creators by allowing them to work directly with their customers; with the help of our community on Instagram as the deciding voice.

A community is where the sharing, influencing and passing on information starts. By creating social communities, we can talk with our audience to ensure that they stay engaged and trusts our brand.

However, identifying and developing a community on social media start with creating personalized content. As retailers, we have seen that consumers are growing increasingly accustomed to personalized content. This means that it is more important than ever for brands to provide personalized content.

At Supernova, we see opportunities in the whole movement of social media influencers. Brands are lining up to be associated with popular social media accounts, and this high demand has created a whole industry of its own. Influencers are people who have a passion and aren’t afraid to tell the world about it, and they are becoming more and more sophisticated.

Their strength is in creating content, and the better content they can create, the more working together with a brand makes sense because they can create something consumers would like to engage with. We like how everything on the Internet is customisable and delivers the content our customers are interested in.

Now, as the new era on Instagram has arrived, brands and influencers need to work even harder to deliver stronger content.

In a world without “likes”, influencers would be pushed to create not only better content, but more diverse types of content such as videos and Instagram “stories”. We believe this change can result in a stronger engagement between influencers and their followers, as it could cause more reading of captions and more thoughtful content, in addition to the photos.

Get to know your audience

Social media personalization isn’t only about your content, but also the way you communicate with your audience. Supernova’s business model is proof that success comes when it is based on collaboration with your customers. To truly make our audience feel connected to our brand, we have to directly communicate with them to find out what their needs are.

What type of content do they want to see? How do they feel connected to our brand? In return, we know if we’ve hit the nail on the head, and will move forward, acknowledging and taking on all the feedback. We are also using social media to test brand and product names, as well as price.

The result - all our brand names have been chosen by our customers. Sand & Sky, for example, was originally called Rose Beach, but we couldn’t get the URL, so our customers voted for the second choice, Sand & Sky. Instagram’s new era means we as brands maker, will have to invest more time, money and effort to get to know their audience on a deeper personal level, to further create content that grabs their attention. Furthermore, pair that with the right strategy to reach the right audience; that’s what will earn brands the best return on their social investment.

Having no likes will force the businesses to measure what actually matters: value, relevance and impact. This will most likely force brands to take time to build a community and not just fans.

Emily Hamilton and Sarah Hamilton are the co-founder and managing director at Supernova, respectively.

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