‘Likes’ used to reign but how important can they really be if Instagram continues to restrict them? If it’s not likes, then what?

In 2019, Instagram removed ‘likes’ from public posts. A month ago, the social media platform ‘trialled’ the removal of all likes so that users couldn’t even see their own metrics. ‘Likes’ used to reign over the Instagram algorithm, validating content creators, measuring levels of engagement and driving brand deals. However, how important can ‘likes’ really be if Instagram continues to restrict them? If it’s not likes, then what?

Mid-2017, Instagram launched its ‘saves’ feature, however, it didn’t begin to get the credit it deserved for another two years. The feature has become integral for the platform’s analytics and algorithms. Interaction via ‘saves’ reflects an increase in engagement between the everyday user and content creator. If you are saving something you are saying, ‘I like this and I want to see this again’.

Ctrl Save – What’s are people saving?

‘Saves’ indicate whether your content is resonating with your audience, if people aren’t saving your content its message isn’t hitting. However, what content is saved by users? Instagram marketing platform, Later, identified key posts that users are saving, posts with long captions, infographics and quotes. In a review of my own Instagram saves, content ranged from workouts, recipes, and cleaning hacks. Saves are being used in order to revisit, educate and learn. Brands should try and construct campaigns that will encourage their audiences to do the same.

Save yourself – Instagram v Tiktok

Instagram evolved and developed this feature among others, in order to compete with other social media platforms, notably Tiktok. The affordances of Instagram’s ‘saves’ closely align with Tiktok’s ‘like’ feature. Videos ‘liked’ on Tiktok are then added to ‘liked videos’ providing a user with a database of all their favourite content to revisit and review. Instagram ‘reels’ are a blatant copy-cat of Tiktok. The short, 15-second, videos operate just like Tiktok, with some users simply re-uploading their Tiktok content onto Instagram, water ark and all.

Looking out for your audience, is looking out for your brand

Although there is this overlap in content setups, there is a distinct cultural difference between the two social media sites and their users. For brands aimed at Millennials and Gen X, Instagram remains the platform of choice, however, Tiktok is heavily favoured by Gen Z.

Dances, mannerisms and one-liners have assimilated into youth culture, and there isn’t much Instagram can do about it. Established Instagram content creators have somewhat attempted to cross over to the platform in order to access the younger demographic.

However, there has been little impact and overall success. Therefore, it is integral for Instagram-centric influencers and companies to lean into the benefits of ‘saves’ and Instagram ‘reels’, exploiting them for their own brand.

Moving forward – How this affects you

Realising the differences in demographics, the development of social media features and the change in platform’s algorithms is crucial for companies and influencers alike. Changing brand performance indicators from ‘likes’ to ‘saves’ will tell companies what campaigns are successful, and which influencers are worth paying. Influences should start creating ‘saveable content’ and include these metrics in media kits. With Instagram changing the make-up of their algorithms businesses and content creators need to be thinking about how they can get users to move beyond a passive like and transform it into a meaningful ‘save’.