How to Stay Successful on Social Media As Instagram Devalues Likes

How to Stay Successful on Social Media As Instagram Devalues Likes

Philippa Dods
6 May 2019

The social media space is abuzz with news of how Instagram’s decision to test “devaluing” likes in Canada will affect influencer marketing across the globe. But according to Quartz India, influencer marketing is already losing influence in India due to fakery. The article, published on 1 April this year, is no April Fool’s Day joke…

It mentions that while influencer marketing has definitely emerged at the forefront of social media brand promotion in recent years, it’s already losing some of that sweetness as it’s steadily losing its trust factor – that’s largely due to “the ease with which influencers inflate their number of followers, likes, and comments inorganically.”

These concerns with influencer marketing are not limited to India, though.

An Egg for an Egg: Flushing Out Accounts with Fake Followers

Taking things global, a 2018 study by third-party influencer marketing measurement group Points North Group reveals that up to 20% of all mid-level influencers – those stating to have between 5,000 and 10,000 followers – are likely to be fraudulent, with large firms among the top 10 companies knowingly or unknowingly promoting influencers with fake followers.

That’s why Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed, set to retire this year after 35 years in the role, has made a public call for a change to tackle influencer fraud.

real engagement and discovering real influencers - meltwater india

Learn more about identifying and weeding out fake influencers on Instagram in our blog post, How to Spot Fake Influencers on Social Media.”

Suddenly, Instagram’s decision to test the effect of hiding “like counts” and “view counts” from all but the content owner makes more sense, as the move is intended to put the focus back on the photo and video content you’re posting and decrease competition from constantly checking who has more likes.

This isn’t just a condition afflicting a few. If you haven’t yet done so, purely out of interest or otherwise – just Google “Instagram likes” and you’ll get page after page of results for apps that let you “buy” followers, random comments and hearting of your posts, all for a low cost.

These have moved beyond the “empty-egg bot profile” syndrome of early social media fakes. In keeping with the times, follower factories or “click farms” now tend to look like high-quality profiles, including profile pictures, posts, and bio information – that’s really all you need to seem authentic on Insta, making it that much harder for competitors to discover you’ve purchased your likes and followers, according to iDigic.

fake followers on instagram - meltwater india

Ironic then that The Guardian points out likes have already become so devalued that a picture of an egg against a plain white background, from the account @world_record_egg, holds the record for most liked post ever on Instagram.

Taken the current situation into account, would the post even exist if we couldn’t see all those likes? If you’d liked it, you’d know about it. If not, it wouldn’t have made its way onto tech news headlines the world over. It’s the 2019 version of the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

The #Instalove’s No Longer an Apple-Only Option

Sticking with the “what if” questions, at the time of writing this article, we see 9,110,000,000 results when we Google “Instagram likes.” That’s particularly staggering for a platform that’s only been in existence since October 2010, when it was exclusively available on iOS.

Luckily Instagram has since realised that the “closed-fence approach” of operating system exclusivity wasn’t the best strategy, as those who can’t afford to or don’t want to but a certain handset will not be swayed by fancy apps – even BlackBerry eventually made its handset-restricted BBM messenger service open to all – because India in particular is by no means an Apple-first market. So much so that the latest stats by AppCounter’s Global Stats show iOS at just 2.11% of total operating system market share here, as of March 2019.

And so, enter the loop holes and Creative Commons-ruled world of now, with Scroll In confirming that Indian companies are finally tapping into the digital goldmine of social media influencers – in particular, Instagram was the top choice in influencer marketing among Indian companies in 2018, over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and YouTube.

Warc adds that the rising excitement over influencer marketing campaigns in India is highlighted in a new survey of over 500 brands and content creators. The survey in question: Buzzoka’s Influencer Marketing Outlook 2019, shows that despite those fakery doubts, influencer marketing is still definitely on the rise, and unsurprisingly, the key difficulties marketers reported was the huge number of fake followers in the sector, calculating ROI, and the difficulty of finding influencers who have the right fit with your brand.

influencer marketing in india - infographic and statsThis is an excerpt from Buzzoka’s infographic on Influencer Marketing in India. View the full report here.

Curbing the Culture of Validation Vultures

But The Guardian says not to worry – Instagram hiding all those likes from others isn’t a bad thing. It shows the platform’s awareness of its ironic “image problem.”

That culture of validation is now deeply entrenched, but for the often young users who exist for idealised, often manipulated posts, and those who “use comparisons as a stick to beat themselves up with”, this is a step in the right direction.

Just a few weeks ago, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office proposed limiting likes for under-18s as part of its code on age-appropriate online services.

But The Guardian states this was less to do with a focus on the damaging effects of comparing numbers of likes, and more with preventing data collection and targeted advertising with regard to young users. An equally important concern. But I digress, that’s likely the topic of a future article.

So the fact that Instagram’s not designed for virality or viral broadcasting is just what Indian users claim to like best about the platform, in an article titled The India #Insta Story on FactorDaily. “While you can post your pictures and videos, there is no re-share button, which curbs amplification. External links, too, don’t work, making Instagram’s use limited and more likeable among youth” – Instagram’s top demographic across the globe.

That glossy Millennial kiss of approval alone is why, despite knowing the platform is cluttered by fakery – we’re not even talking excessive filter use here – Quartz India confirms that brands across the globe increasingly send their marketing spend to social media instead of traditional platforms like print and television.

Social media is where today’s trickiest consumers spend their time, and where the stickiest marketers thrive – Because Instagram’s all about the quick visual post or Story, where it literally pays to have your brand featured and amongst the fakers there are definitely still profiles with excessive followings that also tick the box on impressive engagement through authentic likes and comments that prove they’re real.

Right. Want to get started? You’re not alone.

Introducing India’s Instagram’s Influencer Marketing Success Stories

In finding influencers, for Indian companies, content quality is more important than the reach and follower base, or brand collaborations in the past or cost of engagement of an influencer. That’s why these brands are looking beyond the obvious sport endorsers, models and Bollywood movie stars to ordinary citizens who’ve proved they’re worth watching online.

And those authentic Indian influencers willing to work with brands do exist. The Economic Times India mentions travel and luxury blogger Shereen Sikka Bharwani AKA @Shereenlovebug, who had 240,000 followers on Instagram at last check, and endorsement deals along the likes of global brands Reebok, L’Oréal and Dior.

Or take YouTuber Prajakta Koliwa, who has more than 21million subscribers on her channel “mostlysane” – she often collaborates with Samsung and signed up as the face of H&M India’s online store. She’s even appeared in a TV commercial for Instagram’s fellow Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp, having proven her worthiness in previously speaking about fake news on her channel.

So the pickings are there – you just have to find them. It may seem to be the antithesis of what social media stands for, but slow and steady wins the race in marketing, time and time again. Do your research, find an authentic influencer that matches your brand values, and watch those Instagram hearts climb – even if no-one else can see them.