News & views


How can brands still measure engagement on Instagram?


Recently, Instagram announced it would be hiding the number of likes a post receives. Originally trialled in Canada, the test now spans seven countries including New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy and Japan.

According to Mia Garlick, Facebook’s Director of Policy for Australia and New Zealand, the test is intended to remove the pressure that people receive when it comes to posting content online. “We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love,” she says.

The science behind the move

In theory, the idea makes some sense. Research shows our brains are hardwired to feel rewarded by successful social interactions. So, when it comes to the number of likes on a post, Instagram hopes that users won’t be held back by perceived fears that come with not receiving as many likes as friends or other users. 

The idea of peer-approval, and the relationship between giving likes compared to what other users do, is also real. This study looked at teenage girls’ use of the platform and showed they were more likely to ‘like’ posts that had a large amount already; confirming that group-mentality theories can be applied to social media.

Comparing both of these studies, there is evidence to suggest that Instagram has removed some of the perceived barriers to posting by hiding the number of likes users see. On the flipside, they have also removed a key piece of information that can influence whether users will like a post or not.

What it means for brands

For brands that promote their products and services on Instagram, the test may actually help increase engagement. Traditionally, brands experience less engagement when posting and boosting ads from their own accounts when compared to influencers*. So by hiding likes it levels the playing field a little.

There are still plenty of ways that brands can use Instagram to their advantage. Here’s just a few:

Effective use of hashtags: Hashtags allow users and brands to connect their content to a wider conversation. If it’s an original tag, it allows you to create the conversation. But by tagging something already established, it’s possible to increase your exposure by putting content in front of like-minded users. You can monitor engagement by how much the hashtag is appearing.

Showcase products: One feature Instagram does well, especially for retail brands and those that sell products that can be easily photographed, is product tags. By setting up shopping on Instagram, it’s possible to tag posts and stories with links that show much your products cost and take users directly to a page where they can make a purchase. Engagement is measured by click-throughs.

Story views: You can also still tell how many users are viewing your stories. Because this platform is designed to share photo and video content, using Instagram Stories is a great way to communicate aspects of your business that are perhaps topical or have a time parameter (eg. muffin of the day at a café) and not necessarily part of your digital brand strategy (meaning, while you want to share it you don’t want it to be permanently part of your Instagram account). 

If you have any questions about the update or how Instagram can be used to promote your brand, our social media experts are more than happy to help. Feel free to contact us and arrange a time for coffee and a chat, or take a look at the recent work we've done on our gram. 


*We’re looking at influencer marketing deeper in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for next month’s article. In the time it’s been around, billions of dollars have been earned by influencers. So by understanding how it all works you’ll be able to determine the right approach for your brand.

Published: 19 Aug 2019