At Blogchatter, we strive to provide a level playing field for our bloggers by attaching as much importance to numbers like Instagram following, as to qualitative things like value of content, thought leadership of the blogger, our working relationship within the community, etc.

One thing that bloggers have often complained about is the metric – number of Instagram followers for example – that agencies use to shortlist for awarding brand campaigns. While we are doing our bit to ensure brand managers look at blogger outreach in a more holistic approach and go beyond numbers, we were happy to see that Instagram – where most influencer marketing is taking place – is doing its own bit to push quality content over numbers.

In a beta roll out, Instagram decided to hide the “likes” that their users receive on a post. While a few influencers praised this move – hoping it’ll help their content shine more, a few were worried how taking away the number would make their job, and the process of finding influencers, more difficult.

Richa Singh, co-founder Blogchatter, sent this article in her weekly emailers to Blogchatter community and here’s their take on this Instagram debate.

Engagement still matters

Noor Anand points out that brands need to understand followers don’t get you the engagement you desire. If you engage 50 influencers with say 20,000 followers each, who also have a disproportionately low number of likes on actual posts, all your brand post is reaching is the same number of bots, influencers engaged in the campaign and the people who are working towards like for like, comment for comment.

Key takeaway: Why numbers shouldn’t be the be all and end all of influencer marketing? You have 20,000 followers but only a minuscule number is actually interested in consuming your content.

Educating brands

Arv says none of this hiding of likes will mean anything till there’s a systemic change in approach to influencer marketing. People who run these brands need to be educated on how the numbers they so love don’t always paint a rosy picture. And while numbers may be an easy way to track progress, they aren’t the only indication of success, as echoed by Maheshwaran.

There are better, more engaging ways, to spread the word about your brand.

Key takeaway: Content matters, people matter, influencer’s influence matters. And when the three things combine to put out the brand message – that’s when magic happens.

Authenticity and trust

While change is what the influencer strategy needs, as Mittali rightly points out, change is scary. Numbers speak a universal language – if something has more likes, it must be trustworthy; if a lot of people swear by a product, it must be a good product. So not only would the hiding of likes affect brands and influencers, it’ll also affect the consumer because we would be taking away a metric he/she understands.

The move, however, will be good because it’ll force brands to live up to what they say which may have been hitherto hidden behind a large number of likes. It will also bring in accountability and ethics into the equation, which as Harjeet says, will help organic influencers.

Key takeaway: Word of mouth is still the most powerful and trustworthy form of marketing. Place your bet on an influencer’s content and connect with their audiences and not on the number of their following.

Consistency and sustaining brand recall

Nishit points out, “Remember success is sweeter when it comes gradually but when it comes quickly, it also fades away with the same speed.”

At the end of the day, is it enough that an influencer has put a post on their Instagram which has got high number of likes? If the brand-influencer-audience transaction ends there – with the gaining of a like – what has the brand truly achieved?

Key takeaway: If an influencer engagement activity does not lead to further conversations, building on what the brand wants to communicate, then the brand will not be able to create any recall for its messaging or its product.

The great Instagram debate

It is still too early to say whether Instagram will go ahead with the move – as the “likes” have a far-reaching impact not limited to influencer activity. But we are excited to see how this may lead to conversations within community at large on how we could capitalize on the debate to push quality content over number of following.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think it is a good move or do you think it won’t lead to any real change? Let us know in the comments below.