Advise on how to minimize impact in user experience and recruitment advertising effectiveness.
Instagram, the Facebook-owned visual social platform, has taken actions to rid itself of its toxic reputation. The rise of influencers with a penchant for selling “Fit Tea” and an artificially curated life to their legions of followers has been harmful to mental health, especially amongst teens. This is not a marginal issue: studies have found that 72% of all U.S teens are active users of Instagram. The “like” based system of measuring the quality of your life through an Instagram filter put users in a state of constant anxiety, comparing their number of likes to others, and inevitably feeling bad if they failed to measure up.
Talk about “removing likes” has been abuzz for about six months now, with the social company testing out the feature in a few countries, like Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Japan. The decision to roll it out to “some users” in the U.S indicates Instagram is no longer flirting with the idea, but finally committed to addressing this problem at once, and on a global scale.
In the next couple of weeks, U.S users will see a message notifying them that although people can still like their posts and they themselves will see how many likes they receive, nobody else will. The platform will, however, still display under each post a list of the people you follow who have liked it — just without a number.
As you can expect, this update has not been getting universal praise. A few influencers and other famous people who earn their livelihood based on their popularity: likes, followers, engagement levels, etc (e.g. Nicki Minaj) have been vocal against the initiative. Others say the company has an ethical responsibility towards its vulnerable users and that removing the likes count isn’t enough.
Beyond the mental health benefits, the move also means content producers will need to shift towards smarter marketing, more truthful narratives, more quality content, and less superficial tricks pandering to large crowds.
Recruiting on Instagram
Instagram is a powerful business tool beyond the world of social media influencers and detox juice. Many employers use it to communicate with employees, to attract candidates and of course to engage with consumers. So, how will this latest change affect their employer branding strategies?
In truth, it really shouldn’t, if they’ve been doing it right.
A well planned strategy looks at a wide scope of metrics, and should never rely on a count of public “likes” in the first place. Likes are only a marginal indicator of a campaign’s success. Likes are basically fluff, one the most superficial ways to measure how much companies are connecting with their audience. The fact that they’re public means nothing when it comes to gauging the success of your strategy or improving upon it. Here are a few key metrics that matter much more than the number of likes your story is getting:
Number of clicks (to a job landing page)
Number of job applications
Marketing cost per job application / lead (CPL)
Marketing cost per hire (CPH)
Number of shares
Beyond those (critical) direct advertising numbers, you should also look for more branding-related metrics. Most of the Instagram action is nowadays in “stories”. Story views have never been publicly visible, so metrics like engagement rates, reach, impressions, saves, sentiment, and yes, likes, give social media managers a more holistic picture of what’s going on. None of that is changing.
If anything, it might help attract more talent, since it will be easier for your candidates to focus on the value of your content, instead of how many people clicked on the heart. The move will hopefully be a blow to the awful yet widespread practice of buying likes (which is also obvious, why do companies keep doing it?) With less spammy content on Instagram, your heartfelt, honest content will not have to fight so hard for attention.
Providing Value > Likes
Employers who use Instagram as a means of employer branding will therefore have to double their efforts to deliver content that truly hits the mark. This means showing who you are, using the most relevant hashtags, and giving your audience shareable content that’s true to you and provides value for them.
Experts are reacting positively to the change.
“Businesses on Instagram will have to be more creative in analyzing data and get specific about what content is actually driving the business, and supporting your business goals,” said Mel Brittner, Social Media Strategist, in an article on Later.
If you’re still feeling nervous about what “no likes” might mean to your Instagram recruitment strategy, we’ve summarized a few actions you can take before the change reaches you.
Get to know your desired audience and what they want: what words are they searching for, what are they commenting, who are they following, what are their interests…
Outline exactly what you want them to know about you
Come up with a plan to reach them with your message in a way that makes sense for them: relatable stories, humor, videos, gifs...
Make your content as shareable as possible — shares are much more important than likes
Publish more stories and use highlights — they’re shared a lot more than posts
Define a content calendar (even if it’s not set in stone) to help guide your progress
Start putting stock on all the other metrics available to gauge if your plan is working
Hidden Likes = Better Employer Branding
At Talkpush, we regularly use Instagram as a recruiting tool. We ask our audience questions, we post about life at our company and we give them information we know they might share with their communities. We mostly publish our content via stories.
We’ve focused on organically building a small, yet highly engaged community. Hiding likes actually helps companies with strategies like ours. Because like it or not (pun intended), people like to judge. Those double taps definitely sway public perception of content, regardless of its true value and appeal.
Getting rid of the “underdog” stigma, will help raise credibility based just on the quality of the content and give companies more freedom to publish authenticity rather than what “performs well.”
In terms of employer branding this is extremely positive. Finding the line between the desire for virality and authenticity is a struggle. Saying goodbye to likes might just be the beginning of a powerful shift towards more honest branding — which is precisely the point of using Instagram to attract talent.
“With this change, our social team can post in a way that makes the most sense for our brand. Not just the types of pictures that get the most likes at the right times. Those will still be an integral part of our strategy, but we’ll have more room to grow in other directions, test more, and really flex our creative muscles.” - Pia Riquelme, Head of Global Marketing, Talkpush
The bottom line is, if Instagram decides to do away with likes for good, it won’t be too hard for employers to adapt and even benefit from this change towards deeper connections.