In Australia, Instagram recently did away with being able to see how many people had liked photos on your feed. You could go in and tell how many had liked your photo still, but anyone scrolling by wouldn’t be able to tell if you had 3 likes or 3 million. People freaked!
The algorithm is constantly changing, and just about once a week I see someone complaining that their like count has gone down, and I secretly laugh because here’s the truth: your likes don’t matter. You can forget about them - I sure have.
I used to post before bed, then read a little, and then make sure I went back to Instagram to see if my photo had traction. I remember doing math to divide the minutes it’d been posted into the likes to see how I was doing, and would honestly delete or archive a photo if it didn’t have 10+ likes in the first 10 minutes. But for over a year now, my likes have been slowly decreasing, as have the number of fucks I give about likes. And let me tell you, it’s the best feeling!
So why don’t like matter? There are a few reasons:
Likes do not Equal Sales
You can have 35.5 million likes and not make a sale. The @world_record_egg is just such a perfect example of this concept. As a business owner, validation is great, but sales are way better. I’d happily have 0 likes on every photo I posted if I was making millions and meeting my sales targets. Instagram is a tool to drive sales, not a tool to drive likes. And this can get super confusing sometimes.
Case in Point: Here are photos of my most LIKED photos and the photos that have gotten me the most WEBSITE CLICKS. You see that one that’s at the top? It didn’t even crack the top of the Like list, yet it actually made me money (heck yes!).
A Like Means Nothing
If you can’t get a sale from a potential client, then you want to get their buy-in at least. You want your marketing to take the entire world of people out there, and funnel down to those who have potential to purchase from you. The best way to tell who those people are is from their buy-in - from some action on their part that shows interest in something you’ve created. This could be joining an email list, calling you, going to your website, or even following you on social media. But I would argue that a like does not fit this bill.
For one, there’s no usable, functional, way to use the data of who liked your photo. Sure, you can search those users and see if a *certain someone* liked your photo (k, we’ve all been there), but you can’t export that data, you can’t do anything functional with it, you can’t even make a mental note of it.
And more importantly, a like is too easy. It’s a little double-tap. There’s even people out there telling you to like thousands of random photos per day (though this is a little outdated) . It just goes to show that I can regularly like someone’s photo with almost zero effort or meaning. I like photos without even internalizing that I’ve liked them. Things I don’t forget? Commenting, signing up for an email list, following, reaching out via DM. ALL of these things show more commitment than a Like and are functional things that further qualify someone as a potential client.
Instagram is only One Platform
You’ve seen that photo everyone posts when Insta has an outage - something about how you need to get people off of Instagram, and onto your email list. I don’t agree with the fear-mongering, but I agree with the basic concept. If Instagram likes are the only thing you’ve got going for you, then your business is in trouble.
Even if you’re solely an “Instagram Influencer” you have to have some meat to back up your likes, whether that’s blog followers, swipe up percentages, etc. Because you can’t actually purchase anything directly on Instagram (I’m sure it’s coming), you have to be able to get the followers to some other platform to show any monetary value.
The Things People Like and the Things People Buy are Different
Next week’s post will be about photos that are Instagram GOLD, but those photos aren’t always of the things that actually sell. My most commonly-requested color for invitation envelopes is Dusty Blue. But you have to scroll further to find Dusty Blue in my most liked photos - the most liked, as you saw earlier, is filled with Dusty Rose. The internet digs Dusty Rose, but I have only done 2 orders in 5 years with Dusty Rose envelopes.
The lesson? Don’t let likes fool you - that super fun rainbow-painted wedding dress may get a lot of likes, but are people actually wanting to purchase something like that? There are a lot of things that are indicative of purchasing patterns in the world, but likes are not a strong one.
...and yes, The Algorithm.
IT SUCKS. Of course it doesn’t favor us. If I were Instagram, I wouldn’t make it favor us. I’d make it to favor me! That’s just economics (or math, or politics, or corporate greed, or something). It’s known to all that Instagram reach isn’t fair - priority is given to accounts with more followers, who purchase ads, etc.
So if you’re getting all hung up on Likes, and then they change, like they have lately, then you’re just going to stress yourself out. You have no control over what Instagram does. They may get rid of the like feature altogether someday, so if that’s the only value you have, you will be screwed. Put your eggs in a lot of different baskets, and frankly, I’d argue that you can forget about the Like basket altogether. Instead, favor the email list basket, the past purchaser basket, the wedding planner basket, the influencer basket (our definition of influencer has nothing to do with Instagram).
So why post on Instagram at all?
If likes don’t matter, should we even post at all? And should we try to post popular things, or not even worry about it?
So here’s where likes do matter, and only in a general way. The algorithm does (and, I believe, will always) see how your account does in an overall view. They see your likes, comments, profile views, website clicks, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if DMs are also included in some capacity. The larger your account is, the more likely that Instagram will show you in searches, feeds, etc. because Instagram is trying its best to put what the client wants to see in front of the client.
Likes are only a part of this though, and much more importantly is having good overall engagement. Likes, Followers, Comments, Saves, DMs, Story Views, Clicks, etc. So instead of focusing on your likes, focus on posting good, authentic content that your audience responds well to. You’ll be able to tell when you’re moving in the right direction, because all of the above will start to increase organically. And this way, you don’t have to worry about the algorithm changes. You just have to worry about doing you and sharing your business with the world in a real, relatable way - something that no algorithm will be able to overlook.