Metrics have changed over the years as the platforms have grown and social media marketing has evolved. While there have been lots of changes, there’s always been a general belief that more followers and more likes will lead to more engagement and that is the key to success.
But now things are changing and the metrics everyone thought were important, may not matter as much.
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Earlier this year, Instagram began experimenting with hiding like counts. While users will still be able to see their like counts, they won’t be displayed publicly. According to Instagram, “We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.”
There’s no word on if this experiment will become permanent. However, another social media platform made a similar change that is seemingly permanent.
YouTube is changing how they show subscriber counts. YouTube will now show an abbreviated subscriber count for any channel with more than 1,000 subscribers. So, if an account has 4,378 subscribers, the subscriber number would show as 4.3k. YouTube creators will still be able to view their total subscribers in their YouTube creator studio.
These changes may seem small, but could they be the start of a tipping point into a social media world where, dare we say it, vanity metrics cease to exist?
Let’s face it, some brands and content creators will always care how many likes they receive and how many followers they amass. But hopefully, this can persuade more content creators to finally focus on the metrics that really matter.
For years, marketers, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs, focused on growing reach and engagement, which typically meant increasing their followers, likes and comments. At surface level, this isn’t a bad thing. Those metrics can indicate there’s an interest in your content and that you have a connection to your audience. But too many creators got blinded by the numbers. Many began to only focus on those numbers, instead of what those numbers were meant to represent.
Creators began scrambling to attract huge followings, obtain massive like counts and receive as many comments as possible. This led to many unethical tactics, like buying bots to automate likes or buying fake likes to make pages appear more influential.
All of these fake tactics lead to overinflated follower numbers and generic “Love your content!” comments, which don’t do anything to build a business. They also fail to highlight what content is great, what content doesn’t resonate or what an audience really wants to see from a creator.
So as platforms slowly shift away from focusing on followers and likes, the big question is, will these changes make any difference to how creators leverage social media to build their businesses?
First of all, it’s important to note that even though followers won’t see those metrics, the content creator will still be able to see their likes on Instagram and their total subscriber count on YouTube in their analytics dashboards. The exact metrics can be measured, but they won’t be as transparent to the world.
You can still share your content, measure your likes and track your subscriber counts. However, because people new to your content won’t see everything, they’re going to look for other indicators that you’re established and authoritative. Optimizing your content to promote authentic comments, conversations, and shares could show fans, followers, and strangers alike that your content is meaningful and commands an audience. This shift could spark a rise in creativity.
Think about it, many of the trends that are prevalent on Instagram (think: flat lays, white space, perfectly curated desk photos) came about because content creators would see the success other creators had with those trends and mimic them, in the hopes of seeing that same success.
Let’s say Danielle the Graphic Designer notices that another graphic designer is racking up likes by sharing boomerang posts and quote images so she thinks “Hey, I should try that too.” So she starts creating more boomerang posts and quote images because it looks like that’s what audiences want, right? That’s how we end up with a flood of pages that look and feel similar, despite the volume of likes attached to each post.
But if Danielle the Graphic Designer’s profile pages begin to look less active as vanity metrics become deemphasized, she’ll have to trust her own instincts and her own creativity to discover what content really resonates with her audience.
It’s really hard to stand out or even find your unique voice and style when you’re just trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing. Focusing on creating content that solicits a reply, rather than a tap could help elevate your presence on social media.
These changes may also create a change in how users use these apps. One of the main reasons Instagram is experimenting with eliminating like counts is for the well-being and mental health of its users. “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about,” says Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri.
Facebook is trying to get its users to return to community, communication, and connections. This is a great thing for content creators and brands because it gives them an opportunity to encourage more conversation and interactions with your community. Imagine an Instagram where instead of just simply liking an image, a user stopped to leave a comment or tagged a friend to start a discussion? It could open the door for much deeper conversations and interactions between content creators and their audiences.
These changes should encourage more content creators to consider what they’re sharing and more importantly, why they’re sharing it. The future won’t be based on posting a photo that will get as many likes as possible. Instead, content creators need to focus on the content that’s going to connect them more with their audience.
So what needs to change? How can brands and content creators adjust their content to fit this new paradigm and what do you need to be measuring to prove your social media effectiveness?
Being able to show the strength of the connections you have with your followers is going to become a major predictor of your social media success. That strength is shown in your ability to influence those followers into taking actions and we don’t just mean clicking the like button.
Instead of measuring likes, try aiming for actions that show your audience is actively engaging with your content. A like is easy. It’s fast, it requires no thought or energy. It’s just the tap of a thumb!
But there are social media actions that do require thought, time and energy. Try measuring comments, mentions, video or story completions or traffic back to your website. When someone starts taking these actions they begin to move from a passive follower into an active one. These metrics will not only show how your audience is responding to your content but, also, the strength of your connection.
Social media is changing. It’s time to stop focusing on thousands of likes or a huge audience (because, a small one is just as powerful!) Instead, focus on creating community by sharing valuable, consistent and engaging content. And let MeetEdgar help you with it! Edgar offers tons of features that make it easier for you to share your content without the hassle so you can spend your time building and nurturing your social media community. Learn more or sign up and give Edgar a test drive today!