Social media is at center of many real estate agents’ marketing plans, whether it’s creating business pages on Facebook, innovative listing videos on Instagram or snazzy behind-the-scenes videos on Tik-Tok.
However, as with most things in life, social media platforms are in a constant state of flux as features are introduced and discontinued, and algorithms are updated to reflect a platform’s goals.
Following in the footsteps of its parent company, Facebook, Instagram will begin beta testing removing like counts from U.S. users’ posts starting Monday.
“Heads up! We’ve been testing making likes private on Instagram in a number of countries this year,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri tweeted on Nov. 8. “We’re expanding those tests to include a small portion of people in the U.S. next week. Looking forward to the feedback!”
Before tweeting about it, Mosseri explained the update during a panel at Wired’s WIRED25` conference in San Francisco.
“It’s about young people,” he said, according to a conference recap by Wired. “The idea is to try to ‘depressurize’ Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them.”
“It means we’re going to put a 15-year-old kid’s interests before a public speaker’s interest,” Mosseri added. “When we look at the world of public content, we’re going to put people in that world before organizations and corporations.”
Instagram first began testing the feature in April, starting with users in Canada, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. Business owners and influencers quickly snapped back, saying ‘likes’ and other engagement metrics, such as views, were crucial to their business’ success.
“I really think that likes are just part of the platform,” Canadian influencer Jess Grossman told Business Insider shortly after the change. “What can I do? It’s a platform I’m using for free.”
Mike Bassily, another Canadian influencer, said: “It’s not as bad as people think. I’ve had to deal with this since May. It sucked at first, but I got used to it.”
But Bassily added that while he’s been able to retain his current audience, he has had a hard time attracting new followers, which bring more likes. Instagram said the algorithm now skews toward showing content from profiles you have an established “relationship” with, which could explain Bassily’s experience.
Social Media Today on Friday published the results of a HypeAuditor report that seem to back up what Bassily said.
In an analysis of its 154,000 influencers in Instagram’s initial test markets, influencer marketing platform HypeAuditor found that removing likes negatively impacted the average number of likes their clients received on any given post.
Influencers at all levels, whether they had 5,000 followers or 1 million, experienced a decline in the average amount of likes they received. However, influencers in Japan seemed to be the least impacted by the change — influencers with 1,000 to 5,000 followers and influencers with 100,000 to 1 million followers both experienced a nearly 7 percent increase in average likes after the testing began.
Although Instagram said the removal of likes is to improve users’ mental health, some social media experts said the real motivation comes down to one thing: money.
“It’s going to make the platform more challenging,” Hello Social managing director Max Doyle told SmartCompany in July. “You’ll have to invest more money, in a nutshell.”
What does this mean for real estate agents who use Instagram to market listings and build brand awareness? They might have to up their Instagram marketing budget.
According to Inman’s comprehensive social media guide published in 2018, Instagram was the second-most important platform for agents — but it cost them nothing. More than 50 percent of agents spent $0 to push Instagram content.
However, social media expert and Curaytor co-founder Chris Smith said agents don’t need to fret about algorithm changes or spending exorbitant amounts of money on advertising.
Instead, they need to focus on posting quality content consistently, especially on IGTV, where views have skyrocketed by as much as 1000 percent.
Although engagement totals, such as likes and views, won’t be visible to your audience, they’ll still be available on the backend. Smith suggests paying attention to those metrics and simply keep sharing what works.