Measuring Instagram without likes

Holy shit – no more Instagram likes! The social media platform has thrown a major spanner in the works and decided to hide the amount of likes posts get. So far, likes have been hidden in Australia, NZ, Canada, Italy, Ireland, Japan, and Brazil- a pretty sizeable chunk hey? If all goes well, it could be rolled out worldwide at the drop of a hat.

As you can imagine, pretty controversial. Couple of people threw a tantrum, but we all kind of expected that.

Pros – There was also a whole lot of support because if we can’t see likes, then we won’t be as desperate for validation and get all jealous at other people’s success. Fair go, I see the perks.

Cons – A lot of business owners were pissed off because not being able to see likes interferes with a company’s legitimacy online. Basically if they pay an influencer to post about them, they can’t see how well the post is doing. And, when people go looking at a brand or company on Instagram, all they see is the follower count (which anyone can inflate with fake or purchased followers).

A lot of people are convinced Instagram isn’t doing this out of the goodness of their heart, it’s to push businesses into paying for ads instead of using influencers- which Instagram can’t profit off.

Now, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but that doesn’t sound like much of a stretch to me

Obviously for any business on social media, tracking likes and being able to see other people’s likes is important when doing our due research on competitors, customers,and collaborators.

So let’s take a look at some other functions you can use to measure and assess social media- without being able to see likes.

What do likes actually tell us?

Let’s start with the basics.

We use the amount of likes, comments and shares to tell us how engaged our audience is. This is important, because it shows they’ve seen the post, like the content, then want to interact with us publicly.

How to measure Instagram without likes- the engagement funnel

Using likes is one of the most common ways people can measure engagement, but it’s also one of the most passive forms of engagement. Clicking the like button takes a second and makes us feel good, but it doesn’t tell us anything about that person’s intent to purchase, how they feel about our brand, and we can’t even be sure they’re a real person.

Which brings me to……

What don’t likes tell us?

Harvard Business School has been running some pretty interesting experiments.

In one study, half the group were sent out a mailer, instructing them to like a beauty studio on Facebook. They obliged.

Then, the whole group was sent out a coupon for the same studio, offering them a discounted purchase.

Researchers found that whether or not participants liked the page, made no impact on if they redeemed the coupon.

In fact, across 16 studies with 18,000 participants, they found over and over again that likes had no correlation with purchase behaviour.

Another very real phenomenon on Instagram, is for people to pay for followers and likes. It’s not that expensive to buy a few thousand followers, or pay to chuck a 100 or so likes on a post.

In the past it’s been pretty easy to spot. What kinda account has 100K followers and averages 30 likes a picture?

Now, if people can’t see post likes, it’s even easier for accounts to artificially inflate their audience- either for personal gain or to get business opportunities.

So you get my point – likes aren’t the be all and end all of engagement.

If only there were some other metrics you could use…

Other metrics you can use


Shares are kind of the bigger, better version of likes. Someone sharing your post means they not only enjoyed it, but think their audience will, which gives you more exposure. This means engagement from the person who shared it, plus a whole new audience who hopefully have similar interests and values. Less common than likes, but a bloody jackpot!


If your social media captions have a call-to-action or a link people can follow through, use the data from that to help give you an idea of the engagement. For example, you might post on Instagram with a link to a blog post or specific product, then you can see how many people clicked-through and landed on that page. Click-through rates have the added bonus of being more likely to convert into a lead!


Comments are a great way to get quality engagement with your audience. Not only can you count the number of comments and see who’s tagged their friends, but it’s also a goldmine for insights and information about how your customers feel about your products and services. Plus, if someone comments, their friends see it in their news feeds and can boost exposure.

Nurturing the relationship over time

It can be tricky to calculate ROI of social media; a lot of what you’re doing is brand-building rather than direct response marketing, so you won’t see immediate results. My advice to you is to keep monitoring your engagement and keep an eye on what people are saying about you. That’s going to give you the best idea of how much and how many people like your content, and are therefore likely to turn into an actual lead.

Kerwin Rae