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How Will Brands Engage Users in a World Without Likes

This fall, Instagram announced the platform is testing hiding “like” counts in the US after similar tests in countries including Australia, Japan, Canada, and Brazil. Facebook has also begun to try this formula in Australia, and Twitter may come on board as they consider how to create “healthier conversations” on the platform. But what will this mean for brands and the $6.5 billion influencer industry that has given them an inside view into their customers?

When Instagram tested likes in Canada, a study found that 41% of Canadian content creators said engagement dropped after Instagram like counts were hidden in the country. Creators who have had their likes hidden were also 2.5 times more likely to report not posting as often. This could cause major problems for brands relying on the platform and content creators as a primary form of engagement.

Without likes, social media could become a stagnant form of customer engagement and with regulation over social media at a tipping point, brands may need to look elsewhere to interact with their customers and maintain loyalty. One platform that brands can utilize to create better customer engagement is messaging apps. Let’s explore the benefits of these platforms for customer engagement in a world without likes.

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Meaningful Two-Way Engagements

Nearly a third (31%) of consumers regard their interactions with brands as merely transactional, creating a major opportunity for brands to engage in meaningful interactions with consumers. On Instagram or Facebook, for example, when consumers follow a brand they experience a one-way engagement. The consumer sees the content the brand is pushing out, whether it’s a new product announcement or a tutorial, and the interaction often ends there.

Messaging apps provide a unique opportunity for customers to engage directly with brands through two-way interactions. One-to-one contact between brands and customers is a building block for customer loyalty and the more personal experience available on messaging apps, such as direct and immediate customer service, can create a differentiator that keeps customers coming back in the future. Additionally, the adjustment to messaging apps is easy for consumers, as more than 2 billion people around the globe already use mobile messaging apps in their personal life to connect with friends or family.

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Decision-Based Interactions

Instead of being inundated with influencer brand posts – 17% of companies are spending half of their marketing budget on influencers and hyper-targeted advertising –  the ability for consumers to opt-in or opt-out of communication with a brand creates more meaningful engagements between the brand and the consumer. Users can opt to follow a brand directly to engage in communication, receive customer service support through real-time chats or chatbots or receive alerts about special deals and new products. Because consumers are consciously choosing to receive this information from a brand, with the ability to stop the communication if it becomes overwhelming or unnecessary, it creates more positive interactions between users and brands. It also helps brand ROI, as highly-engaged customers will buy a product or service 90 percent more often and spend 60 percent more per transaction.

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Greater Privacy for Users

Many social media platforms have been caught in a stream of privacy scandals over the past two years, particularly related to the use of consumer data. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Americans believe it’s not possible to go through daily life without companies collecting data about them. Furthermore, 81% feel they have very little or no control over the data that companies collect from them and 79% are concerned about how companies use that data. Many messaging apps have taken a more forward-thinking approach to privacy by integrating end-to-end encryption into the platform to keep consumer data safe. With this model, users don’t need to worry about whether their data is being collected by brands or third-parties that will serve them unnecessary ads and potentially put their information at risk for a data breach.

While only time will tell how social media will evolve without the impact of likes, when reevaluating priorities for 2020, brands should consider updating their strategies to focus on engagement strategies outside of social media to create more valuable engagements, instill consumer loyalty and provide user privacy.

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