Like me not: The End of Likes

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How do you know a post is on fire and well on its way to becoming viral. Simple, you take a glance at the likes tally. For decades, likes have been core indicators of content performance on both social media and the internet as a whole. They still are one of the most popular means of assessing engagement, and for search engines, they remain a key determinant of SERP rankings.

But that’s all tipped to change in the nearest future. Likes are going, and Instagram’s recent announcement that it has already set in motion the process to take out like counts from its feed represents one of the first steps to this ‘likepocalypse.’

Changing consumer behavior

In the early days of the internet, likes provided an easy one-click way to interact with content. In the modern-day setting, however, on the backdrop of what can be described as an expansion of social media, user-content interaction extends way past just clicking the like button. Interaction is achieved via various other diverse ways, and some of these contemporary methods have provided a more qualitative projection of actual engagement.

That’s all to say that although likes remain a global currency for user engagement, their value has all but withered in the last few decades. Think about it, more, and more people arbitrarily click the like button these days; it’s not uncommon to see a web user like a post just because his/her friend had just liked that post.  

The new currency is attention

So yes, a user can like your content and simply scroll past it. What truly defines engagement is how much attention a user dedicates to that content. When the likes go away, attention, defined as extent and magnitude of user interaction, will invariably take center stage in the world of social media and content production.

Is this attention quantifiable? Yes. However, quantifying it will be a factor of considering an array of performance metrics previously ignored by a significant majority of content producers and marketers. As likes take a bow, evergreen indicators such as sharing and commenting paired with more novel metrics like reach, audience retention, completion, and exits will rise to provide a means of keeping a handle on the quality and quantity of user engagement.

While each metric can on its own serve as a pointer to how much attention is being cultivated by a post or social media campaign, a more holistic approach will be to aggregate individual metrics into a single performance indicator. That’s where analytics come into the mix.

Analytics

If you’re a content marketer who is still not conversant with the game of analytics, the fall of the like button is your final cue to get familiar with. Social media and the internet ecosphere is gradually evolving, and part of that evolution is a shift towards more innovative and effective means of content production, distribution, and marketing – analytics debuts as a core functional driver that’s required to fast-track all three segments.

In the context of quantifying attention, analytics is the tool savvy social media managers, and content producers will leverage to get the comprehensive picture. That’s because unlike humans, analytic engines do the hard work to dig for and consider even the minutest of details. What you get in the end (as an attention performance indicator) is an analysis that’s both expansive and factual with no grey or murky areas.

More so, the typical analytics engine will, in addition, to accurately compounding individual metrics, provide valuable insights and an actionable roadmap toward cultivating even better attention from your audience. The result for your business is the competitive edge to rise above the other market players.

Conclusion

So to recap, likes are going, and in their stead will come everything else that represents a more thorough and intricate assessment of user engagement. These engagement metrics, notable amongst which are completion rates, referral rates, and audience retention, will form the basis of quantifying the new currency of social media – attention.

As a social media manager/content producer, improving on attention – how much time and effort users commit to interacting with your content – and not your like counter should be the new emphasis of your content production, distribution, and marketing campaign. Of course, there are several ways to do this, but the central starting point for any business would be to master the analytics dashboard. Onwards from there, and it’s a case of leveraging the tools, tips, and tricks you’re already well familiar with.


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