By Manuela Whittaker, Planning Director

The announcement that Instagram is testing ‘Hide Likes’ received mixed reactions last month.

Although seen as a positive reaction to important issues surrounding young people’s safety and mental health, the removal of the red heart ‘like’ button poses an engagement evaluation challenge for marketers.

It’s even been suggested that hiding likes could jeopardise the influencer economy – those online personalities who promote and review almost everything, including golf – and a commercial universe that is set to be worth more than $10 billion by 2020, according to Adweek.

At a time when Millennials and Gen Z make up two thirds of the global population, 32% and 31.5% respectively (Bloomberg 2019) and the former represents one of the most lucrative demographics to market to, it will be brands (and influencers) that have to adapt to this change the most.

This includes golf clubs, courses and resorts, many of whom have been somewhat slow to take up social media marketing, but are now realising the value in terms of engaging audiences, and are selling everything from green fees and golf breaks to membership and equipment through their social media channels.

So how should brands adapt to the ‘Hide Likes’ move?

Once likes disappear, the focus will shift to other measures of social validation, such as comments and shares.

The good news is, these are ultimately more valuable than Instagram’s (or Twitter’s) red heart or Facebook’s thumbs up.

More insight — and value — comes from measuring engagement based on comments, shares and tags, because they demonstrate more ‘meaningful interactions’ and provide a better measure of worthiness for posts.

Stories and posts shared on social media that attract more comments are more likely to resonate with a wider audience, as the comments indicate a higher degree of engagement on the part of the audience.

Shares and tags are big, too, because that means someone took the time to process your post and realise it would be of interest/use to others within their friendship group.

Ultimately, shares and comments are harder to generate, so brands may have to work a little harder to make their social media content more thoughtful and engaging across the board.

How does this affect working with golf influencers?

Golf influencers represent a drop in the ocean compared to their travel, food and fashion counterparts, of whom there are tens and hundreds of thousands.

With such a small pool of candidates, it is vital to adopt a planned approach.

You won’t find strategic success just by sending free things out to these digital personalities or inviting them to your events.

At Landmark, we believe an influencer campaign must include methodical targeting, specific goals and messages, careful planning and measurement.

As with any important strategic decision, it is critical to take time to consider what needs to be done to generate a successful campaign, no matter how simple it appears on face-value.