If you’ve ever used social media then you’ll be all too familiar with the sense of awesomeness that comes when you absolutely boss an Instagram post and the likes come flooding in. Maybe it’s just me but even the best of us find it hard to totally disconnect the appreciation and approval of others from the hardwiring of our soul.

Living for likes is a real thing and I believe there is hidden danger in it. Not just psychologically of course as we subconsciously bend our creative habits to fit the appeal of those we seek affirmation from but also on a very practical level – likes simply aren’t giving you the full picture of the ‘success’ of a post.

Let’s start with the psychology and then move into the practical to see why this can really hinder your social media game.

And by game of course I mean maximising the free resource that social media is to communicate and share your ideas to people previously beyond your reach as well as strengthening your connections with those already in your world.

We live in truly unprecedented times (even before coronavirus) where any person, regardless of social connections, wealth or power is able to share their ideas with the world.Welcome to the wonders of social media.

If you have something you believe to be worth sharing with the world around you, you now have the means to do so.

But I digress. In our efforts to gain likes or pleasure from those around us (or far from us), we will find our content pursuing an increasingly linear direction, without nuance or creativity.

Take for example the classically candid selfie that is supposed to have been taken in mere moments but instead required more like hours to perfect the pose and angle. It’s a dangerous game as the standard is now set for the next image which by default has to lean more and more into the extremes to gather further attention.

It’s all too easy to see through and it is painful to watch the young pandering to such games in the pursuit of purely digital likes (not even real love). Whilst likes come in, self-respect generally seems to be going down.

That’s not to say I always post perfectly and I’m a big believer in experimenting with content to test real-world engagement so there is plenty of grace from this side of the life.

Clearly an over-focus for likes is not healthy and yet that does not mean that metrics in themselves are not useful. Metrics (which includes likes) are telling us valuable information about what the world thinks about our content. We would be wise to pay some degree of attention but simply not excessively.

We are yet to come to the practical. Let’s hone in on Instagram for a moment and remind ourselves of some of the metrics available.

First to note that there are three types of Instagram accounts

  1. Personal
  2. Creator
  3. Business

Only the latter two will provide you with more extensive metrics which I believe are very helpful for seeing the impact of your content creation in its fullness. You can switch for free in your settings.

Let’s talk about more of the metrics available

  1. Likes – how many people have liked the post
  2. Comments – how many people have left a comment
  3. Shares – how many people have forwarded this to a friend via DMs (or reposted to their story)
  4. Saves – how many people have saved this to their collection for future referral
  5. Profile visits – how many people have clicked from the post to your personal profile

There are some other metrics that Instagram will give us but these are the main ones.

As you can see, likes comprise of just 1 out of 5 key metrics and yet of course tend to be the ones we fixate upon.

I would like to suggest that the quality of a post is not best measured by likes (which come freely and cheaply) but in real engagement such as comments, shares, saves or profile visits.

On my personal account (you can follow me @satssolanki), family and friends shots always do very well on the likes front and I could easily draw the conclusion that people most want to see more of the same. However posts that are sharing a blog post for example tend to do very well in the profile visits category. And inspirational/spiritual quotes often do very well on shares or saves.

Let’s take a look at some of my recent posts to get a feel of just how this might play out.

1. Jack attack

  • 1 share
  • 1 save
  • 3 profile visits

We can see here that this cheeky photo of Jack aka the legend that is my son has hit almost 80 likes. (As these numbers will reflect differently according to the number of followers, to give you some context, for my account this is a good amount of likeage). But we can also see that everything else is fairly low.

Let’s take another example – now we’re going into the inspirational category.

2. Isolation will keep you from breakthrough

  • 9 saves
  • 11 profile visits

Despite having less likes, this has blown up in the shares category. In terms of engagement (if you’re considering sharing a message) I would argue that this has been a much more ‘successful’ post.

Obviously, I’m posting family photos for fun and to share my life with my friends (not to accomplish anything grand) but you can see that there is a lesson to consider here.

Let’s consider another recent post that was poor in the likes category.

3. Curating vs creating

  • 1 comment
  • 4 saves
  • 7 profile visits

Strangely enough, despite having only 18 likes (this is fairly abysmal for me) this has somehow received 4 saves (more than my family shot) and also 7 profile visits. It’s still not a great post but it’s much better than it looks on the surface.

Finally, let’s look at something that falls into the humour category – The Last Supper redefined by current times as a Zoom meeting.

It’s worth noting that this is not actually my photo, I reposted it from somewhere else.

4. The Upper Zoom

  • 12 saves
  • 27 profile visits

This hits all the categories with stunning figures across the board. Not only is it heavily liked but it received 61 shares which is fairly astronomical for my following.

We should be wary of reacting too quickly to the metrics though. Should I turn my Instagram account into #MemeCentral? Probably not.

I think it’s important to continually test content and to see how people engage with it across all of the metrics. I do this by putting a reasonable amount out there (usually daily but sometimes even 2-3 times per day).

A variety is key as different content reaches different people.

But let’s not shortsighted and fix our eyes only on the likes – they are only one small part of the puzzle. Consider the wider picture.

Happy posting!

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