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A world beyond ‘likes’—the new rules of influencer engagement

flaunter-com-N9Eo-PrvY7U-unsplashInstagram is currently hiding the likes on video and image posts in select countries including Canada as a way to “reduce pressure” and help users “focus on the photos and videos [they] share, not how many likes they get.” On the surface, the change could spell bad news for influencers who leverage likes as an important metric for engagement, which is something the brands they work with care about, often more than follower count. While the test is still in exploratory stages, if the change becomes permanent, influencers may need to discover new ways to communicate their value to brands. In turn, brands will need to find other ways to evaluate the efficacy of influencer campaigns. 

Look for the storytellers 

With likes no longer the winning metric, how should you evaluate which influencers your brand can work with to engage Gen Z? Look to engage their favorite storytellers.  While instagram sponcon has become an important channel for monetizing influence, the influencers that top Gen Z’s list mostly hail from the YouTube world. We recently surveyed our internal youth panel, Generation Wattpad, and asked them to tell us about their favorite social media influencers. They dropped names like David Dobrik, Shane Dawson, Jeffree Star, Mia Maples, and Jenna Marbles—all of whom are popular YouTubers. Wattpad authors like Anna Todd and Twitch streamer Mydaddycangame were also in the mix.  

We’ve also seen these popular influencers woven into Wattpad stories. For example, last month (October 2019) our readers spent over 2.7 million minutes reading the more than 2,800 stories tagged “DavidDobrik”. The same time period saw more than 775K minutes spent reading content tagged “shanedawson”!

Gen Z wants real

As to why they love them, our youth panel told us they find these influencers real and authentic. They found their lack of filter was refreshing, appreciated that they represented people like themselves, and they regularly made their day brighter through fun, positive, wholesome content. And, if we were to guess what makes those attributes shine through, it’s the power of storytelling. 

Interesting, then, that as ‘likes’ as a metric disappear, we’re going to see a bigger push for placement in storytelling media, like YouTube,  Instagram Stories, and Wattpad—narrative platforms where content, not just product placement, wins. 

When it comes to audience—maybe who is more important than ‘how many’

Sure, investing in influencer outreach means gambling on your story finding an audience beyond what you could organically garner on your own. But in a world where engagement can’t be measured by likes, it’s going to become more important than ever to know who your influencer’s audience is. Don’t be afraid to ask for demographic audience data—the age, location, and gender-identity breakdown of followers is a great start. If your influencer does Instagram Stories—asking for ‘swipe-up’ and ‘view’ metrics show how the audience is really reacting to their narrative. 

In a post-like world, find a narrative that fits

It’s always been a rule of thumb that brands should find influencers who speak their lingo. If you’re selling luxury coats, you wouldn’t want your influencer to be a notorious bargain-hunter. Your product must be consistent with the influencer.

The power of influencers lies in an ability to break barriers and reach people on a personal level that traditional means of advertising struggle with.

Want to learn how influencers were central to JCPenney's campaign on Wattpad, which went on to win an influenceTHIS award? Read the case study here