Is Instagram About To Make Major Changes That Will Affect Indian Businesses And Users?

Users of Instagram in India, both professionally and personally, are facing a time of transition. Brands who employ influencer marketing should prepare for a possible rebranding, as well as the probable permanent elimination of “likes” from the site. Marketers that have chosen Instagram as a venue for communicating with their consumers are being forced to face themselves some difficult questions after shocking findings about the enormous number of phoney followers in India.

Eliminating “like” totals

In terms of potential impact, the current experimentation with hiding “like” numbers from postings may become the most significant. Instagram has not ruled out expanding the feature to additional countries beyond the ones where it is already available (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, and Japan).

A representative for Instagram said to exchange4media, an Indian marketing and media business blog, that the service’s goal is to make its users more open to expressing themselves through the stuff they share. We choose these regions to see how the experience fares with Instagram users throughout the world. We don’t have any precise timeline to provide at this time about additional nations,” the spokeswoman stated.

Scherezade Shroff Talwar, a famous YouTuber and ex-model from Bombay with 208,000 followers, doesn’t think it will have much of an effect. But, many still don’t realise that many influencers receive compensation for their endorsements and other work. Brands are interested in advertising on the platform because they know it will help them reach their target consumers. If anything, I don’t think it will have less of an impact. Active participation will become more of a priority. She asserts that, in the future, brands will direct their marketing efforts towards more appropriate influencers.

Blogger Santoshi Shetty, who has 633,000 followers on Instagram, says, “Although on one hand, the reach of any blogger, influencer, or business is defined by the amount of likes and the metrics are generally computed that way, on the other hand, it will free up mind space. That’s why I think people will eventually cease worrying so much about their popularity online. There will be less clutter and more focus on quality in the digital marketing environment. Substance, not froth, please.

The marketing view of ditching “likes”

Then again, how do salespeople feel? “We are in the business of engagement and statistics,” says Aakriti Sinha, National Head for Social Media at digital marketing agency Isobar in India, “and I sincerely hope that this remains at the testing phase only.” The statistics were never the major attraction, but they did keep the pressure on, especially for those who wielded the most sway. The quality of their documentation suffered as a result of their need to provide information often and in a variety of forms (sometimes in excess) to maintain their position in the market.

She goes on to say that she hopes this serves as a “alarm bell” for all the companies and influencers who have been producing low-quality content in an effort to keep their performance in terms of numbers steady. If this works, then we can get back to making material that actually matters again.

“Although the material will still be rooted from broad appeal, the attention will then be on campaigns that create tangible outcomes of awareness, sales, or click-throughs,” says Akshay Popawala, Director of Digital Communication/Strategy at Mumbai-based firm Togglehead. If the pilot programme is made permanent, influencer marketing may proceed with more openness and data.

Issues with ‘purchased’ supporters

Even if fake Instagram likes don’t become an issue for Indian businesses, there’s still the elephant in the room: a survey from July showed that Indian content-creators and influencers had the third-highest number of followers in the world.

A Swedish e-commerce startup called A Good Company and data analytics firm HypeAuditor conducted an international study of 82 countries’ worth of Instagram accounts and found that the United States (with 49 million fake followers), Brazil (with 27 million fake followers), and India (with 24 million fake followers) (16-million).

Anders Ankarlid, CEO of A Good Business, recently made the following comment to PRWeek, an international journal serving the public relations industry: “Companies are pouring money into influencer marketing, assuming that they are interacting with genuine people and not Russian bots.” Well, they’re just throwing money away on someone who suddenly became popular and giving out free stuff.

The India Times website expresses its own worries in an article analysing the study: “In India, it is becoming more impossible to discern between personal ideas and paid postings due to lack of user knowledge.” The research’ findings demonstrate how simple it is for “influencers” to dupe not just their followers but even the advertising agencies who hire them to promote their clients’ businesses.

So, what should we learn from this?

Instagram appears to be going strong in India and worldwide, despite the previously mentioned shifts and discoveries. Status of Instagram Marketing 2019: A Global Survey, published in June 2019 by Social Media Today, found that 72 percent of respondents see Instagram as a “very probable” future marketing medium for their business.

This would be in line with the increasing usage numbers and planned features (such as Shopping Tags and in-app purchases) that would provide advertisers more options than ever before.

The rivalry for users’ attention on Instagram is sure to rise as more businesses catch on to the trend and join in. Social Media Today predicts that Instagram will continue to grow in importance, so if you haven’t already, now could be a good time to start.

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