According to influencer platform #paid, over half the influencers it polled in countries affected by Instagram’s demetrication test said that they have observed a drop in their posts’ average number of likes since the test began. Another important form of engagement, comments on posts, was reported to have declined by a third of influencers #paid surveyed.

What’s more, nearly half of influencers indicated that their follower growth has slowed.

#paid suggests that all three metrics are connected and create a sort of negative feedback loop. The firm pointed to an influencer who commented, “Since launch, I’ve seen extremely low engagement and interaction because posts are not gaining enough likes/comments to be deemed a ‘good post’ and therefore it does not get shown to many people.”

Instagram’s algorithm is believed to incorporate a number of engagement-related metrics, including likes and comments, when determining how much organic reach a post should receive. While it’s possible that some of what influencers are observing is the result of algorithm changes, #paid’s data also hints at the possibility that behavioral changes resulting from Instagram’s demetrication experiment are putting affected influencers at an algorithmic disadvantage.

Much ado about nothing?

Whether such a disadvantage, if it exists, will affect influencers’ attractiveness to brands remains to be seen. While some influencers told #paid that they have seen less inbound interest from brands following the start of Instagram’s test, marketers who spoke with Business Insider suggested that demetrication isn’t a huge deal.

Jeremy Haile, the CEO of Sideqik, believes that authenticity and influencers’ ability to establish real relationships with their followers are more important than likes. That sentiment was echoed by Mike Blake-Crawford, director of strategy for Social Chain, who explained that likes were a “surface-level” metric. Other engagement metrics are more meaningful he says.

The measurement imperative

The question for marketers is whether they are capable of accurately and consistently measuring those more meaningful metrics. Some clearly are. Take beauty giant Estée Lauder, for instance, which recently reported impressive second quarter earnings despite the rise of challenger beauty brands.

Following the company’s earnings release Estée Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda revealed that “75% of our investment now are in digital social media influencers, and they’re revealing to be highly productive.”

The beauty giant works with beauty influencers at all levels, from some of the biggest names like fashion model and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss all the way down to micro-influencers.

“[Influencers are] highly productive because we are doing a very good job in advertising, quality on asset, in targeting but frankly they’re very productive because we have learned much better how to focus our investment where there is growth,” Freda explained. “When you expose your investment to growth, they have a much better rate of return. And that’s what is happening in this moment and that’s what we manage daily.”

In other words, Estée Lauder is measuring what moves the needle and optimizing its campaigns based on that, making demetrication much less a threat. If Instagram makes changes that affect the productivity of the influencers it works with, Estée Lauder is likely to see that and adjust accordingly.

Many companies, however, still report struggling with influencer marketing measurement. In fact, only 18% of marketers include influencer marketing within ROI calculations.

If there’s a silver lining to demetrication, it could be that marketers relying too heavily on surface-level metrics to justify spend gain a new imperative to figure out what metrics actually matter to their businesses and develop measurement capabilities so that they too can turn influencer marketing into a real needle-mover.

Influencer Marketing 2020 – Report