Facebook has officially announced it will be testing hiding likes and other key engagement metrics from the public. The social media platform and its partner platform Instagram is known for constant changes to its mysterious “algorithm”, but this announcement has users and marketers alike flailing to react.

Social media users have long sought “likes” and views as a status symbol, but more than that, brands often use these metrics to determine how much to invest in an influencer marketing campaign. Knowing these metrics will be publicly suppressed completely changes how members of the social media marketing industry should approach paid partnerships, and measuring KPI’s.

For now, Facebook is only testing this platform change in Australia. When asked whether or not this massive change would go global, Jimmy Raimo, a Facebook spokesman stated, “We will gather feedback to understand whether this change will improve people’s experiences” before they decide whether to enforce the new feature worldwide.

Facebook says the goal of this change actually relates to the mental health of users. The aim of hiding engagement numbers is to encourage users to use social media as a place to share content without metric-dependant validation. Users will still have access to the data behind the scenes of their own profile, but the number of likes and comments will not be shown outwardly to the public.

So where does that leave brands and influencers who depend on these metrics to measure and drive their campaign success?

Answer: if this change goes forward there will be a significant shift from the importance of “likes” to “impressions”. With public actions like views and likes being hidden, impressions and social listening will be the new gold standard of social media marketing.

Additionally, building campaigns around accurate, responsibly gathered data will be of even more importance. Social listening about one’s own brand (as well as their competitors) becomes more valuable without being able to review public-facing metrics like video views, likes, comments, and more.

Smart marketers may already be changing their focus from engagement metrics to reach and impressions due to the already-steep decline of engagement rates in 2019. Even so, this still marks a massive, ongoing alteration in industry thinking and strategy.

Social media marketing has been taught to value public-facing engagement above all else, but there’s no way to know if this change will affect a users’ desire to like or comment on a photo until the feature has run for a significant period of time. Until then, marketers can’t possibly use an incomplete data set to determine the future of the business.

Plan ahead for these upcoming changes by shifting your KPI’s now. Set actionable and specific goals for content impressions and reach, and pay even more attention to influencers’ authenticity metrics to prevent “inflation” of behind the scenes numbers.

Even better? Take it one step further and determine how you want viewers of your content to interact with your brand after they’re exposed to your campaign. Instead of looking at “immediate gratification” metrics like ‘likes’ and ‘comments’, look for more concrete data spikes like an increase in visits to your social profiles or website.