We use Discourse at Lookback, as an internal forum.
We use Likes to support and promote one another’s ideas and posts.
As such, a Like is an important component of the communication happening: it’s just as valuable as someone replying “I agree with this.” or “Sounds great” or “Let’s do it”.
The Likes often go unnoticed, because:
- The Likes don’t make threads appear unread
- The Likes aren’t taking up a lot of visual impact (space & color)
- Left-align likes at the footer of each post
- Add a colored heart for posts that have likes, no color for posts that don’t
- Potentially display avatars right away (rather than on expansion)
You know your design constraints best, so this proposed solution is just a very quick recommendation.