In May 2019, Instagram announced plans to conceal likes and how many times a video has been viewed from users. The trial has since rolled out to seven countries, including the US. And it’s fair to say the UK (as well as the rest of the world) could very well be next.
While there was mass panic from notable influencers and celebrities, including the likes of Nicki Minak, in the media due to the fact that the number of likes is a key metric when collaborating with brands, but recent feedback from early testing shows some positive results. Hence, why we will soon say goodbye to Instagram likes.
An Instagram spokesman said: “We’re continuing our test to learn more from our global community. In addition, we understand that like counts are important for many creators, and we are actively thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners.”
In this article, we will explore the concealment of likes in closer detail, and explore how this new change could lead to more authentic engagement and meaningful collaborations.
Why is Instagram Removing Likes?
Recent years have seen Instagram come under fire for triggering poor mental health amongst users.
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Young Health Movement (YHM) singled out Instagram as the platform most likely to have a negative effect on young people’s health and wellbeing.
Although the app has been recognised for promoting self expression and identity, it has also been shown to perpetuate anxiety, depression and negative comparisons between users.
Therefore, the move is designed to downplay the importance users place in receiving validation on their content and shift focus to the content they create, the company said.
“We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,” Instagram said in a statement.
“We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love,” Facebook Australia and New Zealand policy director Mia Garlick said in a statement.
A draft code published by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in April suggested forcing Facebook and other platforms to turn off their like functions in an effort to keep young user safer online.
The proposed measures include banning ‘nudge techniques’ including likes and ‘streaks’ which prompt users to stay actively engaged with a service for longer, allowing the site to collect more personal data.
Will I Still Be Able To See Who Likes My Posts?
Instead of displaying the number of likes a post has received, posts will read “Liked by [user name] and others”, allowing only the post creator to see its likes in total.
This means you will still be able to measure this type of engagement on your posts. You will still see your own likes by tapping on the list of people who’ve liked it.
However, prospective collaborators and brand partners will not be able to see how many likes your posts receive, which has caused some concern amongst Influencers.
Will Influencers Survive Without Likes?
So, the big question is: “How will influencers be able to validate themselves and continue to make money after the likes are gone?”
Many are in an uproar over the change, including Influencer Tammy Hembrow and Nicki Minaj, both of which have declared they will no longer use Instagram as a result.
However, there are others who believe comments will be the new way to measure engagement on posts, and if a brand wants to work with an influencer in the future the amount of comments (which helps prove how engaged an audience is) will be the new KPI.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that you can still see a person’s total follower count, and that will remain unchanged for the time being.
Instagram's Removal of Likes Reflects the Demand for Greater Authenticity
If Instagram decides to permanently remove public likes, this will result in a complete overhaul of the way influencer marketing operates and brands will need to start getting smarter about the way in which they approach this arm of the marketing mix.
At present, the majority tend to make quick judgements on whether or not to collaborate with an influencer based on vanity metrics – i.e. only using the ratio of the number of followers they have to the number of likes they receive, with very little else considered.
This happens despite the fact that the number of likes received doesn’t necessarily reflect the true quality of a post, nor the creator’s relationship with their audience.
A great example of the need to look beyond likes comes from micro-influencers – those with fewer than 10k followers. While an influencer with over one million followers may generate tens of thousands of likes, their relationship with their audience could be weak as it is hard to establish a connection with such a vast amount of people.
In some cases, this could result in a low return on investment for brands choosing to collaborate with larger household names as their high fees may outweigh the number of individuals actually engaging, and subsequently, the purchases being made.
Meanwhile, an influencer with fewer, but more engaged followers, with whom they have a personal connection, can often yield better results.
Beyond likes, there are also a number of additional back-end analytics including reach, impressions, saves and shares which are important for brands to consider before moving forward with rate negotiations and contracts. This process can be simplified with the help of third-party vendors.
Aside from encouraging brands to make better-informed decisions when determining who best to collaborate with, the removal of likes on Instagram may also have drastically improve authenticity on the platform. This reflects a larger cultural call for connection, community, and integrity online.
With the move, less value will be placed on getting likes. This will help minimise influencers resorting to purchasing fake likes or participating in like-for-like programs to artificially inflate their engagement.
In addition to this, creators will no longer be able to compare their engagement with other users and, as a result, will likely experience less pressure to chase after likes and risk burnout to compete.
More Authentic Engagement = More Meaningful Collaborations
Reducing the importance placed on likes will likely mean that influencers will be empowered to create content that is aligned with their genuine interests, rather than solely pursuing likes through over-staged, flawless posts.
Influencer marketing is fundamentally a human-centric approach to marketing based on the fostering of meaningful collaborations and the development of content that will have an impact.
Trust and authenticity are integral, and why people follow influencers that reflect their interests and aspirations, so, therefore, it is based upon the same reasoning that brands call upon specific influencers for collaborations.
The best influencers tend to come from within their own audience’s demographics, are able to take a brief and interpret it authentically, and can subsequently educate the brand on the sorts of content works when trying to engage with that group moving forward. They are, rarely, those with the most likes.
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