Instagram is currently testing the ‘hiding of likes’ users give posts, leading marketing strategists across the globe to wonder how this will affect their strategy. Instagram recently posted an announcement, stating that it would “hide the total number of likes and video views for some people” in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. The idea, said the company, was to “learn more about how this change might benefit everyone’s experience on Instagram.” Instagram has grown vertiginously in popularity. If your marketing team relies on influencer marketing to promote or extend brand awareness, how would you be affected if Instagram decided to extend its scope and remove likes permanently?
Instagram a Force to be Reckoned with for Influencer Marketing
According to the Influencer Marketing 2019 study, Instagram is the fastest growing social network in 2019, with almost two billion active users. These users ‘like’ some 4.2 billion posts every day – and these days, ‘like’ numbers are used by many marketing teams to gauge the popularity of individual influencers. As stated on Social Media Daily’s website, in addition to followers and comments, likes are useful for many perspectives, giving creators and marketing teams insight on optimal posting times, content type, and niche posts. Many users are already questioning the utility of removing likes and demanding information as to whether or not this change will become permanent or remain as an authentic ‘test’.
Why the Change?
It is not immediately clear why Instagram (rather its owner, Facebook) has decided to remove ‘likes’. Cnet Tech News reports that “The move underscores how tech companies are thinking twice about features and products that can wreak havoc on your mental health.” Instagram is certainly not the only network moving in this direction, with Facebook, Apple, and Google also introducing tools to limit users’ screen time. Ostensibly, the move has been made to protect mental health. Recent studies have found powerful links between digital media use and depression, with one study in particular reporting that Facebook users can end up comparing their lives to those of others, which often results in sadness or disappointment.
Pushing Stories and Video
Social Native founder and CEO, David Shadpour, believes that Facebook and Instagram have a definite, strategic goal when it comes to ‘like’ removal. He told CNBC that their aim is “push users to Stories, since they believe the future is in short form videos, not static images or [the] News Feed. Because of this, they’re focusing on strategies to increase consumer consumption rate of video, get more creators making videos, and increase ROI of advertisers leveraging video.” His statement is a clear wake-up call to social media marketers to make video a far bigger priority. Shadpour has another interesting idea: likes would naturally phase off anyway, holding less importance than other metrics, including authentic engagement with the post, time spent on the post, and views.
For some analysts, the removal of ‘likes’ will be a positive thing indeed. By enabling creators to post content they truly connect instead of content created just to generate ‘likes’, the overall quality of Instagram is set to soar, as is the creativity of the content posted. It will also encourage creators to engage more with their followers, in the same way that many of the world’s top vloggers are already doing on YouTube. Finally, the change will also highlight the importance of videos, encouraging marketing teams to create more and better videos, or risk losing the interest of an increasingly visual audience.