Liked by … and others.
This week, Instagram confirmed plans that could revolutionise the way the platform’s one billion global users interact with content. A trial, taking place in Canada, will stop users from being able to see who has liked a post, nor how many likes a post has received in total.
It’s okay, the world isn’t set to implode, but Instagram’s announcement on Tuesday (30th April 2019) means we’re all going to start questioning the way we use and interact on social media.
Instagram’s forthcoming trial
The trial, which will be rolling out later this week, means that followers will not be able to see who has liked a post, nor how many likes a post has received in total. Although, it’s worth noting that the owner of the account will still be able to do so.
This comes about as Facebook, the owners of Instagram, are trying to shift the way that people interact with social posts.
“We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,” said an Instagram spokesperson.
There’s a clear argument over the psychology of likes and mental health implications, with likes becoming addictive and ego-boosting. The current focus on likes also breeds an abundance of click-bait posts, and provocative imagery to encourage likes and engagement without having any substance behind the posts.
Quality over quantity
This potential update means producing quality content is even more crucial than ever as posts will be interacted with for their quality, rather than quantity of likes. It also means engagement is vital- without the instant indicator the number of likes brings, users will be paying attention to both follower count and the comments on each post.
Sparking quality conversations, over the mindlessness of liking content will be at the forefront. Users will need to spend more time both crafting content and scrolling through their feeds, taking time to interact with posts as opposed to simply double tapping.
What does this mean for businesses and influencers?
With the rise of influencer and business fraud on social platforms, such as buying likes and followers, there has been the inevitable debate of how to go about combatting this. After its failed bot clear-out in February this year, perhaps this is another way Instagram is looking to tackle problems, enabling posts to be viewed for merit and value- rather than ranked for likes.
If this does go ahead on a global scale, businesses need not panic about how they will track impact and success of their content without the like count. Analytics shouldn’t change- you will still be able to see who likes and interacts with your posts- however the way your followers interact will be completely different, thus the way you post will need to follow suit. And despite it not being recommended, if you’re a business that doesn’t allow for comments on posts- you will certainly need to reassess your approach.
For business and influencer relationships, it’s tricky. There is already a lot of misinformation and distrust rising between the two, however companies who work actively with influencers, or are looking to, will need to pay close attention to the amount of engagement they receive- making sure both parties adopt a transparent approach, where brands can request analytics and data from the people they choose to work with.
How to drive for comments not likes
Despite the debate over the negative psychology surrounding likes and the competitive nature that goes alongside this- are Instagram simply shifting focus from likes to comments and emphasising the lesser of two evils? And with an increased focus being placed on comments, this also poses the question of how businesses and brands will encourage people to comment in replacement of likes?
We already see brands favouring comments more frequently within competitions or giveaways, driving users to follow and comment, tagging in others as well, rather than simply liking the post. It’s also becoming more noticeable for users/ influencers to ask their followers questions to answer within the comments, this device sparks conversation with the intention of driving further engagement than simply likes.
What could this trial mean?
If this trial works out, could hiding likes spark a social media revolution? Could this new feature build a platform that puts valuable content at the forefront and advocates for the people who work hard to build their platform. Or will it create a greater disparity making it difficult to trust an account’s authority? Could this new feature make it easier for accounts to falsely represent their authority?
Nowadays it is incredibly easy and cheap to buy big followings and use bots for comments, so users having the ability to sift through and see the real people engaging with posts has been arguably underrated.
Time will tell how this changes things for marketeers and what further changes there could be down the line.
What do you think of the change? Does it go far enough or is it missing the point? Let us know what you think. Need advice on getting your social media content right? Get in touch to speak with the team.