Despite still being in its trial phase, Instagram ‘likes’ are fast becoming a thing of the past. After hiding ‘likes’ was first piloted in countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand in July 2019, the United States is the most recent pioneer of the transition to a ‘like-free’ feed.
Instagram’s gargantuan culture of ‘likes’ has transformed the way we interact with brands, as well as the relationship brands and influencers have with each other. With marketers often relying on ‘likes’ as a form of audience feedback and metric for measuring success, what impact will this shift have and what can be done to adapt to the change?
Why is Instagram removing ‘likes’?
According to Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri, “The idea is to de-pressurise Instagram”, making it less of a competition and more of a safe and inclusive online space. Following the backlash Instagram has faced for its dog-eat-dog culture of ‘likes’, this shift comes as a bid to protect the general wellbeing of its users. Though it is important to note, ‘likes’ are not being entirely revoked, rather they will just be hidden to followers, but users will still be able to see how many ‘likes’ they’ve received on their own individual posts.
What will this mean for brands and influencers?
For brands, the number of ‘likes’ posts receive is an integral marketing tool for understanding user behaviour and measuring the popularity of certain campaigns or products. With 83% of users discovering new products and services on Instagram, hiding ‘likes’ could have huge implications for brands hoping to generate sales via the platform. As Instagram’s algorithm operates based on the content a user ‘likes’, removing this altogether could massively backfire for brands who rely on being discovered on users’ feeds or on the app’s Explore page.
Similarly, for influencers, ‘likes’ equal reputation. They allow an influencer to prove their status and importance through a visible and quantifiable sign. Getting rid of ‘likes’ could make it far more difficult for influencers to secure promotional or sponsored work with a brand. Though you could argue that brands can instead determine an influencer’s value based on their number of followers, ‘likes’ are a key signifier of content engagement and essential to this decision-making process.
What do brands and influencers need to do to adapt?
Although brands and influencers may worry for the future of a ‘like-free’ Instagram, big players in the game are welcoming the change. According to Ben Arnold, managing director of global creative agency We Are Social, this feature is a “hugely positive step for the industry”, particularly in an era where brands and influencers may value ‘likes’ over building authentic relationships with consumers through quality content.
To adapt to this change, it is integral that brands and influencers discover new ways to engage with their audiences. Comments, for example, have the potential for far more genuine interaction with users. The key is to focus on building community and taking the time to have authentic conversations, not relying on the instantaneous metric of a ‘like’.
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