If you’ve noticed your newsfeed looking a little bare, Instagram has removed likes as a form of performance metric system. This means the total number of likes on a post have been hidden from your followers' news feed, however, Instagrammers can still view the number of likes on their posts.
Ever since social media has been integrated into our daily lives, there has been a general concern on how social media platforms can negatively contribute to one’s self-esteem, social pressures, mental health and bullying. In this digital media age, there are ongoing battles of validation in regards to the emphasis placed on how many likes each photo receives. It comes down to whether this is a way of marking shame or a badge of honour.
With these new updates it does beg the question if this will positively or negatively impact businesses, ‘influencers’ and brands.
Measuring platform metrics is the overall essence of any digital strategist, brand manager or practitioner within the marketing industry. Our digital landscape has been scrutinized by numbers and metrics. When analysing and reporting on consumer data, we use these performance metrics across social platforms to determine communication and content strategies. Other renowned platforms have also made public changes to the display of metrics within their algorithm. Youtube has recently altered the display of subscriber counts on channels, while Twitter doesn’t report the ‘monthly active user’ metric to investors.
It’s too early to confidently say how it will affect marketers, however removing likes will remove the pressure from marketers chasing unrealistic metrics. It's more important than ever for marketers to be focusing on building unique and genuine relationships with their audiences with multiple touch points throughout the entire customer journey. From a cultural standpoint, our perceptions, habits, attitude and way of thinking have been deeply ingrained via social media platforms including Instagram. As a marketer, this new change shifts the focus in developing content strategies that generate interest and understanding your audience to secure long term engagement and brand loyalty.
For influencers and brands, the level of users’ engagement with the creators' posts was an indicator of how well that audience responded to the idea of using that product or service. Influencers are often paid based on the levels of engagement, including the amount of likes received. Despite brands’ and influencers’ followers not being able to see how many likes are received on their posts, Instagram has mentioned the new change will not impact common measurement tools such as Insights & Ads Manager. For both parties, focusing on delivering important content and building an authentic connection with their audience will be the key focus when evaluating their Instagram strategy. Small businesses will now have the opportunity to advertise amongst other larger organisations without the judgement and stress that stems from the currency of engagement (likes of their competitors).
Receiving a social media ‘like’ has been described as an addiction, a yearning desire that feeds into the competitive social status indicating people are watching the creators content.
This is a very powerful commodity in the modern digital age as some believe if users can’t see the number of likes on a post that it will reduce interaction. Instagram are telling us their goal during this test is to make the platform feel less like a competition and for users to spend more time posting content that they enjoy, that they believe adds value, and connecting with audiences they care about.
For current and upcoming Instagram influencers this change will encourage creators to generate meaningful content and encourage audiences to leave comments and share posts to generate further exposure on the platform. The real metric sits below the surface. Previously, the rise of fake followers has flawed the method when assessing how valuable or successful an influencer can be for an organisation. Users were able to purchase followers, likes and comments to effectively fool consumers to believe their content and page had a loyal following.
For brands and businesses seeking an influencer to integrate within their marketing strategy, looking more closely at their content, the authenticity with their followers, their branding and taking the focus off the numbers will be the primary focus when choosing to source externally to represent the brand. Removal of likes will make it more difficult for influencers who base their presence on their fake and bought followings. Consequently, this opens up a golden opportunity for influencers with authentic audiences to build long term brand loyalty and profitable relationships with brands that support their values.
Instagram is known to frequently update the platform yet they haven’t brought back the chronological timeline layout, something Instagrammers have requested since the day the original format was updated. Instagram’s current statement is ‘...Bringing you closer to the people and things you love.
Users believe it’s easier to engage with friends by bringing back the chronological order instead of having influencer sponsored posts burying content from people they love down in their feed. Some also question why leave the option to ‘like’ a photo and not remove it entirely? This also could conceivably leave the market open for a new social media platform to take over. Unhappy users could potentially move away from the platform if they don’t feel it benefits them in the way they want to.
It will be interesting to note if comments will become the new form of ‘like’ and whether it will become a stronger indicator of how people interact with content on Instagram. Some question whether this is all a PR stunt by a global brand to raise awareness of the other connotations linked with online content engagement.
In our current digital society, we live in a time where brands and influencers play a part in shaping our decision making process. The digital landscape that is portrayed in social media today naturally have lead us to develop a ‘pack mentality’ of seeking approval from others based on popularity and likes. We want to find out the latest trends, generate a huge interest in what people are into or what people flock to.
Will the removal of likes allow audiences to develop their perceptions of a brand without the pressure that stems from the currency of engagement?
Will influencers start to post content based on their interests and not because of the analytical benefit?
How will brands now secure long term engagement and brand loyalty with their audience?
It will be interesting to discover how brands, marketers and influencers overcome this change and incorporate new changes into their content strategy.
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