As you are likely aware, Instagram is currently undergoing a trial in which the number of ‘likes’ on a post are hidden from other users.
Businesses use this metric for numerous reasons, but debatably the greatest impact will be on their use of ‘influencers’, which many companies use to promote their products and services.
Below we discuss the possible impacts this will have on businesses and their use of influencers.
Before we go any further, let's consider why Instagram has introduced this trial
In a tweet https://twitter.com/instagram?ref_src=twsrc%5Eappleosx%7Ctwcamp%5Esafari%7Ctwgr%5Eprofile/ made by the social media giant, it said it hopes to encourage less focus on the number of ‘likes’ users get on a post, and more focus on the actual content uploaded and shared.
It is a known fact that social media is a large contributor towards poor mental health, particularly in younger generations, and the pressure to receive more ‘likes’ on Instagram is undoubtedly one of the factors causing this.
Although, there is some debate on whether mental health was in fact the motive for hiding ‘likes’, or if the platform was instead driven by possible monetary benefits.
How is this going to affect businesses?
There are shared advantages and disadvantages businesses could face if this trial becomes a permanent feature.
Businesses often decide what influencers to use to promote their products and services based on the number of ‘likes’ they attain on each post. The numerical figure helps determine whether the influencer’s following is engaged with their content.
Hiding the number of ‘likes’ means businesses can no longer use this as a factor when electing an influencer. Instead, they will need to consider their following, and perhaps also the comments section (both of which are still visible).
It might also result in businesses becoming more reluctant in partnering with influencers. This will obviously have a big impact on the influencer industry, with a possible decline in sponsorship.
‘Likes’ aren’t everything. They don’t necessarily show how many people have seen the content, nor do they show how many users have clicked on the links provided for more information on the products being promoted.
This could provide an opportunity for businesses to stray away from the vanity of ‘likes’, instead placing focus on other useful metrics. This also creates an opportunity for new, creative influencers with fewer likes to access the industry.
In an interesting post by Dave Levett at Mumbrella https://mumbrella.com.au/instagram-removing-likes-is-about-money-not-mental-health-589970, he said that hiding ‘likes’ is actually in smaller businesses’ favour. It removes the concern felt when uploading content or teaming with influencers that their posts will have little response and engagement. Essentially, small businesses can post without fear.
Mr Levett suggests this was Instagram’s true agenda: creating an environment which encourages smaller businesses to spend more on advertising, turning a greater profit for the social media platform.
There’s also nothing to stop a business approaching influencers and asking for metrics. Of course, this is more of an annoyance, however it means using the number of ‘likes’ to choose an influencer isn’t totally out the window.
It’s important to note that at the moment, the impact on influencers and businesses of hiding ‘likes’ cannot yet be known with certainty. It could work for, or against them. However, the results of the trial will certainly be interesting, particularly on whether Instagram chooses to make this permanent.