Earlier this year, Instagram began removing likes on posts as part of a new trial. Their aim is to reduce the pressure that the platform places on its users and is a response to increasing concerns around how social media can lead to low self-esteem and has been linked to mental health issues.
They are currently rolling this out in just a selection of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Brazil. This follows a similar trial which was launched in Canada back in May.
Instead of displaying the like count below each picture, it will instead read ‘liked by Joe Bloggs and others’, as in the example below.
(Source: The Verge)
Users will still be able to view their own likes (they just have to tap to request it) and those with business accounts will still be able to see their ‘Insights’ data as usual.
Despite this, the trial has been met with outcry from the influencer community, who believe that they rely on the like count to get brand collaborations and make money.
However, we think this bold move is actually a very positive one – not just in terms of social responsibility but also in terms of high-quality marketing. Here’s why:
Since Instagram has always been driven by likes, both personal and professional users feel pressure to post content regularly and keep the likes rolling in – as this proves popularity. However, without this looming pressure, content creators might feel more able to spend time creating quality posts with a genuine message.
In the same way, social content that is driven by likes is likely to stick to a specific format – posting similar images or shots that you know get people double-tapping rather than experimenting with new and different ideas.
Once Instagram is out of the numbers game, we might begin to see content that’s a bit more ‘out there’ (and ultimately more interesting).
When it comes to influencer marketing, it has historically often been those with the most likes that get chosen by brands to promote their products. This hasn’t always been the case, of course, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers when they’re right in front of you.
However, without likes, brands will need to look at other factors when they’re choosing who to work with. Follower count is still likely to come into it but there might be a greater emphasis on the relevance and style of the person that a brand chooses to collaborate with.
Related article: What is ‘Checkout’ on Instagram and is it a Game Changer?
Popular influencers might have a reason to be worried, however, because this move by Instagram evens out the playing field a little bit. Instead of sponsored brand collaborations, which can cost a fair bit, we might see companies looking for different ways to get their branded content out there.
Of course, brands will still be able to see how many followers and comments an influencer has. But engagement will be much harder to measure, so they may as well broaden their strategies and look to promote user-generated content as well. This has the added bonus of being more authentic.
One of the criticisms of Instagram has always been that it encourages people to put up a false image of themselves, and the same can be said for brands. After all, a brand still has individual people behind it with their own unique personalities and stories to tell.
Rather than posting ‘aspirational’ content all the time, which aims to gain likes as a sign of popularity, both personal users and brands can let their authenticity, humour and creativity shine through a bit more.
All in all, this can be seen as a positive move by Instagram as they aim to tackle some of the more serious issues around social media and its impact on young people. Hopefully, the removal of likes will encourage creativity, experimentation and originality.