The Rise And Fall Of The Likes

Issue 54

In the last few months, it’s been reported that Instagram will be trialing removing Likes for users on posts in the U.S, a feature that has already been trialed across the world, and is expected to be rolled out globally and soon, the U.K.

The decision to take away the vanity metric of popularity is so that users can, “focus on the photos and videos, not by how many likes they get.” The aim of hiding likes, the company stated, is to remove the element of “pressure” from the social media platform and to stop it feeling “like a competition.” All of which sounds admirable, especially given the 2017 study that found Instagram was the worst social network for your mental health, linking it to depression and anxiety.

In one sense, hiding likes is a simple fix for what the platform is morphing into: a mood board of orchestrated images that has prompted many people to abandon posting to the main feed entirely in favour of the like-free Instagram Stories. The pressure with posting is too great, and our feeds are overrun with photographs advertising the best bits of our life, complete with catchy captions. Take away likes and the clock turns back to a time when a photograph of a cup of coffee was just that, not a paid partnership with a coffee brand offering followers the chance to win a lifetime supply of coffee. Showing off is in the DNA of Instagram, and hiding the number of likes won’t make it any less influential, aspirational or inspirational.

If implemented, users would be able to see their own likes, but not that of others. Brands wouldn’t be able to tell how popular a specific account is or image hugely affecting any influencer marketing strategy. Influencers could share those numbers themselves to an agency or brand, but they could easily be doctored or manipulated.

But how would the removal of Like counts change user behaviour? Would users be less inclined to tap ‘Like’ if they didn’t have the context of how many others had done the same? And how would that impact overall on-platform engagement?

Feedback from users based in the U.S have suggested that they have been more personal with the things they actually like versus what everyone else is liking. This feels like more of what Instagram should be rather than an advertisement of ourselves on their page.

Given Instagram’s recent increased efforts to prioritise mental health, Instagram Stories were created in part to alleviate the pressure of receiving likes.

Without the likes, users can be more carefree about posting. The platform feels less like a popularity contest between Instagram influencers with carefully curated aesthetics and average users who use their page to share glimpses of their daily lives with family and friends.

With social media fast becoming an over crowed market, new changes coming in daily, and shiny new platforms infiltrating the space every day, as a consumer, it’s difficult to determine which networks to choose to spend your time and your marketing budget affectively.

In 2019, habits changed, platforms evolved, and new platforms came into existence. All of this has influenced how people use and reacted to social media marketing, as well as how marketers were able to reach their audience.

In 2020, I believe that more people will choose to “detox” from social media, deleting apps and profiles in order to step away from it. This is more than just the usual changes we see in terms of people choosing to use one platform less in favour of another – such as Facebook seeing users decline but Instagram attracting more – this trend is seeing people take a temporary or permanent break from all social media.

Ultimately, it’s vital that you don’t start putting all your marketing eggs in the social media bucket. You need to ensure that enough of your budget and resource is still being given to other channels, including email marketing and search engine marketing. However, it’s also vital that you ensure that any social media presence you do have is as meaningful as possible. Your brand needs to offer more – you need to deliver content that has a positive and memorable impact on your audience and that provides as much value as possible.

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