EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Influencers and social media addicts, brace yourselves: it is happening, Instagram is now hiding likes in the US ! That comes a few months after likes first disappeared in Canada, and then Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. If it doesn’t affect every user for now, as it’s part of their on-going test to make Instagram a safer place on the internet, it could very well the global standard soon.
The idea is to “de-pressurize Instagram, and make it a space more focused on conversation and community.
Did you like my photo? Should I post now or later? Should I delete my picture that only got 49 likes? Posting on Instagram can be really stressful for people who care about likes. And Instagram is now saying that by removing likes, they will reduce some of that pressure. They got us hooked on likes, and now we have to kiss them goodbye… how ironical. However, in the countries where the test is being done, the majority of users declared feeling positively about this effort to improve wellbeing. Indeed, studies have shown that Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health, such as negatively impacting body image.
Because likes are used as a measure of popularity, many young users end up tying likes to their self-esteem. Instant validation for what you write or wear makes you feel good instantly. So lesser likes, or no likes from certain people can have the opposite effect. Such comparison has led to mental health issues with younger generations.
WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN NOW?
Likes won’t completely disappear, they’re just hidden from followers
The move to hide likes could encourage users to post more “authentic” content, without being concerned about how many likes it gets. A lot of users post uninteresting content where they expose themselves, only to see how many likes it gets them. Maybe it will push people to post more of what they like rather than what they look like. Maybe women (and men) will start to less objectify themselves with poses that they feel will bring them the recognition they need to exist. Maybe, if it does go through around the world, we will finally see an interesting change in content. Certainly not a universal cure, but it’s a step to a healthier social media environment. The end of normalized “voyeurism”?
THE BIG QUESTION IS: HOW WILL THIS AFFECT INFLUENCERS AND BRANDS ?
Obviously, this change would have major implications for influencers. It could make it more difficult for brands to find Instagram influencers to work with. Brands have started to understand that it is more about the reach and the engagement rate than it is about followers, so influencers will have to work harder at how they engage their community, and how they will create customized on-brand content. That might mean stepping in a more authentic direction, as influencers will feel they have more freedom to post what inspires them rather than what gets more likes. Businesses will have to rely on comments and work harder to engage their demographics and encourage discussion. Creativity will be key to show credibility.
IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD !
If it is about building a positive culture, a less toxic environment, then we’re all for it! For many high-rolling businesses, you can’t build a viable business thinking you’re going to run it on Instagram alone, unless you’re thinking short-term. A business has to be able to stand on its own feet, with something else than social media support to show for. In the parallel socio-economic set up of social media, likes served as an alternate currency of social validation, allowing businesses and influencers to gauge demand and outline the scope of their “influence”. With likes disappearing, brands will look deeper into influencers and their capability to actually relay information before investing into them. It will also actively encourage advertisers to stop looking at metrics such as likes as the main important metrics within a campaign.
Overall, it is seen as a good thing that will help all the social media world shift toward more authentic content: less calibrated, less calculated, less curated and more aspirational.