Earlier this year, Instagram experimented with design tweaks, to stop showing the number of likes to users other than the post’s author. So, if you posted on your Instagram handle about the exotic holiday you are on, people seeing that post would not be able to see how many likes it gathered. The tweak was initially rolled out in Canada, followed by 7 other markets scattered across the globe. Facebook considered following suit, shortly after.
What Instagram’s experiment aims to achieve
The intent behind the change is noble — “because (Instagram) wants your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get”. This means ‘likes count’ is no longer a metric/ currency of success/ popularity.
Who’s affected by this change and how?
ThinkBumblebee’s analysis indicates that almost all participants in the influencer ecosystem are likely to be affected, in varying measure:
BUSINESSES STAKEHOLDERS: Conversations about the change indicated immediate impact on businesses using Instagram to engage with their audiences. Vanity metrics eg. like count, follower count, follower growth etc. are considered as indicators of a brand’s popularity. The tweak was anticipated to limit the impact that brands could enjoy from displaying high like-counts. Some opined that people are more likely to consider a brand that they see other people liking, more likely to spread the word about it, more likely to even bring it home. Thus, when a brand’s like count is not visible to users, it dilutes a brand’s ability to attract interest, preference, even recommendation.
INFLUENCERS: The other ‘affected party’ was expected to be the influencer community. Influencers felt that the tweak was counter-intuitive to their motive for being on Instagram. They play the content-creator role on Instagram and possibly felt let down by the very platform that created ‘Social Media Influencer as an occupation, in the first place. Influencers promoting small, local brands appeared to be particularly vocal against the change.
BRAND STAKEHOLDERS: Brands, on the other hand, both create and leverage content on Instagram. The change drew a mixed response from this segment:
· Some agreed with influencers. Since brand followers can no longer ‘follow the herd’, brands will be forced to refocus on creating superb content.
· Other business spenders on Instagram considered the change, a clean-up act. This segment anticipated that the change would force influencers to up their game professionally and compete harder to create compelling content, so as to trigger relevant engagement.
Summarizing likely outcomes
While the full-scale roll-out might unravel a different story altogether, here’s our take on what lies ahead, basis events so far:
1. Post authors might refrain from curating/ window-dressing their feed.
2. Metrics other than Likes eg. Follower Count, may come into play.
3. Considering that businesses will refocus on clutter-breaking, engaging content; Communication agencies might come under additional pressure to deliver.
4. Those who are already genuine influencers, are likely to benefit from the change. However, those aspiring to join the Influencer bandwagon might have a taller ladder to climb, to stay relevant to businesses.
5. Instagram may decide to grant Business profiles with access to Likes-count; so that businesses can evaluate influencers before signing them on. This will be in interest of Instagram, to protect revenue inflows from businesses/ brands.