In the near future, all Instagram users will receive an update presenting an alteration that will impose a drastic effect on the world of social media. Some users believe this change is to create a healthier social environment, but others are worried how this change will affect businesses that utilize Instagram.
Recently, Instagram began testing a new feature on users in Canada and Australia, and now the United States, that will change how we use social media. On select groups throughout the two countries, the amount of likes on a post were hidden from the public while remaining visible to the account owner. If Instagram follows through with eliminating likes, businesses will be greatly impacted, both positively and negatively.
Today a small portion of people on Instagram worldwide will no longer be able to see the number of likes other people's photos get. Our hope is to better understand how this idea changes how people feel about using our platform, particularly young people. https://t.co/NdODxtKbky— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) November 14, 2019
Advantages Of Deleting Likes
Less Competition Amongst Brands
A common misconception of social media is “whichever post receives the most likes is the most popular.” Influencers, brands and businesses have turned to posting content that will receive likes, but may not be on-brand for the account. This is due to the competition amongst brands.
Many business accounts are stuck in the groove of delivering what the public approves of in order to out-perform competitors in the form of likes. With the likes feature hidden, businesses may be more open to posting content that truly defines the brand, rather than showcasing what is bound to receive more likes.
Increased Engagement Through Comments
The basic metrics on Instagram are likes, comments, follows, shares and impressions. Likes and comments are visible to the public whereas follows, shares and impressions are only visible to the account owner.
In the event likes disappear, businesses would have to find alternate methods to increase engagement on posts. Brand loyalists and followers would likely turn to commenting to show support and offer validation. Engagement should remain the same if not increase. Ultimately, comments could replace likes.
Freedom To Post Genuine Content
Select brands and businesses have grown increasingly infatuated with Instagram trends and social media strategies. According to the social media entrepreneur Natalie Zfat, businesses are asking “Why don’t we get more likes on our stuff?”. The true meaning of social media and digital content now revolves around likes and what the “most successful” businesses are doing.
Too many businesses are aligning social media strategies to “go with the flow,” however, leaders should consider “going against the flow.” Leaping into unknown areas of the digital world can be scary, but risks are the true method of differentiating your business. If the elimination of likes occurs, businesses would be able to curate posts that truly align with their brand identity.
Disadvantages Of Deleting Likes
Do More Likes Equal More Credibility?
Somewhere along the lines, likes have become known to measure the credibility of a brand. There are not many business accounts that surpass the world record(s) of likes, but many influencers and celebrities post to endorse or associate themselves with brands. The celebrity combined with the brand name provides a sense of credibility to Instagram users.
If we take a look at Cristiano Ronaldo’s July 16th, 2018 Instagram post, he announced that he was leaving his club team in favor of Juventus club team. Not only are the Ronaldo fans converting to supporting the new team, but also the sponsor Jeep in addition to Adidas as seen on his jersey.
Ronaldo would not be promoting Jeep and Adidas if he did not believe in the quality of the products. The Jeep brand symbolizes freedom and adventure, two qualities that support soccer. Because of Ronaldo’s endorsement, fans who are also Instagram users developed the mindset that Jeep and Adidas are legitimate companies with products so reliable that even Ronaldo uses them.
The post gained 12.2 million likes earning its spot as the 19th most-liked Instagram post of 2018. Both businesses, Jeep and Adidas, appear as more credible simply from appearing on Ronaldo’s popular post.
If likes are eliminated from Instagram, users will no longer be able to decipher which companies offer quality products. Celebrities and influencers will continue to endorse brands on the social platform, but if users cannot view the likes, will they consider the company credible? Or will the celebrity posing with the product not be enough evidence of popularity?
Comparison Of Products
Another business-related issue that would be caused by the deletion of likes revolves once again around comparison. Not comparison between competitors, but rather the comparison of products within a company. Instagram is a platform for businesses to introduce and advertise new products.
Besides the sales of the product, likes can help determine how well the product is performing in the market. The social media coordinators of Yeezy pull metrics from posts to determine how well a product is performing.
As you can see, the Yeezy Boost 700 was posted on October 3rd and received over 88,000 likes. On October 8th, the Yeezy Boost 380 was debuted finishing with over 143,000 likes.
The time of day the posts were shared makes a difference along with other factors such as the shoes’ color and price point, but overall, the Yeezy Boost 380 was deemed by Instagram users as more coveted. These insights are beneficial for companies such as Yeezy because they can more accurately foreshadow how products will perform.
The Influencer Epidemic
In recent years, influencers have taken over Instagram. Influencers have the power to affect purchasing decisions based on what they choose to endorse. These social media stars can conduct their work in fashion, food, lifestyle, sports, music and more. It is difficult to hop on Instagram and scroll through your feed without coming across an influencer posting an #ad.
Likes are not the only metric that determines the popularity of social media influencers, but they do provide credibility. Without visible likes, it may be more difficult for influencers to prove themselves to their audience and potential brands that show interest. Established influencers would have to find innovative ways to continue building their brand, but it will become extremely difficult for start-up influencers to create a brand image.
The Future Of Instagram
The CEO of Instagram released a statement pertaining to future changes in which he stated, “Our goal is to be the best place to share and connect with the people and interests that matter most to you.” The removal of likes is forecasted to bring a socially collaborative environment and overall help the public be more organic on social media.
Businesses will be greatly affected if this action is carried out. Advantages include less competition amongst brands, increased interaction within comments and the freedom to post original content without judgement. Disadvantages include the decrease in credibility because likes cannot be seen, losing the ability to compare the popularity of products from a business’s perspective and selecting a fraudulent influencer to partner with.
The Instagram platform is one of the greatest influencers of them all. Used by over 1 billion people, they will most likely continue using Instagram even if likes are removed. Aside from personal users, businesses will be affected greatly in both positive and negatives means if the likes feature is deleted. In order to avoid damaging consequences, be sure to update your business’s social media plan to fit this drastic change.
Erin Esbenshade is a Public Relations Associate at Flackable, a national, full-service public relations agency headquartered in Philadelphia. To learn more about Flackable, please visit www.flackable.com.