In 2019, Instagram announced they would be slowly testing the removal of likes across the world, with many expecting the change to occur universally by early 2021. While users will still be able to see their own likes, this metric will no longer appear to other users on the platform. This development has many influencers and brands wondering why this change is being made and how this will affect business moving forward.
Why is Instagram Removing Likes?
Instagram has faced quite a bit of backlash when it comes to users creating false portrayals of reality. Many influencers and brands have become caught up in a game of numbers, tracking followers and engagement religiously. Unfortunately, this trend of equating likes to value has spread to younger and more impressionable audiences, causing Instagram to reevaluate the “like” function of the app. According to Business Insider, Instagram is hiding likes to promote the health and well-being of its users by allowing them to feel like they have the freedom to post what they want without being judged. While the removal of likes has been tested in places like Canada and Japan over the last several years, this feature will not be changing for US users until early 2021. But what does this mean for the many influencers and brands that depend on public likes to fuel credibility and decision making?
Will Removing Likes on Instagram Change Social Media Marketing?
In addition to analyzing Instagram likes to gage the effectiveness of their own posts, many brands depend on likes to prove credibility to other brands and prospective customers. In marketing, it is widely known that trust for a brand is heavily influenced by other people in society, hence the importance of likes on Instagram. When someone sees that other people like something, they instinctively become more trusting. For example, a prospective customer may be browsing two accounts on Instagram for a new pair of earrings, one with few followers and no engagement, the other with a healthy following and plentiful likes. In this scenario, the consumer will likely end up choosing the account with more likes and followers because it appears more trustworthy. For this reason, many brands are dreading the removal of likes for fear that it could affect eCommerce sales negatively. As Instagram begins hiding likes, it’s important for business owners to think about how this change could affect their strategy and brainstorm new ways to build trust with prospective partners and consumers.
How Might Businesses Adapt?
Naturally, as likes on Instagram become hidden, public follower counts will gain more importance. Unfortunately, this does not make a perfect replacement for observing engagement, as fake followers can easily be bought to boost appearances. Luckily, business owners will still have visibility into their own likes, allowing them to continue to analyze their own presence on the platform. While this information can be shared with potential partners or influencers, it will no longer be publicly shown to profile viewers.
Following this change, businesses will need to adapt their strategies to incorporate better engagement opportunities for their followers. In place of likes, it is expected that people will shift to commenting more on static posts to demonstrate engagement and support. This means captions will need to be more creative and discussion-focused than ever to spark conversation in comment sections. Beyond captions alone, brands will need to adjust strategies to engage audiences through creative features on Instagram Stories like polls, quizzes, etc.
Additionally, livestreams will be a valuable resource for brands and influencers to showcase the interest and engagement of their followers. Despite Instagram hiding likes, it is expected that livestreams will continue to publicly share the number of live viewers, making it an excellent opportunity to prove a brand’s level of reach and engagement. Without likes on Instagram reinforcing popularity and credibility, it will be incredibly important for brands to be genuinely engaged with their audiences to build and maintain authentic connections.
While this may seem like a jarring change to the app, business owners should not be too concerned with the removal of likes on Instagram. Social media is ever changing and business owners need to be prepared to adapt quickly in order to succeed.
90% of Instagram users follow at least one business account.
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