Though the ability to like Instagram posts isn’t gone, the option for others to see who has liked a post has disappeared for U.S. Instagram users. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri tweeted, “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.” Hiding likes had already been tested in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand, where most users have reported positive feedback about the change. While this platform shift is framed as a positive step toward reducing focus on vanity metrics, we must look at the total impact of this change. Will hiding the number of likes on a post hurt content creators, influencers, and small businesses?
In 2017, Facebook published a report on whether or not social media was good for society. This report concluded that, when used correctly, social media could facilitate positive social interactions. However, a recent survey found that mental health disorders in teens is on the rise, and social media was identified as a likely contributor to the cause. News of the plan to hide likes first broke in May 2019, as Instagram explored ways to reduce body dysmorphia in teens. The idea was to downplay the competitive nature of social media.
By allowing content originators to see who likes their posts, while hiding the likes from outside users, Instagram hopes to lessen the need for users to share only “perfect images” of themselves. Users can still see the volume number and who has liked their posts, but followers will not. This is a positive step toward addressing the mental health crisis in teens. But, collateral damage is likely as content creators, influencers, and small businesses try to operate without that important visible metric.
Starting today, we’re expanding our test of private like counts globally. If you’re in the test, you’ll no longer see the total number of likes and views on photos and videos posted to Feed unless they’re your own. pic.twitter.com/DztSH0xiq2
— Instagram (@instagram) November 14, 2019
Communicating Value to Advertisers
This change could cause problems because it greatly reduces the ability for content creators to communicate value to partners. For instance, many professional bloggers use their Instagram stats in their media kits. These stats are easily checked by brands hoping to do business with bloggers. But, without being able to verify the stats, bloggers who use Instagram as their main social media platform may not have as much appeal to potential advertisers.
Loss of Viral Media
Another loss in the wake of this change is viral media. When a piece of content has a large amount of likes, it gains a perceived value. So, when users see that a post on Instagram is popular, that perceived value encourages them to share the post with others, thus increasing the viral potential.
A perfect example is the “Instagram egg.” Eugene, the “@world_record_egg,” was the brainchild of Chris Godfrey — an employee of an ad agency in London. The idea was for Eugene to become the most-liked image on Instagram — and it worked, to the tune of over 52 million likes. This campaign caught fire because of viral media. Without the opportunity to see likes, this type of campaign can never happen on Instagram again. In fact, unless you find screenshots, users in the U.S. can no longer see what the excitement was about in the first place.
There are any number of additional issues we can think of for how this change might impact small businesses. But more importantly, what can businesses do to continue to grow in spite of this change?
Focus on Comments
For one, businesses can focus on comments rather than likes. While likes have always been an important metric to show a post’s value, businesses can encourage followers to comment. Brands can then engage with those comments through community moderation. The number of post likes may not be visible, but comment likes can still be seen. The more comments a post has, the more chances a content creator has to continue to show value to his or her partners.
Leverage Analytics Platforms
Another step businesses can take is to use an Instagram analytics tool like Hootsuite, Tapclicks, or Later. These tools allow for the creation of analytics reports that can be shared with partners. With social media monitoring, these tools can also help content creators focus engagement on the posts that display the highest likelihood of community response, and raise potential post reach.
Wait Out the Test
Finally, businesses can give Instagram time to work out the kinks. Yes, time is money, and any amount of reduced engagement can impact the bottom line. But, Instagram is only in the beginning stages of this test. It’s important to remember that this is indeed a test. Smart brands utilize more than one social media platform at a time. So, if the numbers start to fall on Instagram, switching focus to a different platform may reduce the impact of these changes. If at the end of this test, Instagram discovers it’s losing money, chances are it will revert to the way things were before. Even if it doesn’t, whether or not users can see likes on posts will no longer matter if your business has already taken steps toward finding new ways to engage with your community.
Need help creating a new digital strategy to manage these changes on Instagram, or anywhere else on social media? Contact us today!