Nov 21 2019

A Life Without Likes

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week, you’ve heard all the hubbub generated when Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced at the WIRED25 Summit in San Francisco that IG would be hiding the ‘likes’ feature from the public. Dun dun dun. Reactions from the public included anger and confusion from some, and for others, relief. 


Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) had already begun making this change a few months ago by removing users’ ability to see the liked photos and accounts of the people they followed. It was a small change, but it made some big waves. The company also began testing the new “hidden likes” feature in countries including Australia, Ireland, and Canada.


Since the creation of Instagram app, celebrities, brands, and every day users have been able to use it to measure popularity and success. What will happen when that measuring stick disappears? Take a deep breath, and let’s talk through it together. First…


How will this change affect us?


It isn’t clear how many people in each country will have their likes taken away, but the chosen ones will see that the hearts on the app (representing the total number of likes) will disappear from their Instagram news feed and profile pages, and be replaced with the text ‘(an account name) and others.’


Can we still like content?


Yes, users can still like posts by double tapping on photos and videos, just as they have in the past. Users will be able to click the ‘(instagram account) and others’ link where the number of likes used to reside in order to see a list of the accounts that have liked the post – they just won’t be able to see the number itself.


How will this impact celebrities, brands, and influencers?


When evaluating their social clout (and their competitors), brands take into consideration a variety of factors, such as how many followers, likes, and types of engagement their content yields. Removing likes could force influencers to alter their content strategies in order to perform as they did before the change.


Many celebrities have already spoken out about what this change means for their future usage of the popular social media app. Nicki Minaj and Cardi B have both threatened to stop posting on Instagram if the feature were to affect their accounts. The two have a combined following of almost 160 million users. Rapper Juicy J predicted that people would lose interest in the app altogether and “go back to real life.” Other celebrities like Kim Kardashian, however, have applauded the platform for making a change to better users’ mental health in the long run.


Marketers will be affected in a few ways, namely how they identify influencers, and how those influences’ effectiveness is measured. 


While losing likes may be annoying, it likely won’t be detrimental to how marketers measure social media campaigns. Likes have always sat among many other metrics including comments, shares, conversions, and click-through rates. 


Instagram’s goal with removing likes is to take away the competitive nature to be seen as more popular than others, and focus on personal connections, bringing creativity back. The future of Instagram will focus on being authentically influential rather than artificial.


The Pros of the test


Something that we’ve noticed for some time now is that successful posts and content are often ultimately copied by others looking for some instant gratification in the form of more followers and likes… but going this route is scamming artists of their creativity. The account @insta_repeat shows just what we mean:


The removal of likes will be liberating for so many reasons. People will be able to post without having to stress over their content not “performing well” enough for the world to see. There were without a doubt people who did this before the change started… but we think the majority certainly did not. 


This change also provides a new opportunity for people who took the app as a tool and lived within the confines of what their audiences responded to, offering that group the chance to post the content they’ve always wanted to. With Instagrammers competing with others in their niche for the top number of likes, the limit on creativity made it too risky for them to post outside of their ‘likes’ comfort zone. In your like-less future, there’s no longer the need to edit photos to ensure that your grid looks picture perfect (unless that’s exactly what you want to do).


The Cons of the test


The removal of the likes feature will most likely not undo how people utilize their accounts. Many will still stick to their “themes” and will want a ton of comments (moreso now that they’re going to have to compensate for the lack of likes) and they will still want to know for themselves whether their content does well or not. 


Our take? This is not a huge world-changing improvement, but it is a step in the right direction, and we’re here for it.

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