There’s been a lot of discussion of late about Instagram likes and the direction in which the company is taking them. Back in the day, likes were fully public and you could see the exact number of users who’d liked any given post by any user with a public profile.
But Instagram has been moving away from this model, testing and deploying new functionality to hide the true number of likes in a bid to encourage people to focus more on the content that they’re sharing and less on the number of likes that it receives.
The good news is that users themselves will still be able to see the list of the people who’ve liked their posts – it’s just that we won’t be able to see how many people have liked posts from other people. But what does this mean for people who are using Instagram to promote themselves or their brand?
One of the big advantages of this update for the average Instagram user is that it takes some of the pressure off them to create content that aims specifically to generate the greatest number of likes possible. This allows them to be more playful and more experimental, and arguably the same is true for companies who are using Instagram as part of their social media marketing strategy.
There’s even some evidence to suggest that teenage users of the network were measuring their self-worth and determining their self-esteem based upon the number of likes that their posts were receiving. With this pressure taken away, the expectation is that users will post more often while simultaneously producing a higher overall quality of content.
Another one of the perks of the new Instagram functionality is that it can lead to a heightened sense of community. By taking away the hard numbers, we’re left instead with the “softer” aspects of community building and ultimately we’re able to focus more on developing relationships than on selling product.
Influencers stand to benefit too, because there’s less pressure for them to have a certain threshold number of subscribers before brands will want to work with them. Brands win here too, because they can focus on finding influencers who are relevant as opposed to simply going for whoever has the most likes on their posts.
But there’s a downside to this, too. One of the most obvious is the fact that with marketers unable to look at like counts as a key metric, they’ll inevitably look elsewhere. Many users are worried that people will start focusing instead on follower counts, and there’s certainly a risk that this could happen when it comes to influencer marketing and other outreach campaigns. Unfortunately, there’s not much that we can do to stop this – we just need to be aware that it’s happening.
There’s even an argument to be made that because total like counts won’t be displayed, brands may be tempted to buy “likes” from bots in an attempt to trick the algorithm. After all, the risk of being publically caught in the act is much lower when nobody can see who’s liked your posts. Cynics even argue that it will make it easier for marketing agencies to trick clients by using fake likes to sway metrics in their reports.
From Instagram’s perspective, there’s also a big risk that by adopting this new policy of limiting the amount that likes are shown across the platform, they’ll alienate users and even push them away to other platforms. If that happens, that’s bad news for brands and for marketers, but it’s also bad news for users and the ecosystem in general, although it’s unlikely to happen in significant numbers.
Now that you know both the pros and cons of Instagram’s new hidden likes feature, it’s over to you so that you can figure out the best way to move forward. The good news is that as with most changes on social networking sites, you can future-proof yourself simply by staying up-to-date with the changes and making sure that your approach to marketing reflects them.
Best of all, these changes to Instagram and the way that likes are displayed is a good thing for the most part, and indeed they’re only rolling it out because their tests showed that people responded well to it. It’s the future of Instagram, and all we can do is make sure that we embrace it and stay ahead of the curve. Good luck.
Tobias Foster is a freelance writer and editor with close to a decade of experience working for clients ranging from major news publications to assignment writing services. He’s a devout student of the arts of philosophy, marketing and business, and he prides himself on being able to write about them for a living.