An Instagram Shake-up: Invisible Likes and What it Means
5 June, 2019
By Jonathan Yantz, Senior Biddable Manager
Are the Days of Competitive Liking Over?
In the social culture, likes and follower counts are valuable social currency, and for no platform is this truer than Instagram. It’s these metrics that distinguish between celebrities, influencers and everyday users and from a marketer’s perspective these variables are crucial.
Understanding the reach of a user, as well as the kind of audience they are attracting, is key in deciding whether they will be compatible with a campaign or not, and importantly, whether a sponsored post has been effective in its ROI objectives. In the latest test discovered deep within the code of Instagram’s Android app, Instagram is testing an experience where ‘like’ counts on posts are hidden from the public eye. According to the app, “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only the person who shares a post will see the total number of likes it gets.”
Shaping A New Landscape for Engagement on Instagram
For the average user, suddenly having a post explode with a significant number of likes can generate a sense of pleasure and validation – or conversely, low like counts can have the opposite effect, and it is this phenomenon which Instagram is working to combat. However, since Instagram is also a business tool for brands looking to drive sales and engage with customers, what would invisible likes mean for their influencer strategies?
With this proposed update, the user will still be able to see the number of likes their content generates, but the ability to see the popularity of posts within their feed will be removed, meaning no benchmarks for comparison. Since Social Comparison has been cited as ‘The Thief of Joy’, this move could have a hugely positive impact on the mental health of the platforms users but, it’s impact on the wider advertising industry is unknown. Removing publicly visible engagement in the long-term may arguably disrupt the monetization models of influencers and publishers who rely on the perceived “virality” of their content and value in the feed algorithm to negotiate sponsorship deals with advertisers.
Will Instagram’s Update go Beyond a Test?
It is yet unknown whether Instagram will make this update public. Josh Constantine of TechCrunch was first to report the story and it is noted that TechCrunch have successfully revealed a number of other updates that did ultimately roll out.
Perhaps this is just a test, however, it has certainly garnered attention within the digital advertising world, with global publications from Forbes to CNBC covering the story. Should the test roll out as a permanent update, it could force brands and influencers alike to re-evaluate benchmarks for successful engagement in order to protect the long-term success of their social strategies.
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