What happens if Instagram and FB remove likes?
October 29, 2019
Let’s see a show of hands: how many times have you posted a photo to Instagram, continually checking back all day to see how many likes you’ve garnered, and either: —felt a rush of gratification when your post got over a certain threshold of likes, or —felt shame or disappointment if you got fewer double-taps than expected?
If you didn’t (mentally) raise your hand, you’re either a cyborg or you’re lying.
For those of us who are human, soon we may not have to look to Instagram to boost or lower our self-esteem; both Instagram and its parent company Facebook are testing making ‘likes’ invisible to anyone except the poster herself.
To be clear, influencers (and all of us on Instagram) will still be able to see how many likes they have received on their own piece of content. They’re just the only ones who can see it.
Instagram has tested hiding the like counts in several countries, and Facebook tested likes removal last month. It’s not a foregone conclusion that these changes will be implemented to all users across the platforms, but clearly Facebook et. al are considering it.
So if the social media behemoths decide to remove likes, or make them invisible to everyone but the poster, where does that leave brands and their marketing teams?
The answer to that question isn’t clear yet, but we do think there are both pros and cons to this potential change in policy.
- One of the most apparent pros to the removal of likes is for users, not brands: that the number of likes on a post will no longer be something that users strive for (and therefore lose sleep or feel low self esteem about if a post doesn’t garner high engagement). This change could be an improvement for users’ mental health, as it helps fight against comparison culture.
- Engagement metrics such as likes per post gives marketers info about the efficacy of a particular piece of content, but that number doesn’t tell a marketer how many of the accounts are real vs. how many are bots. And for some big-time influencers, a lot of followers can be bots. So without likes as the main metric for whether an influencer would make a good brand partner, PR agencies and social media marketers can start measuring more detailed metrics, like how often followers click-through an influencer’s links or how frequently followers make a purchase.
- Social media managers for brands will still be able to see the number of likes on their clients’ accounts, and the number of comments (and, on Facebook, shares) will still be visible, so they will still be able to provide metrics and reporting for engagement.
- It appears that the group with the biggest potential for losing if likes are removed is influencers. Their engagement may fall sharply, and they may not be able to charge what they used to without that external proof of a loyal followership. Influencers may have to work harder and create more engaging content (a plus for audiences, we’d argue) to drive engagement and encourage click-throughs and purchases.
Ultimately, this change could make vetting influencers more time-consuming, as a scan of an influencer’s profile won’t be enough to determine engagement. But it could also create an environment of rich content and fewer fake accounts—and in our book, those are good things.