Why has Instagram taken away likes?
The removal of the public likes count on Instagram will certainly have positive and negative effects on all users, especially businesses who use such data to analyse trends and manage content.
Instagram forewarned of the move earlier this year, with the first trial occurring in Canada to mixed reviews from users. Australia was second to be chosen due to millions of us being on the platform, and as of Thursday 18th July, likes no longer appear on the feed. New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Italy and Brazil are next to try it.
Likes are only visible to the poster of the content by actively clicking on the list, whilst their followers see who liked the post but not how many: “@hotglue and others [liked this post]”. Does this aspect then defeat the purpose? If a user was super keen, they could always count the names in the list!
Interestingly, like counts were still visible on the desktop version of Instagram throughout the day and has yet to be removed. Whilst most users frequently use the app, a significant amount use the desktop equally. Of course, businesses who manage social media accounts like us at Hotglue use the desktop version often for the bigger interface, downloading older posts and competitor tracking.
Instagram’s press release stated that the removal of likes was intended to “improve the Instagram experience” by reducing the very apparent competition and vying of the greatest number of likes, particularly among young users. This is despite the fact that liking and following is the point of the app, as well as their own user numbers significantly growing into the billions, the company has folded to pressure themselves and for good reason.
The change also aims to bring the app and photo sharing back to its most basic purpose: to post more authentic images and videos merely to show creativity and memories among friends, family and the followers you get along the way. Meanwhile, business accounts can still benefit from knowing how many likes and that they receive.
From a business and digital marketing perspective, the change is proposed to have an impact on viewing organic engagement and growth, becoming a more unreliable measure. There has been some reports that the new update (which happens automatically) will not affect insights tools as that part of the app is controlled by Facebook. Perhaps Instagram has foreseen this issue and will provide a solution to potential problems, however they are remaining hush on future developments during the current trial phase.
Another interrupted aspect of the platform thanks to this update is how it will affect influencers and paid partnerships. It seems that the days where Australian influencers can perfectly curate profiles is gone, and they must become smarter about the content that they produce. This will also mean, especially for newer influencers, that their follower base will be exactly that. No fake followers, just people interested in the content.
Instagram have made a disruptive amount of changes since its inception in 2010. How would our profiles and images look if we didn’t have Boomerangs, long-form videos, direct messaging, the ability to switch between multiple accounts, advertising, instant caption translations… We’ve grown accustomed to all of these, despite maybe disliking them originally, so this change should be no different.
Ultimately, Instagram is updating their app in response to multiple research studies proving that Instagram has the worst impact on mental health among users. Thanks to celebrity culture and a wave of influencers, the increase in content relating to unattainable lifestyles and appearances has caused an increase in mental health issues, such as inadequacy and depression particularly with millennials. No one should feel the pressure to post a certain type of image or video to increase the likelihood of greater likes, and no doubt this trial will eventuate into a better experience for all Instagram users.
It will be an interesting process becoming accustomed to this new way of ‘gramming, and all eyes will be on whether the desktop version will change anytime soon. How the removal of the likes count will affect business tools for brands will be a gradual learning curve, for the companies themselves as well as those who manage social media accounts.