April 26, 2019
This week, rumours were rumbling on social media that Instagram will be revolutionising its user experience by removing a key aspect of its platform – the number of ‘likes’ a post has. This was discovered by a famous ‘tipster’ who noticed a change in the app’s android coding. Although Instagram quickly replied to this rumour stating they are not implementing this code at the moment, they are deliberating ways to make the platform less focussed on popularity and more on content. With the seemingly endless criticism in the press for the negative effect on mental health social media can have, it may not be out of the question that a transformation like this could come in the not-too-distant future. Let alone the mourning in the Kardashian household if this does happen, how would this impact brands and marketers? There’s definitely pros and cons…
There is no denying that the removal of likes would mean that the way people judge Instagram posts would change. Instead of seeing that a post has thousands of likes and therefore you should pay attention like everyone else, it will be up to the user to genuinely form their opinion on a post (shock horror!). This could present an opportunity for smaller, less popular brands to win attraction from their target audience with good content. This could be argued to add more value to an Instagram post for marketers who can be assured that their post is genuinely liked rather than just liked because people have jumped on the bandwagon of a popular post. This is especially the case when posts are just liked by bots or fake followers.
Let’s be honest, an end to the incessant monitoring of the ‘like’ count would bring a sigh of relief to many marketers struggling to get their organic posts to be a hit. An end to the embarrassment of your post getting less likes than usual would mean that it’s not a PR disaster if your content isn’t as effective as you’d want it to be. This would hopefully mean that marketers can experiment with content without the pressure of exceeding an engagement target every time.
An end to likes doesn’t necessarily have to mean an end to engagement, it could just mean there is a change in the way people engage. This could result in posts receiving more comments to replace likes. Instagram users still have a voice or opinion that they are likely to want to share, and an increase in comments rather than just nonchalant double taps could mean that your brand is receiving more valuable engagement and feedback that can be used in further product development or marketing tactics.
You knew it was coming when you started reading this blog. An end of likes could effectively mean the death of influencer marketing. Aside from models and celebrities who brands know can still market products due to the natural influence of being famous, normal people who have become ‘influencers’ as a result of being able to attract lots of likes. It will be these people, who have managed to make a substantial living effectively out of Instagram likes, who would be most affected by this change. As well as this, brands who use influencers as a key part of their marketing efforts to reach their target audiences. Despite this, this could be an opportunity for influences to be used in a different way whereby anybody could be hired by brands to promote goods depending on how appropriate they are to promotion and not how many likes they are likely to get.
A bold move like this is always a risk, and most likely why it is likely to never happen. But, if Instagram does go ahead in removing likes (especially without Facebook also making this move), it could cause such an uproar that users just stop using the platform. This would be a difficult pill to swallow for many brands, especially fashion retailers who rely on Instagram for the bulk of their advertising.
The nature of social media means that it is often used in the consideration of a product. Like seeing how many ‘stars’ or reviews a product gets on Amazon, a lot of likes can be viewed as a way of convincing users that the brand advertising is authentic and worth buying from. It could, therefore, be more of a challenge for brands to convince users to care about their products when it is not known how many other people also care about the product.
In the short term, an end to ‘likes’ on social media could be a disaster. We already know that many people don’t like change (like when Instagram stopped showing posts in chronological order) and so a huge change like this is likely to cause an uproar and have a huge impact on marketing strategy. Nevertheless, if this is part of a long-term cultural shift from social media being so focussed on popularity, the effects in years to come could be beneficial to consumers – and just mean that brands will learn to adapt.
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