How Instagram's "Like" Ban Affects Brands and Influencers
Sat, April 17, 2021

How Instagram's "Like" Ban Affects Brands and Influencers

The photo-sharing app Instagram recently updated one of its features by hiding how many likes a post has gained. / Photo credits by Alexey Malkin via 123rf

 

 

Instagram has recently made changes that prevent its users from seeing how many likes their posts have amassed. The app claimed it will help people worry less about the success of their photos or videos on the platform. 

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri explained that they want users to spend more time connecting with the people they care about. Following a trial of the ban in Canada, Instagram users in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand will have the number of likes hidden from their feeds. 

 

Criticisms Against Instagram’s Move

Instagram implemented the like ban, as there are studies stating the correlation between social media pressures and mental health issues. Instagram should be a place where users “feel comfortable expressing themselves,” stated Mia Garlick, Facebook’s head of policy in Australia and New Zealand. 

The Facebook-owned app hoped it will remove the pressure on how many likes a post receives, enabling users to focus on sharing the things they love.

However, not everyone is happy with the likes ban. Taking the issue to social media, these people complained about how Instagram’s move could jeopardize the income opportunities of influencers. One Twitter user wrote, “What about the people using it for income? The people who work hard creating content, to then have their hard work not praised/not shown how successful it was to others?”

 

How Will the Ban Affect Influencers and Brands? 

 

Influencers are worried of the recent change made by Instagram as this will affect their reach. / Photo credits by Kaspars Grinvalds via 123rf

 

Users from the aforementioned countries feel more carefree and less pressured with Instagram’s no likes move, but influencers are nervous with the idea of a like-less Instagram, according to Samantha Lee of American financial and business news Business Insider and Brittany Wong of American news and opinion platform HuffPost. 

Influencers have started to notice their posts are “getting fewer likes and less engagement.” It will affect their reach since their posts are pushed farther down in Instagram’s algorithm. Canadian influencer Jess Grossman said, “I really think that likes are just part of the platform. What can I do? It's a platform I'm using for free.”

Another Canadian influencer, Kate Weiland, admitted it’s a “bummer” when a post is not flooded with likes and comments. Weiland, who is known for matching family outfits, noted that she can’t evaluate her audience’s interest in a post or find out which content she should keep posting or stay away from. It’s hard to produce content when she can’t figure out what her audience wants, she admitted. 

Weiland added, “Likes are a motivation factor. Now there's no audience applause at the end of a performance. It's kind of like crickets in the background.” In a survey conducted by #paid, a platform connecting brands with creators, more than half of Canadian influencers have seen a drop in the number of likes in their posts, while 50 percent have seen slow growth in their follower count. 

 

Likes as an Engagement Tool

Traditionally, Influencers like Weiland and Grossman rely on likes as an engagement tool, Nikki Gilliand wrote on Econsultancy, a digital business research platform. For brands, likes are used to gauge a creator’s value and potential sales. Within the field of influencer marketing, a heavy reliance on likes poses a wider problem, as “vanity metrics” of an account may not be trustworthy.

In a survey of over 4,000 influencers, e-commerce firm A Good Company found that 52 percent of UK influencer accounts have purchased followers and comments or resorted to using bots in the past. About 21 percent said “they would do it again.” With Instagram removing the likes option, it will “take away the ability to fake popularity.” 

 

 

Adjustments Need to be Made

For influencers, the measure entails “more tangible and sales-driven metrics.” Brands will also place greater emphasis on click-throughs, including sales online and in-store to gauge campaign success. For up-and-coming influencers, the field will be more difficult to tread without the like count helping their posts go viral. 

Influencers and advertisers may deviate from Instagram’s traditional content formats. Brands are more likely to invest in paid ads to ensure that they can engage with as many users as possible. Hypothetically, removing the like count is the app’s way of pushing Instagram Stories. On the other hand, it will also result in producing better quality content, as influencers will be less likely to create content based on trends or which type of posts garner the most likes. Hence, influencers have the creative freedom to post content that is aligned with their own (and their audience’s) interests. 

 

 

For brands, authentic content is equated with success. In Econsultancy’s Influencer 2020 report, 61 percent of consumers preferred influencers who create “authentic, engaging content.” Alternatively, 70 percent of marketers reported that authenticity and transparency lead to influencer marketing success. Interestingly, likes “can often be a purely shallow or meaningless indication of success.” 

It’s understandable for influencers to criticize Instagram’s removal of the likes function, but its benefits on people’s mental health outweigh the disadvantages of hidden likes. This prevents future generations from valuing themselves solely on social media success. In the short-term, it’s a shock for influencers. However, it could also signify an improvement in the industry as well as helping users become more rational and learn to differentiate between “shallow engagement” from authentic success. 

The arguments put forward by both parties are valid. There should be a middle ground so as not to compromise the interests of either the influencers or users. For users, Instagram's move is beneficial for their mental health. But for influencers and brands, they need to formulate contingency plans and recalibrate their marketing strategy.