I double-tap Instagram. It’s by far my favorite social app. I love the visual storytelling aspect that drives individuals and brands to creatively connect with their community. I also really love cute animal photos, which seems to be a pleasant mainstay.
But the days of collecting Instagram likes as a visible metric could be numbered. Instagram is mulling over the idea of removing like-counts from public view altogether. Testing for this potential phase-out began in Canada and has expanded to six more countries including Japan and Australia, which have large influencers populations.
The end of Instagram likes has been buzzed about since early this year. The proposed goal of this feature testing to increase the creative storytelling aspect of this social tool, rather than the number of likes received on each post. The hope is that if only users can see their own like counts, the pressure to perform will die down and less metric-focused storytelling will increase.
This feature change is supposedly backed by compassion due to recent news regarding mental health and well-being surrounding Instagram. According to a 2017 study of 1,500 teens and young adults, Instagram ranked as the worst social media network for mental health and well-being. The photo-based platform was associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying, and FOMO, or the ‘fear of missing out.’
But I’m not sold on the mental-health value of this change. Social validation comes in all shapes and forms. If likes are ditched, new forms will rise to the top. Likes are far too relevant of a metric to users and those who see them.
The ease of likes
With more than one billion monthly active Instagram accounts, this social app is a bustling hub for brands, influencers, and the average person just interested in sharing a look inside their life. Engagement on Instagram is the most critical aspect of using the app.
Likes are easily dished out — a quick double-tap here and a hard tap on the heart there. They’re a simple way for your followers to interact with your content. However, you can’t be 100% certain your followers digested your content. This is why comments, both positive and negative, are seen as the best indication your content had an impact. Comments point to the fact that an individual felt the need to take the extra step to engage and leave feedback.
Although, removing public-facing like counts can result in users posting more authentic content and feeling less pressure on the platform. No one feels awesome when they have little to no response to a selfie or product photo. Hiding likes from your audience may permit individuals and businesses to post more of the content they want to post, as opposed to photos that elicit immediate hearts.
While the end of likes may be good for individuals, the impact could be disastrous for brands big and small if this change isn’t approached by Instagram with care.
Are ‘likes’ really the issue?
The power of a ‘like’ goes beyond ego. Digital confirmation can be empowering, albeit intoxicating. Users explore this social platform in a variety of ways. Whether it’s collecting new recipes, workouts, or even cute bunny photos — a personal favorite of mine. Each like on Instagram drives the determination of the quality of a post. This leads to better posting and audience understanding in the future.
How can we be so sure mental health will improve sans likes? The same content will inevitably still be posted. Cyberbullying will likely always exist. And of course, users will still be able to dig into their secret like counts, even though their followers can’t.
Those who will be hit hardest by this potential change will be businesses and influencers. Without public likes, brands and businesses won’t be able to gauge their success of aligning their products and services with their audience. Without the option of likes, more brands will likely have to spend their already stretched budgets on social advertising. This would further strain the impact of organic social media use.
The future is unclear
I don’t know about you, but I get anxious when the future is unclear for a communication tool I love. While we don’t have a final decision from Instagram yet, one thing you can do is begin looking at ways to drive engagement outside of double-taps on your posts.
In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite techniques to consider to up your Instagram game:
- This should be a no-brainer but focus on sharing unique, engaging photos and videos. Go beyond the standard product shot. What’s a new perspective you can share with your audience?
- Write engaging, witty captions that draw your audience in. Longer may be better and emojis help. 💖
- Tag your location and interact with those in locations you tag.
- Hashtags are a great way to expose your account to new followers within your target audience. Explore appropriate hashtags and try to use 10 or less on your post.
- Build an Instagram Stories strategy and switch up your content. Stories have great engagement tools like polls and questions to better connect with your audience.