Is Instagram planning to axe the ‘like’? Okay, not quite, apparently. However, one tech tipster recently unearthed evidence that the image-sharing site is considering hiding Instagram account holders’ like counts from their followers, as Instagram itself later confirmed.
The site’s move, however cautious, has triggered ripples of nervousness, as publicly-displayed likes are a factor in helping social media influencers to thrive. Do they have reason to be worried?
How would likes disappearing act work in practice?
The revelatory tipster in question was Jane Manchun Wong, who often reverse-engineers apps to uncover features yet to be released to the public. She dug deep into the Android version of the Instagram app to produce screenshots showing how the like concealment would work.
One screenshot shows an Instagram post bereft of a like count, instead showing a few followers’ faces and just one name of a liker, with the others described simply as “others”. Reportedly, in this mode, while Instagram users are still notified of like counts, those are not visible to the public.
The ‘like’ has been blamed for inflicting various psychological ills on social media users – and, indeed, an Instagram spokesperson explained to TechCrunch: “We’re not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about.”
Is this upheaval really on the way?
Instagram influencers could be excused for feeling nervous about losing such a vital engagement statistic publicly, as it would prevent companies from easily seeing how much attention posts attract. That is then likely to “affect sponsorship deals and brand partnerships”, MSN notes.
However, influencers are able to rest easy for now. An in-app message from Instagram found by Wong describes the change as just a “test” – and Instagram has denied that this is happening right now. Besides, follower counts are arguably a stronger measure of popularity.
As follower counts do not appear to be going anywhere, marketers will still be able to use those to assess the reach of individual creators. In the future, ‘like’ counts, seen or otherwise, should continue to hugely affect the feed’s ranking algorithm and the visibility of particular posts.
Could the change still bring benefits?
Even if the like’s public demise does go ahead on Instagram, this could take the stress off of influencers by helping to prevent narcissism, envy and poor self-esteem from arising. Metro highlights the case of influencer Zoe Sugg, who has admitted to feeling “suffocated” by the pressure of Instagram life.
There also remains the question of just how useful the like metric is to marketers anyway. After all, high like counts can result from herd mentality, where users are driven to ‘like’ particular content simply because it has already attracted many other likes.
In the in-app message, Instagram justifies the “test” by saying: “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get.” In any case, our content creation services for social media marketing can help you with the “what you share” part.
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