What is an Instagram post without the like count? This is a question that lots of users on the platform have been asking since the like count ban was announced. A lot of users depend on likes as a tool to measure how well a post is doing and the popularity of the owner of the profile. Although individuals will be able to see the number of likes their post is getting, this information will not be available to their audience. The update is currently being tested in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand while Canada has just finished its own trial.
The platform stated the reason for the like count ban is to manage the pressure of social media on mental health as some users are negatively affected by the amount of engagement on their post especially the number of likes compared to the engagement of some other users. Also, the platform claims it wants to get people to focus more on the content (photos and videos) shared, not how many likes they get.
There has been a lot of opinions on the subject matter, while some are in support, others are against it. However, the biggest concern is for the Instagram Influencers who have used audience engagement especially likes as a point of reference when trying to determine and reach
and how great a post is doing. They also use it to determine the kind of content their audience is interested in. In the same vein, brands looking to collaborate also use this information to determine which influencer would be perfect to promote their brands.
With the new development, influencers would have to include core insights of their page on their portfolio and send them to brands or make an actual post about their page insights on their feed so their audience can see their engagement and how well their page is doing. Another side effect of the like count ban is that comments will become the new likes. Comments will become a critical medium for individuals to measure engagement thereby still putting mental stress on users.
Looking at it in retrospect, the likes ban is an avenue for Instagram to make more money from paid advertising. In a recent March 2019 article titled, ‘22+ Instagram stats marketers should not ignore this year’ HootSuite revealed that there are about 25 million business accounts present on Instagram and that out of this number, only about 2 million advertise their services and products on the platform. In present times, very few users engage with an ad that has little likes or even pay attention to whatever product and service the ad is about especially since SMEs can’t afford to put a huge amount of money on advertising. Small business owners and startups would rather spend more on influencers who can put in reviews and have the attention of a large number of followers than invest in paid advertising.
However, in a situation where the like count is banned, users will be more willing to see what the product is about and possibly engage instead of watching out for approval in the form of likes. Increased engagement on ads irrespective of likes will lead to more advertising from businesses and in turn, more revenue for Instagram.
The issue now is that if Instagram is doing this for the money, then they are shooting themselves in the foot by banning likes as it as an integral part of their social media platform. It is what makes users come back over and over… the dopamine rush that goes through the body as you see your post being liked over and over, is what makes Instagram, Instagram.
Max Emerson, an LA-based writer, and director with over 1 million followers said, ‘Instagram removing their most tantalizing feature would be like a casino removing the flashing lights, high oxygen saturation, and jackpot announcements.’
‘To remove likes or not to remove?’ That is the question Instagram has to answer while the rest of us await the imminent life-changing update.