Instagram has started rolling out the removal of like counts on posts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Brazil. And while it is only a ‘test’ at this stage, the internet seems to be divided on what impact this will really have on social media users and the influencer marketing industry.
The change will see posts marked as a ‘username and others like this post’ as opposed to the previous ‘username and 637 others like this post’ when viewing your own content. When viewing others content, references to likes are removed altogether.
Instagram has been cited to say that this initiative is aimed at removing the pressure to gain likes as a form of social validation and that competitiveness amongst social media users has lead to mental health issues. Instagram also cited the rise of the ‘fake engagement industry’, where people fake the number of likes and comments they receive by purchasing them and participating in engagement pods as a driver for the test. Time will tell whether the removal of like counts will have a meaningful impact on mental health issues. Consideration must still be given as to whether there is a broader issue around screen time and posting life’s highlight reels to our feeds.
With respect to influencer marketing, the change has highlighted the need to leverage technology platforms to ensure that brands are working with credible influencers. For any brand or agency running influencer programs in-house that rely on the manual collection of data (like scrolling through Instagram and updating a spreadsheet!), it will be harder to assess how engaged an Influencer’s audience actually is with their content and the potential for fake followers and engagements. To manually collect this data, the brand will have to reach out to the influencers for screenshots – adding both time, complexity and the potential for photoshopped images.
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