Instagram users in seven countries, including Canada, are no longer able to see the number of ‘likes’ on posts. Rather than displaying photos with the total amount of ‘likes underneath’, it now says ‘Liked by X and others’.
You don’t see the number of ‘likes’ natively on your feed as you scroll through. All physical numbers have disappeared. You can still access your stats by clicking “View Insights” but you cannot see anyone else’s.
According to Instagram, the change was made to reduce anxiety and make the platform more communal. “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram, spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about,” said its CEO, Adam Mosseri.
This is a major change. Instagram, and most social media platforms, deliver a gamified experience. Score is kept for each action. The number of likes, followers, and retweets that a user gets acts as social currency. Moving away from that is a good thing for mental health, as it reduces the comparison game, but human nature being as it is, I believe some users will lose interest if those vanity metrics are taken away.
What does it mean for brands?
It’s too early to tell what the impact will be but if Instagram expands this test and implements the changes permanently, I can see two ways in which brands can be affected.
The first is the impact on use. Will people spend more time on the platform or less? While meaningful interaction is wonderful, it is not what Instagram was not built on. It was built on superficiality. Perfectly staged pretty photos with filters and the dopamine hit that ‘likes’ provide.
The second impact is with influencer marketing. It’s not going away by any means, but scrolling through a feed without numbers will make influencers harder to spot at first glance. For marketers with a good understanding of the platform and the community, it won’t make a difference but others might prefer to dedicate their efforts in advertising.