As I was doing my usual pre-bedtime scroll of Instagram last night (a personal issue for discussion at a different time), I began to notice that I was no longer seeing the numerical count of Likes on the feed. After a quick scroll of Twitter and poll of my friends, I learned this was not happening to others. I was the chosen one.
(For the sake of background, I recently spent three weeks in Ireland, one of the seven countries where Instagram announced they would be testing this feature. Perhaps that’s why I have been blessed.)
From the perspective of an individual consumer as opposed to a marketer, I thought I wouldn’t care or even notice if Likes were removed. I thought they weren’t impacting my experience of consuming content on my feed. I learned last night that I was wrong. Suddenly all the posts seemed equally worthy of my time, whether it was a large Influencer or a personal IRL friend. Instead of pausing for seconds longer on posts with climbing Like counts, I found myself focusing more on the content itself. It was fascinating to experience and realize just how quickly my brain used to process the amount of Likes and how that informed my behaviors.
Yet in this new landscape, I didn’t feel like I was in a void and scrolling photos in “read only” mode. There were two ways I could still get a pulse on the community feedback of a post. First, of course, were comments. I found myself reading the comments and replies more thoroughly instead of giving them only a cursory glance. It felt like going back to Twitter in the early days where replying was the only way to interact with someone else’s content and the conversation was the whole point. Second, I was told when someone I followed had already Liked a post. When I clicked on “Liked by (friend) and others” I could see a list of all the likes and accounts that I follow who had engaged were listed at the top. This helped me relate content to the people I already cared enough to follow and get a sense of likemindedness.
My experience of Instagram had changed. I was viewing slower, reading more and felt like a part of a tighter community. But I also felt less inclined to Like posts – and this has implications for the current state of Influencer Marketing.
While creators can still see and report on their own Likes to help inform content development decisions and show brand partners a form of ROI, that form of engagement may begin to drop and eventually fizzle out as a result of the platform change. This would force Influencers and brands to think differently about what a valuable engagement is, like comments, saves, shares and link clicks. In my opinion, it’s a shift that is overdue because even though a Like is confirmation of a post being seen, it doesn’t show any level of comprehension or consideration of the content.
As I am not a prolific content creator (my account is private and I only occasionally post photos of my baby and dog), I can’t comment personally on if this will create a shift in the mindset of “doing it for the Likes” or change how some are perceiving self worth through the amount of Likes they receive. However, I know it impacted me as a consumer and that will be the most crucial part for brands and marketers. If removing public Like counts fosters a stronger sense of community and authentic engagement, that’s a huge win for Influencer Marketing.