Instagram has made an interesting announcement: they are testing out the concept of hiding like counts from followers. The user will be the only one who knows how many likes their posts receive. The test run is taking place in Canada before it potentially rolls out globally. There has been great debate around this major change and there are definitely pros and cons to consider.
It’s no secret that Instagram has become a massive cultural phenomenon since its release in 2010. While there are countless reasons that Instagram has been a great addition to society, there have definitely been some negative side effects. Mental health is one of the main concerns with Instagram today, especially with the app’s younger demographic.
A survey was conducted in the UK in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health to determine social media’s impact on mental health. Instagram ranked as the “worst for young mental health” compared to Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. The study showed that Instagram can be associated with poor sleep quality, increases in depression and anxiety, bullying, body image problems, and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). This is not to say that Instagram is all bad though, as it received positive feedback regarding self-identity, self-expression, community building, and emotional support.
Instagram has always been dedicated to keeping the platform safe and welcoming for its users and removing like counts is their newest attempt to do so. Instagram has become so popular, with one billion users signing into the platform each month, 500k of whom scroll through Instagram every day. According to Sprout Social, 64% of 18-29 year olds use Instagram and 72% of 13-17 year olds use Instagram (in the US).
An unfortunate side effect of Instagram is that these young users (and many older users) have begun to align their self-worth with their perceived popularity on social media. And with the ability to alter your statistics (buying followers or likes), people have false perceptions of other people’s popularity that can have an negative impact on their own self-worth.
With all of this being said, the potential removal of like counts will likely be very beneficial for Instagram’s everyday users. However, it is going to be a bit different for bloggers, business owners, and influencers, to whom likes have essentially become a means of determining monetary value. For now, we see one significant con and one significant pro in regards to hidden like counts. The reality of the change will become more apparent as the Canadian trial continues.
Con: Determining and proving engagement
With visible like counts, it’s usually easy to tell what someone’s engagement looks like. If someone has 100k followers but gets about 800 likes per post, you know that their followers are not very interested in their content. This can often be a sign that many of the followers are not even real. If someone has 8k followers but gets about 1k likes per post, you know that something about that account really draws their audience in.
With hidden like counts, determining an accounts actual engagement rate will become tricky. Businesses hiring influencers or bloggers will have a harder time determining who is worth investing in.
What to do: Comments will become the main way to determine accounts engagement (other than your own). Focus on content and captions that encourage comments and conversations.
Pro: greater Focus on content than likes
With visible like counts, users tend to post content that they think their followers want to see over content that they actually want to post. We’ve all met that girl who deletes her post if she doesn’t get a certain amount of likes within a certain time frame. Your feed is not about you, it’s about what you think people want from you. If you’re not being genuine and authentic, it makes it harder to attract your ideal audience.
With like counts out of the picture, users will be less concerned with creating what they think will get lots of likes and will focus more on what they actually want to post. There will be less pressure to get tons of likes, therefore there will be less pressure to fit in with the crowd. The hope is that users will no longer feel the need to compete with other users.
What to do: Keep things authentic. Authenticity and showing your reality rather than your highlight real has become somewhat of a trend in the last year or so and this will only become more common without visible likes.
Our final thoughts on hidden likes
We are all for it.
We do not think that there is anything for us business owners and influencers to worry about, as it is highly unlikely that Instagram will jeopardize their platforms relationship with businesses and content creators. An Instagram spokesperson told Refinery29, “We understand that [like count] is important for many creators, and while this test is in exploratory stages, we're thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners. We hope that by making the number of likes private, people will be able to focus more on the photos and videos posted in Feed, and that this will ultimately drive deeper engagement.”
The important thing to note is that right now it is in a testing phase, meaning there will most likely be changes and adjustments to this feature before it is really set into motion. For now, focus on creating quality content, unfollow accounts that trigger your anxiety or comparisonitis, and work on encouraging genuine engagement from your audience!
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