Instagram typically plays a part in almost any business or marketing firm’s social media strategy. It’s a platform that allows you to display striking visuals that reinforce your messaging or align positive emotions with your brand. That said, using the app can prove stressful for some, particularly when engagement isn’t as strong as you’d like. When you post a picture and it doesn’t get the “likes” you expected, it can take a mental and emotional toll.
With this in mind, Instagram is flirting with the idea of making “likes” private on a permanent basis. For businesses looking to implement Instagram in their company’s social media strategy, it’s important to understand how this impacts them. It’s also important to understand exactly why it happened and how they’ll need to adapt going forward.
Why Instagram got rid of likes
In May, Instagram announced they’d experiment with making likes private in Canada. As per ABC News Online:
“…Facebook will run a test in Canada for a major change to its Instagram app that would remove the number of likes on photos as well as video views from users’ feeds, permalink pages and profiles…The original poster will be able to keep track of their likes, but these won’t show up on the main feed…The reported rationale is to get users to “focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.”
This trial was later rolled out across multiple countries, including Australia in July 2019. The thought process was that it will help improve the mental health of Instagram users. But does Instagram really have its users’ best interests in mind, or is there a less charitable interpretation of the move?
Why removing likes has received a mixed response
Mental health experts agree that Instagram, in its current format, can have adverse mental health effects on its users – though whether the likes are the problem is up for debate.
A 2017 report found that Instagram was the worst social media platform for mental health, affecting sleep quality, body image, and anxiousness, and triggering FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) or even outright bullying. While many agree that removing the publicly visible likes is a step in the right direction as it removes the pressure to appear ‘popular’, questions remain as to whether the real root of the problem is being addressed. Psychologist Barbara Volkar was quoted in Vogue as saying, “It’s not the ‘likes’ that are problematic, it’s the ‘aspirational’ imagery… which makes you feel imperfect and plays on your psychological insecurities, [which can] turn you into the ultimate consumer for a quick profit.”
Indeed, profit seems to be guiding Instagram’s desire for change more than mental health concerns. Murmur’s Dave Levett argues that Instagram has ignored more serious recommendations – such as warning users of potentially excessive usage or alerting them to digital manipulation in images – in favour of removing likes in an effort to make more money out of small businesses. Removing likes prevents a business’ ads and sponsored content from appearing less popular than their competitors, making it more desirable for organisations who previously struggled to attain high levels of engagement to spend on advertising.
Levett also points out that the move is simply in the testing stages. If it proves detrimental to Instagram’s advertising profits they may do away with the change, its users’ mental health be damned.
Simply put, the move isn’t so much about mental health benefits as it is about increasing the number of companies who pay to advertise on the platform.
How removing likes will impact Instagram marketing
No matter whether the impacts on individual users is good or bad, and whether Instagram’s motivation is selfless or self-serving, the removal of likes will cause a seismic shift in how Instagram accounts market themselves. A few potential major changes include:
- Comments will become much more critical, as they’ll get content pushed into other accounts’ feeds as well as driving engagement.
- Accounts will put more time and energy into creating compelling Instagram stories.
- The reliance on asking followers to “like” or “double-tap” content will essentially become obsolete, replaced by pushing them to view more stories or add comments.
This could also impact companies specifically in how they market themselves. For one, removal of likes shifts power dynamics away from influencers, who could use their large numbers of likes as evidence of an engaged follower base and seek collaborations with businesses as a result. Influencers who live to get likes will have less of an impact, and companies may find it makes more sense to craft posts for their own Instagram accounts rather than pay an influencer to post about a product or service. With influencers less influential than ever, businesses are more likely to spend their social marketing budgets on the platform itself – a big win for Instagram!
However, innovative small-to-mid-size businesses can use these changes to their advantage. As Dave Levett argues, removing likes aids small businesses, as larger companies and organisations previously focused on the “social proof” of receiving more Instagram likes. By removing a metric the public used to evaluate a business based on its social media presence, organisations which may have lower percentages of engagement on Instagram posts can leverage the fact that the social proof larger companies typically benefit from no longer exists. They can focus on creating compelling content without having likes to serve as a key performance indicator.
In short, it can help smaller businesses not stay so focused on superficial metrics such as likes – instead focusing on creating useful and valuable content.
Instagram’s crackdown on policy violations
Instagram is also starting to bring the hammer down on accounts violating its terms of service. Per Instagram:
“We are now rolling out a new policy where, in addition to removing accounts with a certain percentage of violating content, we will also remove accounts with a certain number of violations within a window of time.”
While this will be a net gain, particularly in dealing with online trolls posting unsuitable content, it can also give businesses cause for concern. If someone with an ax to grind (like, for example, a disgruntled customer) wrongfully reports a post that isn’t actually unsuitable, it could always be misconstrued by Instagram’s support team. That’s why it’s important for businesses to take careful measures with their social media posts to ensure nothing can be taken out of context.
This could happen to anyone, even businesses with the purest of intentions. But even if it happens to you, there are ways you can mitigate the damage done by a nefarious actor.
Why these changes mean you need real-time archiving
Imagine for a moment you’ve been wrongfully banned by Instagram for an incorrectly reported post, and now lost all the content you’ve posted over the life of your organisation. If you’ve kept your content safe somewhere, you can repurpose it on other social media platforms or re-post it if you re-start your Instagram account, but your comments and engagements will be gone regardless.
Saving all your content in a secure location ensures you never truly lose it, but who has the time to save every post, comment, edit and deletion? As we move away from influencer marketing and likes and move toward creating our own internal content and encouraging comments, saving your engagements will be more important than ever, but how can it be done practically?
Brolly captures your social media engagements in real-time, ensuring you don’t miss a thing. With an easily searchable database at your fingertips, you can recall a post or comment with the click of a button – even if it has been deleted.
Use keyword searches to conduct an audit of your platform or help you devise key messaging and avoid wasteful spending on posts that don’t connect.
Talk to the team at Brolly today!