Instagram has been making a lot of positive changes lately; from putting in place anti-bulling techniques, to developing additional measures for disabling accounts violating Instagram’s community guidelines. However, one change currently being tested in a number of countries appears to be stirring the online community of Instagram users, leaving businesses, influencers and consumers with mixed opinion about how this will affect their use of the app.
This change is the hiding of the like count.
The image that has been doing the rounds on the internet was posted by Jane Manchun Wong on Twitter, sharing what your Instagram posts could look like if the update rolls out worldwide. If the tests happening in countries such as Canada develop into a permanent change, your public Instagram like count could say ‘other’ where the number of likes used to be.
Why is Instagram testing this out?
According to the pop-up during the test phase, Instagram wants ‘your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get’. This comes after growing concern about the impact that social media platforms have on users’ mental health. A survey by the Royal Society for Public Health, looking into the impact upon health and wellbeing related issues including anxiety, depression, bullying and body image, ranked Instagram as the most negative social media app in their study. As a platform driven by aesthetics, and with the majority of users aged between 18 and 34, Instagram is making bold steps towards attempting to create a safer, more healthy place online.
Why are there concerns about removing the like count?
Instagram is an app synonymous with likes and influence. One huge way influencers gauge the success of their account is their engagement rate, which includes the ratio of likes to follower count. Will removing the like count discourage users from liking content? Will influencers lose the amount of influence they previously held if their followers and potential clients can’t easily see how well a post is performing?
Abc.net.au state: “Zak Hasleby, an influencer with over 90,000 followers, said the changes would take away the “backbone” of assessing influence, at least for anyone without an established reputation.” This would make it harder for businesses to instantly assess the quality of an influencer they may want to work with, and make influencing particularly difficult for micro-influencers or smaller brands.
However, removing the public like count won’t remove the like count completely. The owner of the account will still be able to see their engagement levels and share these with the companies they are working with.
What positive changes could removing the like count bring?
Engagement includes comments, and comments encourage conversation. By taking the emphasis off likes, attention may naturally shift towards the comments section of a post, which in turn should create more authentic engagement and build relationships with potential customers. Business owners should be happy about a shift towards real engagement and authentic potential custom, as this is what makes a real difference to their business. Businesses and influencers should take note of their engagement rate as a whole instead of honing in on their like count in particular.
While some are sceptical of the potential change, if social media continues to manifest pockets of negativity, comparison and mental health concerns, the damaging nature of these once-loved apps may eventually push users away. By making positive changes to nurture authentic engagement, connection and information, Instagram could evolve into an even better social media platform for generations to come. This is a great step towards steering social media in a more positive direction.
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