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What will happen to Instagram without the ‘Likes’ button?

Instagram is testing the waters with a bold move. The social media platform, with approximately 1 billion monthly active users worldwide, has decided to hide the number of ‘likes’ a post receives from public view. The move was carried out following the concerns about the ill effects of social media on the mental health and self-esteem of the youth. The test is currently running in seven countries.

At present, users across the platform generate tons of content that creates billions of impressions and conversations daily. The hiding of likes will definitely raise some eyebrows for brands as well as influencers who work together.

For example, Kaneez Surkha and Naveen Richards, who are at the frontier of comedy in India, recently carried out an online campaign for Uber Eats.  Both have a huge social media following with about 288K followers between them. The campaign, as expected, had an element of humour to it with the #Bestseatswitheats. The campaign featured a competition where a lucky winner could win a smart sofa if they order the #bestseatswitheats on the Uber Eats app on 5th July.

The above post had nearly 1,000 likes and 50 comments. The initiative gives the central campaign an extended reach and allows the brand to the target audience. As the creative is different, it helps the brand to present a variety of content to its audiences for the same campaign.

Impact Influencers?

So, now when the platform will hide the likes, how will the brand measure the success of their campaigns and calculate the engagement? We tried to understand how the new development would affect brands, influencers and brand-influencer marketing.

Brands across categories have understood the value of influencer marketing and are regularly working with them. Traditionally, brands have chosen influencers on the reach and engagement they have on the platform. The number of likes have helped in ascertaining the reach.

Saket Vaidya, COO, Korra, remarked, “Influencers will still have follower count and based on that, there will always be an estimation of the organic reach of the influencer. Post likes are a way of measuring engagement on a given post and that engagement being visible to the whole world. With respect to influencer marketing, the parameter that influencers primarily get chosen or judged for is the number of people who are following them and also the comments or conversations they can guide. If these conversations will remain measurable, then whether or not the post has a visible like or not will not make a difference.”

These influencers attempt to add credibility to the product by creating content around it and in return earn from brands.

Ashutosh Harbola, Co-Founder & Chief Rebel, Buzzoka - Influencer Marketing 2.0, added here that brands eventually want to have maximum reach. “The new update is not going to affect influencers or influencer marketing. A problem will only happen with all those brands where engagement is a metric. The more you understand this from the brand portfolio rather than brand performance, it is not going to affect anything. Influencers and influencer marketing are here to stay.”

Shourya Ray Chaudhuri, Managing Partner & Creative Head (South), Tonic Worldwide says "Influencers, as much as I dislike the word, will need to up their ante. With no 'visible' likes to base choices of influencers, brands will now have to depend more on their agency to understand whether the collaboration will be fruitful. Some may even resort to sticking to tried and tested influencers which means that the new kids on the block may take a hit." 

Impact Content Credibility?

The introduction of this feature will definitely take away from public perception of what is viral and what is not. Content will be more democratic as a result, when people see a post having 1,000 or 2,000 likes, the general behaviour is “if so many people have liked it so should I”. For an average user, likes have always been a parameter to judge and view content. Will this make the platform less superficial? This update will definitely put a huge focus on the quality of the content being put up.

Vaidya further mentioned that brands would see a reduction in interactions, but actually there would be no reduction in reach. “Influencers will still be in the game. Of course, I’m assuming that is the intent behind this update. It will make the content more democratic and also more contextual as people will not judge content on the basis of likes. That’s always good,” he maintained.

Overall, this will not impact the Instagram marketing spends anywhere. Reach is the main criteria for an influencer upon which he/she is chosen by the brands. So, as long as the brand can calculate the organic reach of an influencer, influencer marketing will not be affected.

Harbola asserted that Instagram is just trying to remove the ‘pseudo-egos’ from its platform. “Influencers are going to remain influencers and the idea behind removing these pseudo-egos is to make the content of the platform more powerful. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

It is clearly an attempt to shift from quantity to quality and this has been happening across platforms. The removal of the feature will give a strong focus on the kind of content that is being created, which is always good for this spectrum.

Nandini Shenoy, Founder & CEO of PinkVilla said "This move will definitely lead to more organic and better content creation. In the long run it benefits both the brands and the influencers as quality content is sure to get better and more targeted & meaningful engagements. In the short term however, influencers might take a hit if they don't deal with this smartly and change their content game. Breaking the habit and posting patterns for them might be the bigger challenge here."

Harbola added, “Influencer marketing is a key to build up your brand and it is not a performance marketing channel. The quality of content will definitely go up. This is a content first world and people will love to make and view good content. It is good that people justify themselves on the basis of content and not anything else. This update is great news and will definitely make content win.”

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