Is this the beginning of the end for “Influencers”?
A recent report from the Royal Society for Public Health found that Instagram was the most damaging social media platform, in terms of the effects it can have on users’ mental health.
Instagram is making Like counts private for some users everywhere. Instagram tells that the hidden Likes test is expanding to a subset of people globally. Users will have to decide for themselves if something is worth Liking rather than judging by the herd. The change could make users more comfortable sharing what’s important to them without the fear of publicly receiving an embarrassingly small number of Likes.
Instagram wants its app to be a place people feel comfortable expressing themselves and can focus on photos and videos they share rather than how many likes they get. Users can still see who Liked their own posts and a total count by tapping on the Likers list. Viewers of a post will only see a few names of mutual friends who Liked it. They can tap through to view the Likers list but would have to manually count them. However, we noticed that in Cyprus at least, business profiles are still able to view the Likes count.
The expansion raises concerns that the test could hurt influencers and creators after a study found many of them of various levels of popularity lost 3% to 15% of their Likes in countries where Instagram hid the counts.
It also noted like and view counts are important to some people (for instance, influencers who are negotiating sponsorship deals). As Like counts won’t be public, influencer marketing agencies must rely on self-reported screenshots from creators that could be Photoshopped to score undue rewards. With that in mind, Instagram’s “actively thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners.”
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri stated that “We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health.” Hidden Like counts might reduce overall ad spend on Instagram if businesses feel it’s less important to rack up engagement and look popular. But it might also shift spend from influencer marketing that goes directly into the pockets of creators toward official Instagram ads, thereby earning the company more money.
Hiding Likes is probably a win for the sanity of humanity, and a boon to creativity. Before, people often self-censored and declined to share posts they worried wouldn’t get enough Likes or deleted posts that didn’t. They’d instinctually bend their public persona toward manicured selfies and images that made their life look glamorous, rather than what was authentic or that they wanted to communicate. Meanwhile, viewers would see high Like counts on friends’ or influencers’ posts, compare those to their own smaller Like counts and feel ashamed or inadequate.
Putting an end to the popularity contest might lead people to share more unconventional, silly or artsy posts regardless of their public reception. That could make Instagram’s content more diverse, surprising and alluring over time versus an increasingly stale aesthetic of perfection. That’s what Instagram was all about when it first launched, so It’s kind of a return to its roots.