To Like or Not to Like: Instagram and the end of toxic popularity?

Testing, 1, 2, 3

We’ve all heard about the toxicity of Social Media, the ‘likes-driven’ generation and the dangers of vanity metrics. Now Instagram is responding in kind. After a preliminary run in Canada, Instagram last week rolled out removal of ‘likes’ throughout several other countries. The test is now taking place in Japan, Italy, Ireland, Brazil, New Zealand, and Australia.

Although no official data has been shared about the results of the initial test, it’s safe to assume that it was positive if Instagram are willing to broaden the test countries. Public opinions are however, well and truly split.

Not to like

Looking to create a ‘less pressurised environment’ Instagram hope that the move will mean users can focus more on the quality of the photos and videos. In doing so, they focus less on how many ‘likes’ they receive and how those ‘likes’ measure up to others. It that respect, they’re not wrong. Users in the test countries are reporting feeling freer to post average photos without the fear or being judged on how many likes they’ll receive. It’s possible that removing the ‘lazy like’ could also lead to users engaging increasingly in comments which could, in turn, create a deeper level of engagement. And with big brands like Pepsi and McDonalds relying less and less on engagement metrics and more on overall education goals in order to properly evaluate sales, it’s entirely possible that the lack of likes will quickly become yesterday’s headlines.

To like

Very firmly on the other side of the IG fence are the influencers and brands who have real concerns that a disposal of ‘likes’ undermines the premise of the platform entirely.  How, for example, can brands measure the value of influencer posting without using these metrics? How can they vouch for the validity of an instagram account who may be suspected of purchasing fake followers without being able to measure their engagement v. their followers? It’s feared the removal of the ‘like’ metic will lead to brands pulling out of influencer marketing.  Instead they may direct their marketing spend into more paid advertising, lining Instagram’s pockets further. Do these changes herald the demise of the platform since ‘likes’ encourage ‘likes’? Will removing that option lessen engagement and encourage users to find another platform to share their opinions?

We’ll certainly be watching in interest to see how this broad sweep like-removal test goes down. Who knows, perhaps this time next year we’ll be having a similar conversation about Tik Tok?

Chris Love

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