Instagram is currently trialling the hiding of likes. So far this has been happening in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand.
The bold move certainly begs a few questions. What will influencers do without Instagram likes? How are brands supposed to decide whether an influencer is worthy of a brand deal? How will followers see how popular they really are?
Firstly, it’s important to realise that there are other metrics which influencers have always had to provide to brands. Aside from likes, other stats such as impressions, comments and story views are all factors which brands will take into consideration.
LIKES ARE NOT BEING REMOVED, THEY’RE BEING HIDDEN
Secondly, Instagram are not removing likes, they are hiding them. Those are two very different things. Essentially users can still see how many likes they receive, it’s just that their followers don’t, meaning that brands can still request the information.
Morally, you could question this hiding of likes as ‘pseudo concern’ on Instagram’s part. Users will still experience instant gratification or disappointment, depending on how many likes they can still see.
LIKES ARE DECEPTIVE ANYWAY
When it comes to likes, follows and comments, we have to remember that they are questionable metrics in terms of genuine influence. A large wedge of these numbers often come from accounts which are liking, commenting and following using automation.
Ever noticed that someone’s instagram comment sections are full of generic complimentary phrases or emojis? Comments which could be used in response to almost any old picture? They’re likely to be fake comments.
Anyone can automate their accounts to robotically like, follow and comment on people’s posts. This is a quick way to get their handle seen by many users, causing people to visit their page out of curiosity.
This type of engagement is of course emotionally inauthentic as there is no human appreciation involved. For brands to judge whether an influencer is truly ‘worth it’ they will need to look out for the tell-tale signs of an engaged audience.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING IN THE COMMENTS?
If commenters are making explicit reference to something mentioned in the caption or seen in the image itself, then it means (for now) that real humans are properly engaging. However, AI will soon be able to mimic this.
BRANDS WILL NEED TO SPOT A SYNERGY
Brands won’t only be looking at the amount of followers that an influencer possesses. They’ll be looking at whether they have any similarities to the influencer. This could be clothing style, sports interests, opinions, favoured going-out spots etc.
The synergy shows a connection of influence between the influencer and their audience. If a particularly attractive woman has a predominantly male following, perhaps they won’t be the ideal figure for a female clothing deal. Whereas if they’re female, wearing the same clothes and saying the same things, it’s likely to be a decent match.
ALL IN ALL, THERE WILL BE OTHER MEASURES OF CLOUT
With likes hidden, people will concentrate more on the content itself, having no choice but to form their own opinion on whether a post is good or not. For some, this should be an interesting experience, because impressionable people tend to subconsciously require the validation of others to decide whether or not they’re into something.
Some may look at the amount of followers the influencer has, using the number as a popularity gage. Users will also continue to read what people are saying in the comment section, analysing the sentiment of the comments as well as the amount.
In conclusion, brands can still request an influencer’s analytics and influencers can reach out and provide them. Even before hidden likes became a thing, a careful brand would always make decisions on a wider range of analytics.
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