Contributed by Bryce Ward
Starting this week, Instagram will be testing a new “like” feature in Canada that, if successful, may work itself over to the American social media landscape. The new feature will hide “like” counts from feeds, and only the people who’ve posted something can see how many likes their post has garnered. Instagram, and most of social media, relies almost entirely on the like/favorite system – some might argue they can’t be separated – so this change has considerable implications, and whether or not these implications are positive is yet to be known.
Instagram says they’ve decided to hide likes because they believe it will help combat some of the mental health drawbacks associated with social media, especially regarding Instagram. After all, more and more studies have been surfacing of late that point to Instagram being one of, if not the worst social media platform for mental health, especially in youths. By hiding likes, Instagram users will (theoretically) care less about likes, which are often used as a metric (albeit a flawed metric) of self-worth.
Hopefully, Instagram’s mission will be a success. Social-media related mental health is a serious problem for younger generations as platforms like Instagram become increasingly more engrained in the social fabric. But until the results are in, and assuming the change is implemented in the United States, how will this like-concealment feature affect businesses on Instagram?
My prediction: hiding likes will only help businesses, especially smaller ones. Businesses often care more about likes on their posts more so than many individuals. As marketing becomes increasingly more digital-centric, raising like and engagement count is becoming a priority for many companies. However, the reasoning behind the new feature, to have users care more about content and less about, ultimately, superficial likes, should naturally compliment the motives of any business on Instagram.
If your content appeals to your audience, and doesn’t come across as too “salesy,” it has the potential of creating a stronger bond between your business and your consumer base; and if Instagram is moving in a direction where content is king, then users may see you less as a brand and more as a friend. When they see a post, they won’t judge the quality of the company by its like-count but by their content, hence why this new feature could be beneficial for smaller companies who are competing with already well established and well followed accounts. It isn’t farfetched to think, assuming this change is a success, that Instagram may one day consider hiding follower counts, as well, for the same reason. But this would only benefit smaller companies even more.
Whether or not the new like-concealment feature will be successful for both individuals and businesses is unforeseen; however, it reveals to us where Instagram’s focus is moving forward. Even if hiding likes is a flop, Instagram will try other ways to elevate the importance of content until one eventually works. With this in mind, businesses should be focusing primarily on content, not likes. Increasing engagement is undoubtedly crucial for a business’ success and growth in the digital age, but you must have a solid foundation with quality content before such scaling can take place. If you build a high-quality page, followers will come.