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Opinion: Like it or not, Instagram like counts could be out

by Alice McQueen Alice McQueen

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  • Posted on Wednesday 29th January, 2020

In April 2019, Instagram announced to the world that it was going to trial phasing out its like count, which unsurprisingly caused quite a debate. A lot of questions were raised on how this trial would take place, who would be affected and how?

Cut to nine months later and testing has been rolled out in several countries; Australia, New Zealand, India and the UK to name a few, but many of our questions are still left unanswered.

The testing was set up in a bid to ‘remove pressure’, something which Instagram’s Vice President of Product, Vishal Shah has discussed in a recent interview. Shah mentioned how the testing had come from internal feedback from various teams, particularly on the need for validation by achieving a high count of likes on each post.

Personally, I’m fully on board with hiding the like count on Instagram. When it first came out in 2010, it was a platform where users shared snippets captured from their day-to-day life and expressed themselves. It didn’t seem like a platform where you felt like you needed to compete with one another or get a set number of likes.

Fast forward 10 years and the platform feels very different. Whether I’m scrolling down my feed or on the search and explore page, it feels like everyone is in competition with one another to put the best image out to get as many likes as possible. But why? I’d say, validation! We’ve all been guilty of it at some point – whether we like to admit it or not. I’ve been influenced by individuals whether it’s a celebrity, blogger or my next-door neighbour, to head to a location to get a specific backdrop in my image.

I’m of the view that if users can’t see how many likes they and others are receiving, the competitive element of the platform is eased, and we could potentially see an uplift in posts as people become more carefree and expressive…

All is not as it seems with the update, however. Instagram may be hiding the like count under images posted onto the platform, but each user can still see how many likes their image received within the admin section. For me, that pressure is still there. Yes, you cannot see how you need to compete with someone else, but you can try and compete with how your well your previous image has done.

Looking at this from a business perspective, I personally don’t feel like it will have any significant impact. Yes, a company wants to get their brand out there in front of as many people as possible from sharing much-loved products, new launches or releasing the latest news.

Do people on the outside need to see exactly how many likes a brand/business has received per post? No, not really. If the audience loves the post, they will engage with it, it really doesn’t matter whether Sally from accounts or Joseph from two doors down hasn’t liked it.

Delving into the admin side of the channel, you can still see the number of impressions and engagement it has got. When reporting at the end of the month, we can see how far it has reached and the demographic that has engaged with the post. Moving forward, we can take these key learnings to help grow and stay relevant with our audience.

Social media is moving at such a fast rate, we will soon forget about how many likes a post can receive and we will start worrying about another measurement on the platform. Take stories or IGTV as an example, and users keeping a close eye on the number of watchers.

The article in Social Media Today suggests that Instagram’s intention of hiding likes will ensure users post a lot more often. Could this be the case? Time will tell, but I’m not entirely sure we will ever find out. After all, Shah did mention in his interview that they still have a long way to go in testing and that it might not even roll out to everyone.

What are your thoughts? Let us know on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.