Fewer likes makes Instagram more likeableAugust 23, 2019
By Jordan McDonald
55 comms Social Media Coordinator
Social media has always been, in essence, a popularity contest. We share our opinions on debatable topics and hope ours is the most agreeable, post a video and hope we get the most views, and post a photo and hope we get the most likes.
Where popularity was once left to human perception, social media gave us a way to quantify how popular we were.
While some people weren’t fazed by this artificial notoriety, for the majority of the user population on social media apps, being perceived as popular became important, and therefore competitive.
Introducing this competitive element meant users began to explore ways to make their posts stand out. First it was using as many hashtags as possible on an Instagram post – a loophole which often yielded hundreds and thousands of likes on your post, which became addicting to someone who only had a following of a few hundred.
Fast-forward to now and we have apps like FaceTune and Lightroom which give users the power to create a version of themselves that will be desired by many, no matter how warped.
Social media, in a lot of ways, is a fantasy world where what we see on the surface is not what truly lies beneath.
The focus on sharing quality, authentic content has been shifted to creating the most attention-grabbing content, often at the cost of both quality and authenticity, as well as mental well-being.
Instagram, however, seems to be taking a stand. The social media giant recently made headlines introducing a controversial change to its appearance in-app – removing likes.
The update was tested in a few countries before it was rolled out globally and, as expected, was met with controversy.
While it seems the majority of users feel relieved to know they can’t be judged by the numbers of likes on their post, other users (such as influencers), are complaining that it’s going to ruin their business – a business built around lots of likes.
I’ve been following this issue for weeks and explored each avenue; mental health, the impact for businesses (large and small), impact for influencers, will this affect the algorithm etc, and here’s what I think needs to be understood.
Quantifying popularity, whilst the basis for all our social media, is ultimately unhealthy for user mental health.
There are countless studies that indicate the effects of social media and directly reference the pressure users feel to achieve ‘lots of likes’ in order for that post to be seen as ‘successful’.
You’ve probably experienced this feeling yourself – you post a photo and five minutes passes and you begin to wonder ‘why aren’t people liking this’, before deleting it before anyone else can see.
For mental health issues, removing likes won’t solve the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s all part of Instagram’s ongoing effort to introduce more well-being features into the app.
For businesses big and small, there’s no need to be worried at all. I say this quite bluntly, if your business’s success revolves ONLY on the number of likes you receive on social media, then the problem isn’t social media, it’s your business.
A few influencers have uploaded embarrassing videos crying about the fact people can’t see that their post received 100,000+ likes and it’s laughable. Any brand looking to do business with an influencer can simply ask for their insights, which will more than likely paint a more honest picture of an influencers worth.
Quality and authenticity will prevail – it’s as simple as that.
The focus for users now is publishing content that accurately represents them/their brand, and provides their audience (not matter the size) with some form of quality value.
The algorithm – the most debated yet unknown topic of this wider subject. The algorithm will not change, it has always favoured good quality content.
Instagram recognises good quality content in the same way as well – likes, comments and saves. Ensure your activity is authentic and you won’t have an issue.
Try to cut corners, and the algorithm will punish you. Yes, that’s a real thing.