Late last week, it became known that Instagram will now be hiding Likes in six countries (as first reported by TechCrunch): New Zealand, Ireland, Brazil, Australia, Italy and Japan. This comes only a couple months since their initial announcement of testing the feature, indicating that the social media giant plans to double-down on the update.
Here's what this means for the platform, why it's a much bigger deal than one may initially suspect and the proactive steps you can take to stay ahead of the curve despite the changes.
What This Means For Instagram
Ever since their executive shakeup that resulted in Instagram's original founders being softly pushed out of their positions only to be replaced with Facebook loyalists, Instagram has been toying around with features they're claiming will make their platform a safer place for their users -- from hiding Likes to their recent anti-bullying updates.
While the intention behind these features might be well and good, the changes make the product deviate from the core things that made Instagram spread like wildfire in the first place -- specifically by the platform deciding which content you see versus the end user being in control of their in-app experience. Plus, one can't help to wonder if Facebook is using Instagram company as a buffer, or band-aid, for their own recent mishaps and privacy scandals, which have caused many users to lose faith in the platform.
Facebook's increasing influence over Instagram.
Instagram is telling the world the motive for hiding Likes is to protect their users from vanity metrics -- that they're making the world a better place by trying to encourage users to focus less on Likes and more on creating content which is meaningful for them.
I'll be honest here: I don't buy it. The move is clearly meant to increase advertising dollars by killing off the Instagram influencer marketing industry, and to appease advertisers by making them be less mindful of the Likes ads drive versus the reach the ads receive.
I'll continue to say this until things change: Facebook is continually showing they're becoming the out-of-touch, "old man" of the social media landscape -- one prone to shamelessly cloning products instead of creating their own ideas, one that neglects the privacy of their users and puts user experience in the backseat to make room for advertisers. Now that Facebook essentially controls all facets of Instagram, this is simply a move in the same direction.
A colossal hit to influencer marketing.
Lastly, if hiding Likes rolls out to all markets, it will be an enormous hit to the influencer marketing industry, which relies heavily on Likes as a measurement for brands to gauge an influencer campaign's success or failure. Currently, Instagram receives no cut from the influencer marketing industry -- so this move makes financial sense given how it would entice brands to allocate budget to Instagram ads instead.
These changes and the larger trends behind them could have ripple effects that impact the way your business markets itself on Instagram and beyond. Here's what you can do to stay ahead of the curve across the social media landscape.
1. Invest in platforms other than Facebook and Instagram
If your business relies heavily on Facebook advertising or Instagram to reach your audience and sell products, the sooner you can begin to diversify your social media marketing budget, the better. Give Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn more money and attention in the coming year.
Facebook is a publicly traded company with quarterly quotas it needs to hit, so slashing organic reach of posts, increasing cost-per-click costs and more are inevitable changes -- and now that they're in complete control of Instagram, it's only a matter of time before the app follows down the same road.
2. Begin looking elsewhere for influencer marketing.
If you rely on Instagram influencer marketing for your business, it would be savvy to look elsewhere for the reasons listed above. YouTube vloggers and Twitch streamers are a great place to start given their tight-knit connection they have with their audiences.
3. Invest in yourself first.
Building your business on any social media platform is a dangerous game. They can make algorithm changes, decide your content isn't suitable for their users or go out of business completely. Instead, use these social media apps as a way to build awareness for your brand, drive traffic to your website and increase your email subscribers. You'll be happy you did.