To love or loathe the likes?

Instagram officially launched as an iPhone app back in 2010, and from that point on Instagram has changed the world. In 2010, it was primarily used to share photos between friends and family, upload pictures of your favourite Starbucks drink, or a screenshot of your favourite song lyrics. However, this innocent epoch has been transformed into one of the most influential and efficient business platforms that it is today. With over 25 million business and influencer accounts worldwide, Instagram is now a platform for the pursuit of perfection. Where ‘likes’ are considered a social currency, used to measure the validity and value of one’s’ post, brand, or self worth.

If Instagram is such a successful business platform, why did CEO Adam Moserri announce that Instagram would undergo the experiment of ‘hiding’ likes, the digital metric that most businesses solely rely on to measure their success? 

It seems that within the realm of young adults, particularly generation Z, Instagram posts have orchestrated an unrealistic expectation in which this generation tends to delete posts if they have not received enough likes. Instagram has evolved from a carefree era to a place where there is now an overwhelming pressure to gain likes in order to feel validated. Instagram’s social currency has potentially created a toxic environment for the younger generations, striking an increase in mental health issues, where most users feel pressured to ‘do it for the gram’ in order to stay on trend. As a result, it could be that perhaps by removing Instagram’s vanity metrics, users will be pushed to focus on authenticity, and less likely to have a superficial outlook in order to stay on brand, and feel gratified by this Instagram culture.

This strategy will inevitably loosen Instagram users desires for high standard quality pictures, as well as a lowered expectation and pride of users’ pictures. Whilst hiding likes may seem like a step in the right direction in order to combat mental health issues, this decrease in the desire for quality could perhaps lead millions of business profiles into jeopardy.

In 2019, a survey showed that 62 per cent of influencers and businesses on Instagram wanted ‘like’ metrics to remain revealed to the public, because within the digital marketing world, the vanity metric algorithm is an efficient way for businesses and influencers to measure their engagement and performance. Consequently, by hiding this marketing strategy away from the public, it seems like most businesses feared that their engagement would decrease, as they rely on these numbers to display their attractive brand, and shape their success when other brands and customers consider collaborating. 

Whilst vanity metrics are an important algorithm for any business on Instagram to measure their performance and engagement, the reality is that the removal of this metric has in fact ceased to negatively impact Instagram businesses in countries such as the U.S and Brazil, where this experiment has already taken place. Removing likes has propelled businesses to veer away from focusing on vanity metrics, and instead amplify better quality content to keep their target audience intrigued for genuine reasons. As well as this, it has taken away the ability to compare success with other companies through shallow and artificial evaluation.

Could it be that Instagram’s tactic to hide likes is in fact a positive strategy from both a mental health and business perspective? Do you think it will eliminate the contest style outlook for both personal and business platforms? It could be that perhaps this is the revolutionary digital marketing strategy that other social media platforms such as Facebook could adopt, or will it actually deter businesses away from Instagram, driving them to their competitors’ platforms such as TikTok where vanity metrics are still in full force?

What are your thoughts on this social media experiment? Get in touch and let us know if you would prefer Instagram to hide how many likes posts receive.

By Ella Berry, Shoo Academy