Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced last week upcoming plans to remove the ability to see others’ likes from the platform in the U.S. In their quest to become the safest place on the internet, Mosseri provided reasoning to BuzzFeed that the decision was “about creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.” But, these days, Instagram is used by many as more than just a platform for expression.
Looking at the impact that Instagram has had on worldwide marketing, the question arises about what effect this will have on those who use the platform to promote their businesses. While public likes have already been removed for many users in Canada, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand, there’s been a lot of mixed feelings from the pool of American users, most certainly for those we call “influencers.”
Influencers in the countries already affected by this feature have had to become more creative with their posts, as Evan Asano, CEO and founder of the influencer-marketing agency Mediakix, said to Business Weekly, "More users are using stories and IGTV.”
Likes are a crucial means by which businesses measure marketing campaigns' effectiveness, so doubtless the change will affect those who funnel their followers and income through their Instagram accounts. While there are tons of other features on the platform that can be used to market and advertise, we wanted to know what our Dallas influencers thought of the change and how it’s going to affect their businesses.
Brooke Raybould, founder of the eBook diet program Postpartum Slimdown and @thesouthernishmama, runs her business through her Instagram to a follower base of nearly 60K. One of her worries about the loss of public likes is that her like-to-follower ratio is an indication of her page’s authenticity, as she averages thousands of likes per photo. While some influencers have followers in the millions and a very low like count, this could be a sign that Instagram users are using robots or paying to gain followers.
“I don’t know what drives your images to the Instagram feed,” she says, though she's confident in Instagram’s algorithm to continue funneling like-minded users and potential followers to her page. “When I had fewer followers, there would still be pictures with a lot of likes that funnel to the feed page, so I’m sure that’ll remain.”
Raybould believes her business will continue to flourish without likes. She rarely looks at the likes of other Instagram users, focusing more on the content in a photo.
“I think that legitimately the only reason I look at likes is how I choose my content and brands I’m going to promote, and to gauge how my posts compare to others,” she says. Advertisers do this, too, when choosing influencers to promote their products. For Raybould, her high like count would most certainly be an encouraging factor for advertisers to seek her for promotions.
Raybould sees the change as mostly affecting advertisers. Another local influencer, Maria Sanchez, says that means influencers could gain from the new policy. Sanchez, a Dallas influencer and creator of Lifestyle Buzz by Maria (@mariajsanchez), believes that because Instagram holders will still be able to view their own likes, brands will have to engage with influencers more to gain their insights.
To maintain her business promoting other brands and keeping a high follower base, she understands she’ll have to “keep creating content that is visually stunning and captures [her] audience’s attention to make them stop and read, and actually want to like [her] post.
“Being ahead of the game is very important,” she says, and she sees her business as an art form. “We are all artists in some sort of way, and not having the pressure of seeing someone else’s likes can lead to us being more creative."
Other local influencers the Observer spoke to say much the same: the new likes policy will spur influencers to be more creative to keep eyes on their sites. Tolu Augustine Falana, (@tolu_augustinee), a DFW/Houston influencer, is not worried about the change: “I’m in the business of creativity! That will always stick and always be polarizing.”
Tolu draws an interesting connection to Tumblr, where it didn’t matter much how many followers or likes (notes) a user received. “People who really want to grow their pages/brands will put more thought into their content,” Tolu says. Perhaps Instagram will become a much more enjoyable platform that will enable more promotion through personal creativity, rather than just selecting brands that’ll pay up.
“Now, music, photography, videography, clothing, small businesses and large businesses will have to spend more time thinking about how their posts can organically stick in the hearts and minds of the masses,” he says, so this change could bring a more personal aspect back to the platform. “I think, in many ways, that’s beneficial.”
One of the larger reasons given for removing visible likes comes down to the online ego that Instagram has encouraged, or the loss of ego for many. Mosseri called this out last week at the WIRED25 conference in San Francisco, giving an inspiring proclamation, “We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people's well-being and health.”
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Alexandra Pisetskaya, who runs her modeling business on her Instagram @alexandrapisetskaya, spoke on a similar topic. She started her Instagram page without the intention of monetizing it. As a professional model though, she has derived much work doing brand endorsements and receiving modeling proposals from the images she posts. She sees the loss of public likes as something beneficial, calling out a problem she has with bloggers “chasing likes” and “employing different methods just to get that ‘like’ or straight up begging people to like their posts.” The real point of Instagram, in her opinion, is to create great content and disregard the rest.
“When it comes to creative expression, your initial strategy should always be doing what you love and producing content you’re passionate about,” she says. “If anything, the lack of pressure for the number of likes will only release more creative freedom, where I will post more content I like personally rather than posting pictures I know will get more likes.”
Overall, local influencers seem confident in their businesses' continued growth despite the removal of public likes. The hope is that the change keeps Instagram a safe space for people to challenge their creative minds and connect more, as Mosseri made clear from the start in his statements from Instagram, “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about.”