Will no 'like' option affect Instagram influencers?

As Instagram tests a new feature to hide the number of 'likes' a user’s post has received, we ask experts what is the likely outcome for influencer-brand association

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Jul 25, 2019 7:38 AM
Instagram

Instagram is testing the waters with a move that is being hailed by many as ‘bold’. The social media platform, which has approximately 1 billion monthly active users worldwide, has decided to hide the number of ‘likes’ a post receives from public view. The move comes on the back of growing concerns about the ill effects of social media on the mental health and self-esteem of the youth. For now, the test is running in seven countries.

 

Speaking to exchange4media about the move, an Instagram spokesperson said they want Instagram to be a place that people feel comfortable expressing themselves. And that includes helping people to focus on the photos and videos they share, not how many likes they get. “We are testing this in a number of markets, including New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, and Japan over the next few weeks, in addition to Canada, where testing began in May. We chose these markets to get a better sense of how the experience resonates with Instagram’s global community. We don't have any specific timing to share right now about other countries,” the spokesperson said.

However, Instagram is no longer just a platform to exchange pleasantries. It is also home to a buzzing business community of influencers, and brands looking to leverage those influencers. The ‘like’ button is a reflection of an influencer’s popularity. It would therefore also be pertinent to ask⁠ — How would the removal of this popularity button affect the influencer market? Would this change the brand-influencer dynamics?

Surprisingly though, the Indian influencers don’t seem perturbed. Says video blogger Scherezade Shroff, “I think as a platform, you definitely have to have certain hygiene elements like these, otherwise it’s very difficult to control a space. A lot of people still don’t know that a lot of influencers are being paid for partnerships. As far as brands go, ultimately they do want to advertise on the platform. I don’t think it will make a difference. The focus will shift to actual engagement. Brands will definitely focus their campaigns on influencers that are a better fit.”

The disabling of the ‘like’ feature for public viewing could now see a shift to quality from quantity, says fashion blogger and influencer Santoshi Shetty, who has over half a million followers. “While on one hand, the reach of any blogger, influencer or brand gets dictated by the number of likes and the stats are usually calculated that way, on the other hand, it will clear up headspace and thereby I feel people will stop obsessing over the number of likes. The digital marketing space will become cleaner, and there will be more quality over quantity. More substance over frivolity.

Brands too seem to be in agreement with the influencers.

According to Saisangeeta Israni, GM-Marketing at Spykar Lifstyles Pvt Ltd, as a primary matrix, how good a social media handle is, is determined by the involvement and engagement of the audiences. “Number of likes determine the interaction level with the brand/ influencer. However, we also know that likes are a function of the spends. So while the likes may not be available, if the engagement with followers, comments are still relevant, brands will not mind engaging,” says Israni.

The influencer market in India is an unstructured one. There is, therefore, an ambiguity about the market. However, studies point to the fact that marketers allot anywhere between 10 and 30 per cent of their budgets to influencer marketing. Over 90 per cent respondents in studies say they like to buy products through word of mouth. Instagram posts and videos is a draw for over 70 per cent of the respondents. Even though bigger budgets are being allocated to this space, measuring ROIs for brands remains a challenge. Despite that, brands have understood the power the influencer market holds and are drawn to it year after year.

Social media and industry experts agree that although the ‘like’ feature is synonymous with the popularity of an influencer, doing away with the superficiality will benefit brands in the long run.

Aakriti Sinha, Director-Social Media, Isobar, says, “We are in the business of engagement and numbers, and I really hope that this remains at the testing phase only. The numbers really never took the focus away from the content, but yes, it did always maintain a constant pressure on influencers particularly. It did lead them to consistently create content in various formats (sometimes overdose) to stay relevant, affecting the quality of documented content in the process. I do hope that this rings in that alarm for all the brands and influencers who were creating sub-standard content to maintain their performance in terms of numbers only. This should bring back the focus on creating rich and relevant content.”

According to Aatef Bham, Co-founder & Director of Business Development, Togglehead,  it was initiated to target two key long-standing cons--the welfare of users and restriction of creativity.

“While it flawlessly tackles the former, it’s a progressive but not permanent step for the latter. The post creator will have a complete record of likes and while the onus of pushing creative boundaries is on us and brands, its acceptance depends on mass appeal. As for the reach of influencer marketing being affected, if brought into action, the move promotes transparency by taking the spotlight away from the lowest denominator of reach and puts it on constructive metrics of followers, content, and demographics.”

The verdict is clearly out on this one, ‘like’ or not, the influencer will continue to grow strong, perhaps in a less superficial space where brands can streamline their associations based on consumer engagement.

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