Likes— The Impact on Wellness and Content Quality.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Instagram, the home of food pictures, makeovers, dreamy adventures and pets. It’s a platform to share your story with the world, gain inspiration and see what your friends are up to. Well it is in a positive world!

Unfortunately Instagram can have a darker side, tapping into users insecurities, creating anxiety and acting as a facade to hide a reality of depression and deep issues.

Instagram is trying to negate any detrimental impact it has on wellness and return the emphasis of its platform to sharing great content. How is it planning to do this? By hiding likes. The concept has been trialled in Canada and is now being rolled out to a broad cross section of countries across multiple continents; Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil, Ireland and Italy. Currently there are no reports on the impact it has had, so for now we can only speculate.

An outward appearance
At first glance this move seems like a positive one. If people can’t see how many likes a post has had, then it should limit the anxiety around how their post is perceived by others. However, the publisher of the post will still see the level of interaction their post has received, and can still internally judge its success, or lack of. With this in mind, I think the impact on the level of anxiety and negativity that a user may feel will be minimal.

For those new to Instagram it could have a larger impact, because they won’t have that historic exposure to the amount of interaction a post can get. This however will be short lived as their expectations grow.

Who will it impact?
In my opinion the users that will be impacted the most are those that use the platform to make or support their livelihood, i.e. brands, influencers and athletes. This business audience seems detached from instagrams aims, but the hiding of likes could have wide reaching consequences for them.

Content could improve!
Likes do not necessarily make for good content. Depth and quality can often be sacrificed for “likebait”, by removing the visibility of likes, it has the potential to improve the quality of content. Brands can be truer to their core values, or take risks, without the performance being judged externally.

The demand and frequency of reporting will increase.
If you’ve ever managed a brands social media, then you’ve more than likely produced regular reports detailing account and post performances. What I am more sure about, is that there has been at least one over enthusiastic senior team member that contacts you every time a post fails to perform to their expectations. That team member will no longer be able to see likes.

It’s time to up your social media analytics game. If likes can’t be viewed by your team then there will be a bigger emphasis placed on your analytics and there will be an increase in adhoc reports. Automation and dashboards will be key, if you can increase the amount of work that is done for you, then it means adding the color (detail) will be less stressful and quicker.

If you are an athlete, or influencer, then you might not have produced reports before. If Instagrams change takes hold, then you will no longer be able to rely on the brands assessing your worth, it’s time to get proactive and start reporting your metrics.

You’ve heard my thoughts …
Will it cause changes, yes and positive ones. Will they be the changes desired (or promoted) by Instagram, I don’t think so.

Now it’s time to hear from those who use Instagram as part of their livelihood, Meredith Kessler — a professional triathlete with more Ironman and 70.3 championships than you can count and Skratch, a sports nutrition brand used by pros and weekend warriors the world over.

Athlete Perspective: Meredith Kessler — Professional Triathlete

Do you think it’s a positive move?
MK: Positive yes; realistic, probably not. At the end of the day, Instagram is a business and they want to make money so they have designed an addictive platform for human interaction that plays on some obvious possibly negative human traits such as competition, wanting to fit in, wanting to be liked, and gaming. If ‘likes’ go away, a lot of this seduction of the user is lost and less people will interact which lowers advertising dollars, etc…

Do you think it will impact the perceived credibility of a brand or athlete?
MK: At this time there are few avenues that companies can use to track the ROI of an athlete. Social media, for better or worse, has become a litmus test for the popularity of an athlete that sponsors can accurately measure. I do not believe social media stats accurately reflect the value of an athlete in selling a sponsor product, but we are in the infant stage of this phenomena so few have been able to get true analytics.

Would it allow you to concentrate on quality rather than likable content?
MK: Unfortunately, with the way humans act, quality and likable have become interchangeable. You can post a great sentiment on a charity that you are supporting and people gloss over it. However, the next post can be a beautiful shot of your new bike and the crowds go wild over it. Eventually, this translates, to your sponsors and in fact yourself, that the bike porn is the way to go over the heartfelt charity post. You want traffic and likes for a number of reasons and you gravitate to the posts that generate responses.

Do you think it will impact athletes using Instagram to gain sponsorship, as brands won’t see the number of likes?
MK: Social media has become an easy way for brands to think they are evaluating their athlete. They don’t have to do the legwork with boots on the ground to monitor how the athlete truly interacts with their fan base. It is reduced to a few likes over a post and they either think the athlete is popular or not through this avenue which is, in most instances, lazy. So yes, it will impact brands, but I think that it is a good thing because they will actually have to do work to find out the ROI of the athlete and if they are making an impact.

Brand Perspective: Skratch Labs

Do you think it’s a positive move?
SL: For us we want our social platforms to be authentic and real, we are less concerned with likes and more concerned that we are sharing things that help and are of interest to our community. So numbers like comments, DM, if the post was shared or saved, are more valuable to us for understanding what helps our community most. I think people focus too much on likes and followers, personally would rather see an engaged community than anything else. I also think getting rid of likes will help people focus on sharing what is most meaningful to them vs. what they think people will like.

Do you think it will impact the perceived credibility of a brand?
SL: Most people who follow us seem to be familiar with the product and know it works/is based on science and tastes good. For other brands who focus on social for finding new customers, this may impact them. For us our focus is getting our product into peoples hands when they are on course/in need and that is when they see it works/its credibility.

Does it allow you to concentrate on quality rather than likable content?
SL: I feel like we already focus on quality whether sharing helpful info, a laugh, recipe, or science. What I do wonder about is if it would lead to people posting more in hopes of being seen in peoples’ feeds or if instagram would use the algorithm to prevent that. lots of what-ifs around all of this.

Will it impact identifying influencers?
SL: We don’t really do the influencer thing to begin with, we rather work with people who are passionate about the brand and engage with us, I would rather someone with 1,000 followers who does community rides throughout the week and knows our brand’s story and how the products work than someone with 90,000 followers who has only tried it once- they might share and get us followers but they won’t do the brand story or product justice.

Thanks for trying.
I applaud the fact that Instagram are attempting to positively impact the wellbeing of their users, but personally I don’t think this is the right move for what they are trying to achieve. I do however think that this could be a positive move for brand content and the platform as a whole.

What are your thoughts? Will this have a positive impact on content quality, and user wellness, or are you more cynical and see this as PR play by Instagram?

Thank you Meredith Kessler and Joy from Skratch for taking the time to answer my questions.