Since the announcement of Instagram hiding “likes”, there has been a lot of speculation and thoughts shared on the impact of this news.
Since the change is not affecting the public yet as only a handful of accounts from Japan, Brazil, Ireland and Italy, among others, were selected to participate in the test. In this article, I’ll share my viewpoint and the perspectives of different experts from Digital Business Lab.
Instagram Hiding Likes: Impact on Influencers
Before diving deeper into this topic, we want to share research done by HypeAuditor to evaluate the impact on KOLs from some of the tested regions: Japan, Australia, Brazil, Italy and Ireland.
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*note: UK is the base of comparison since the test is not active in this region when the research was conducted.
The results indicated that the impact varies depending on the region and also the tier of each KOL. If focusing on region only for Macro KOLs, Brazilian influencers are the most affected while Japanese KOLs are affected the least. On the other hand, the results are not quite as definitive for KOLs of varying tiers.
Nano KOL (Audience: 1K-5K)
Aside from Japan and Ireland, nano-influencers from the 3 remaining tested regions experienced a decrease in the number of likes.
Micro KOL (Audience: 5K-20K)
Regardless of the region, all tested micro-influencers observed a drop in the number of likes they received.
Macro KOL (Audience: 20K-100K)
All KOLs from the tested regions had a reduction in likes. Influencers in Brazil was the most affected.
Celebrities (Audience: 100K-1M+)
Similar to nano-influencers, only Japanese KOLs had results stronger than expected, with a surge in number of likes.
Instagram has yet to apply this new change to every account, and with this small pool of test group, it’s too soon to give a definitive answer on the overall impact. However, learning from HypeAuditor’s research, Instagram influencers will most likely see a drop of likes in the short term.
Looking on the bright side, KOLs might actually benefit from this new change as brands will logically put more emphasis on content quality and creativity. It might also get rid of unfair competition, such as those accounts who have purchased likes.
Opinions of Experts from Digital Business Lab
Albin Lix, Managing Director – Founder of Digital Business Lab commented:
Facebook will become dependent on Instagram soon. With the ads business booming, Facebook has grown rapidly, becoming one of the most valuable companies. But over the past 2 years, the company has been signaling a slowdown in its revenue. Instagram is expected to become the major driving force behind the company’s revenue growth, taking up 70% of the total revenue compared to 15% in the past.
By removing likes, Facebook is essentially preserving the core value of Instagram – creativity and authenticity! To continue improving the experiences of end users, Instagram is trying to shape the way users visualize and produce their content by gradually removing likes.
Instagram’s decision might bring risks, such as discontentment among a large population of Instagram users who value likes. On the other hand, this motivates users to like the content they appreciate first. This in turn further promotes creativity and retains monthly active users. As a result, it will preserve the revenue from ads in the long term.
Xavier Schillinger, Director of Operations – Partner in Digital Business Lab stated:
The result from HypeAuditor is not farfetched, as “liking” is essentially a form of gamification which is a vital aspect of social media for all users. Although this might seem extreme but the act of “liking” actually derives from the human’s need of recognition, similar to the satisfaction found in video games. Under this circumstance, we must now prepare for the future of “social media gamification”—will users be as active on social media? Or will other types of interactions, such as comments, become the new norm?
Marketers need to reconsider the golden metric “engagement rate” when evaluating influencers for campaigns. Companies may need to adopt other metrics such as reach and views based on their campaign goals.
Savina Suresh, Head of Video Production said:
Content quality of the video is still the most important factor. On Instagram, videos only take up 53% of the content in comparison to IG Stories at 73%. Although Instagram removing likes will surely affect how users behave, in the context of Influencer video marketing, likes is not that of a big deal.
The most important measurement is content that captures viewers’ attention, videos that make them stop scrolling to take a closer look. This user attention metric could influence the way brands perceive the audience’s reactions towards their content, which could eventually encourage companies and KOLs to explore more new topics that similarly generate audience’s interest.
Frances Tseng, Account Manager indicated:
Instagram’s change may propose a new challenge for the operational side since likes have always been an important factor when scouting for content creators.
Fortunately, assistance from 3rd party platforms are still available, providing comprehensive data that facilitates the influencer selection process. KOLs will also be driven to share content that they believe are the best instead of photos that wow the audience in exchange for likes. In addition to other influencer success metrics, this helps us determine their true compatibility with the brand.