In July of 2019, Instagram announced it is hiding like counts in six more countries following its initial test in Canada. Those countries, in addition to Canada, include Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. While Instagram declined to say if the test will be released in the United States, or globally to its more than 1 billion monthly active users, the thought of losing “Like” counts is sending a collective shudder across businesses in the U.S.
There is no denying that hiding likes could alter what Instagram and Facebook users decide to share on the platform and how they engage with other users. When questioned about the changes, a Facebook spokesperson said Instagram launched the test to “remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive,” by allowing users to share “authentically and comfortably” on the site.
While Facebook appears to be excited by the early test results, which suggest that some users think hiding likes will improve their mental health, others worry, and rightly so, that hiding likes will lead to a drop in user engagement and make it harder for businesses to promote products they market on Facebook and Instagram.
Let’s take a brief look at the history of the “Like.” The Facebook like button was first enabled in February of 2009, and extended to comments in 2010. After extensive testing and years of questions from the public as to whether it intended to incorporate a “Dislike” button, Facebook officially rolled out “Reactions” to users worldwide in February of 2016. Reactions expanded user options beyond the like button with five pre-defined emotions, including “Love,” “Haha,” “Wow,” “Sad,” and “Angry.” Reactions were extended to comments in May of 2017, and received a major graphic overhaul in April of 2019.
There’s no disputing the popularity of the “Like” button as a key Facebook feature throughout the last decade, yet it appears users have increasingly complained that it can make them feel bad, as people get caught up worrying about whether their posts are getting enough likes.
That, apparently, has led to tech companies claiming they are now thinking twice about features and products that can wreak havoc on mental health. People may not post things they fear won’t get likes, the tech companies are starting to claim, or users may delete things that didn’t perform well. Removing the public-facing like count, these companies argue, could resolve some of that pressure.
But is a concern for the mental health of its users really the driving factor for Instagram, Facebook and other social platforms to begin hiding popular systems that measure metrics, or is something else behind the movement? Could the drive behind removing the like count be to help obscure Facebook’s own potential decline in popularity as users are switching to other apps? Posts not getting as many Likes as they used to could hasten the exodus for users driven by feedback.
Consider this … if removing the public-facing counts lead to more posts on Facebook and Instagram, and more time spent on those platforms (and others that are experimenting with similar moves), then these platforms are likely to continue to expand these tests, because their bottom-line business model (and profits) depend on more of everything. More users, more time spent on site, more ad purchasing (revenue), and more content being created and shared across their platforms.
So what is a proactive business supposed to do? It’s time to think strategically, and begin diversifying your marketing strategy to give other platforms some attention. If you haven’t had a chance to read my blog on The Dangers of Digital Sharecropping take a moment to do so now. It will give you some great ideas on how to get started with this process.
As I shared in my Digital Sharecropping blog, building your business solely on any social media platform is a dangerous game. It’s always a great strategy to have a visible presence and meet people where they are at, but the goal of your business should be to move your fans and followers over to platforms such as your mailing list or website, that are 100% in your control.
Want to know more about what potential changes in Facebook and Instagram algorithms may mean for your business, have questions about this article or want to suggest a topic for me to cover in future blogs? I’d love to hear from you! Email me at Ann@JewelersSuite.com today!