My brother reached over to show me a video on his phone. It featured an admittedly stunning brunette in designer apparel with lips so plush they’d leave Mick Jagger envious.
No doubt she was some sort of influencer. But what struck me wasn’t her immaculate appearance but her INTENSE melt down regarding Instagram’s seemingly innocuous decision to remove the number of likes viewable on other account’s posts.
What seemed ostensibly mild at first glance proved to be a move that would completely change the game for the “influencer marketing”.
What’s the deal?
Instagram’s publicised purpose for this new testing feature (which is currently being tested in locations such as Canada, Japan and Australia) is to change the reasoning as to why people post content. By removing the ability to see how many likes a competitor’s posts have garnered, account owners will be able to focus on producing content they themselves enjoy without feeling the need to compete with others.
We’re not sure if this feature will be permanent but we do know we’re in a second stage of global Instagram testing.
Why does it matter?
According to Instagram spokesmen, the change aims to improve the overall mental health of Instagram users by removing the pressure to compete with one another. Users can like images they genuinely like and content creators can create images they genuinely want to create, not swaying to the tune of other accounts raking in the hearts.
If this is the genuine core desire of Instagram’s directors, hats off to them. Perhaps this could mitigate (though not altogether stifle) prevalent body image issues or other trending social challenges that have arisen thanks to Instagram.
However, not everyone believes the change to be completely altruistic in nature.
For starters, critics state that if supporting mental health is the goal of the change, why hasn’t more been done to alert users if a photo has been photo-shopped or “a pop-up developed to warn users that they’ve been online for far too long”.
Critics further exert that a vanity metric such as a “like” is only one small component in the pressure faced by users of the platform. Issues such as cyber bullying have failed to be addressed despite its prevalence and damage. With these things in mind, removing likes seems pretty pointless. However, Instagram stands by its initial decision.
However, this proves to also be a blessing in disguise for newer or lesser known businesses who are wanting to level the playing field.
While in the age “of the like” people would be more likely to enquire with a business with more post likes (after all, would you want to go to eat at a restaurant with 0 likes on a post?) not having a coveted thumbs up (or heart for Instagram) means that so long as your content is engaging at first glance, that may be exactly what’s needed to get the conversation rolling and lead to a conversion of sorts.
This is a great win for upstarts keen to make their mark, but what about the influencer marketing industry? Was that emotional influencer we mentioned earlier actually onto something?
The rise or fall of the Influencer?
Karmarama’s Katie Hunter states that influencers have little to fear with the latest change. While ‘likes’ are a good metric to work from, they’re still a “vanity metric” and the new change should “in fact give influencers more creative freedom.”
Furthermore, influencers can till gauge likes from the back end of their Instagram, so there’s no love lost. Comments and the number of followers an influencer has are also likely to become the new metrics of choice to ascertain “influence.”
This may prove to be disastrous as many may resort to purchasing followers as a result.
One thing for certain is that businesses will need to reassess the influencer marketing strategies and how they create their content, but our social media experts say that that they need not worry if influencer marketing will still exist in a few months’ time.
“You’ll always be able to gauge how an influencer’s post has performed through analytics, so to be honest, influencer marketing is here to stay. There will however, be a push into creating better content that really connects with audiences; Which is, after all, a great outcome for social media as a whole.” – Daniel Francis (Social Media Specialist, Impress!ve™ Digital – Here on The Impress!ve™ Digital Marketer Podcast.)
So, what’s the verdict? Continue engaging with influencers and influencer marketing but be sure you have a renewed focus on creating good content that converts. If you’re keen to find out more on how you can utilise influencer marketing for your business objectives, get in touch with the Impress!ve™ team today. We’ll help you ascertain what sort of opportunities are available and see how you can get the most out of your influencer marketing strategy.