Will Removing The Likes Function on Instagram Change The Platform?

Will Removing The Likes Function on Instagram Change The Platform?

[4-min Read]

Instagram is considering to hide the number of likes from your post so that followers will focus on what [the content] you share, rather than the number of likes the post gets. The photo-sharing social media platform has begun testing this in some parts of Canada. How will removing users’ unhealthy obsession with likes change social media marketing? Assistant Professor, Daniel He from NUS Business School joins Michelle Martin and Bernard Lim on #PrimeTime as he shares more on his research about the pleasure of accessing and expressing our likes and dislikes.

Bernard Lim: Based on your research, why do people feel a need to like a post or even voice their dislike?

Prof Daniel He: What we find is that merely giving a like or even a dislike to a product online recreates the same kind of enjoyment that shoppers experience when they’re window shopping or browsing, just because this experience is very self-expressive. When you remove the like button to prevent them from expressing their likes or dislikes, we noticed that there is a significant decrease in the amount of enjoyment.

Michelle Martin: Do we know what people do after they hit like? Does this necessarily mean they’ll follow through to buy or boycott a product? Do we know anything between the link of a like and a consumer’s response?

Prof Daniel He: There’s quite a big gap between liking and purchase - not everyone who liked the brand will purchase it, but liking something reveals your intention and the intention is the first step, [which] ultimately culminates in a purchase.

Bernard Lim: How can companies verify attraction and popularity if Instagram removes likes from our posts, even though it’s still visible to the account owner himself or herself?

Prof Daniel He: This is definitely going to make things more difficult for the advertisers as well as the influencers because now it will require self-report, which opens the door for some potential fraud or misreporting of the actual numbers. So, what I suspect will happen is that advertisers may rely more heavily on other measurements, such as a referral link and the click-through rate on the link that they post.

Michelle Martin: How do you think this [removing likes] could change the whole approach towards influencer marketing?

Prof Daniel He: It’s certainly going to make it more difficult, not only to measure the impact of each post but also to connect advertisers to influencers. Right now a lot of advertisers are interested in the small influencers - the ones who have 5-10 thousand followers because they’re less expensive to work with and they’re recently popular [trending], so they do have some impact in terms of some influence on their followers. So when it comes to assessing how effective these influencers are themselves, it’s going to be very hard for the brand to make that determination if they don’t see how engaged, how many likes or views [these influencers have] on their other posts because they are hidden.

Bernard Lim: Do you think removing likes help to level the playing field for the smaller influencers?

Prof Daniel He: I see it as the opposite. I think that it’ll be more difficult for them, just because there’s more uncertainty in terms of measuring the impact that small influencers bring to the table, and it’ll be more challenging to actually connect the small influencers with the advertisers themselves.

Michelle Martin: Do you think removing the public likes will help reduce this obsession that we [all seem to] have with likes and accumulating them?

Prof Daniel He: We have to think about how this approach is going to affect the different constituents that are involved in Instagram. When we think about what is the impact on users themselves, there’s actually a lot of benefits. Because, right now when you go on social media, instead of revealing our true selves, we have this temptation to present our very best self, right? We like to post vacation photos or food or the best occasions and this actually creates a lot of negative emotions, such as jealousy, envy or anxiety amongst our friends who are viewing [your posts]. So, if Instagram wants to have a better experience on their platform, then this is something that could certainly benefit the users looking at it long-term.

Bernard Lim: So Professor [in your opinion], is it a good idea to hide the likes?

Prof Daniel He: It’s interesting because in a way you can think of this as a business opportunity for Instagram. Even though a lot of money is being exchanged between advertisers and influencers, Instagram usually doesn’t see too much of them. The advertisers are contacting the influencers directly or through third-party platforms that connect the two of them. And so, even though a lot of money is being exchanged, the type of contracts and payments occur outside of Instagram. By making things more difficult between advertisers connecting with influencers on the outside creates an opportunity for Instagram to fill that gap, and potentially introduce their own platform to connect the two.

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HE Daniel, Assistant Professor, NUS Business School
Find out more here.
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