Social media giant Instagram made waves this week by announcing it would start hiding Like counts from some accounts in the U.S. Instagram began testing this feature back in April in Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.
According to TechCrunch, Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri told the audience at the Wired25 Conference the change is meant to help user’s mental health and well-being saying, “The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and things that inspire them.”
Mosseri went on to say that he doesn’t care about hurting the platform’s bottom line so long as it’s helping their audience. And while that’s a noble pursuit, it likely won’t hurt Instagram’s profits at all, but could it impact small businesses and influencers who rely on the platform to connect with existing and potential customers?
Social Media Today reported that a study by HypeAuditor found that in countries where the ‘Like’ feature has been hidden influencers saw a pronounced dip in Likes on their posts. For example, “nano-influencers”--those with one to 5 thousand followers-- in Brazil saw a 17.72% decrease in Likes and those in Australia and Italy saw a dip of about 13%.
So, why is this new feature decreasing Likes for most influencer accounts? The answer could be as simple as there’s now a lack of social proof. Social proof refers to the psychological phenomenon of group thinking, or a herd mentality, when people copy the actions or behaviors of others. In short, when someone sees a post with a lot of Likes, they may be influenced to Like it themselves.
With so much competition in the eCommerce space, many businesses or influencers rely on social proof to both draw-in new customers and keep the trust of existing ones. While Instagram’s new Likeless profiles will still allow the account’s creator to see how many Likes a post gets, there will be no social proof.
I asked CoverWallet’s own Head of Organic, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert Ignacio Ramos if this new feature will have any impact on a profile’s Google ranking. Ramos explained, “social media Likes are not an official ranking factor, but the correlation between likes and SEO visibility is extremely high.”
However, it’s not all bad news, Ramos says, “My guess is that even if we don't get to see other users’ likes, Google will still be able to know which accounts get more attention in the form of followers, shares and other metrics.”
So what’s the bottom line for your business? Unfortunately, it’s still too soon to tell. Instagram is testing the change slowly, and it may not be permanent. If the change has a negative impact it could always be rolled back.
By Emily Lazration Emily is the Content Marketing Specialist at CoverWallet. She has written for several outlets including Inc., Ooma, and Fundera covering small business news and advice.
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