Does Instagram’s new ‘no likes’ model signal the death of the influencer?


Instagram is removing the option to see likes on posts – what does this mean for influencers? (Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Instagram has revealed it’s trialing what things will look like without a ‘likes’ stat next to each post.

This is Instagram 2.0, folks.

And there’s been a lot of chat about whether or not this change will signal the death of the influencer.

Oxford-based PR agency and social media experts The Atticism, told Metro the writing was on the wall. This change from Insta is just part of a wider shift in the social media game.

‘Social media as we know it is dying.  According to my daughters (17 & 15) and their friends, Instagram and Facebook are ‘lame.’ Statistics are showing that a lot of the younger generation are leaving the platforms behind completely,’ explains The Atticism’s Director, Renae Smith.

‘As an agency, we cannot simply continue to work in the way we always have and expect our clients to achieve the same results,’ she said.

‘Consumers are experiencing brand fatigue, a lack of trust and way too many marketers competing for their attention. The future of social media needs to change into content driven strategies which offer genuine connections between a brand and their consumer.’

The stats

Engagement rates appear to be dropping on Instagram anyway (Getty Images/Hero Images)

The agency says its new stance comes from stats published by a Trust Insights report into brand engagement on Instagram. Considering that partnering with brands is how influencers earn their income, it makes for some interesting reading.

For the report, the company looked at 1,430,995 posts from 3,637 brand profiles (stories were not included) in order to ascertain the overall average engagement rate. Which amounts to likes and comments.

The report states: ‘Since the beginning of May, average engagements have declined over time precipitously and now hover around 0.9%, a decrease from earlier this year of 1.1%. This represents an 18% decline in average engagements (mostly likes) since the beginning of the year.’

Trust Insights zeroes in on influencers specifically: ‘Fashion influencers (have gone) from a maximum of 4.3% engagement on February 17, 2019 to a minimum of 2.4% on June 20, 2019, representing a 44% decline in engagement for the same period of time.’

The response

The Atticism says that it hasn’t worked with influencers for the last 18 months.

‘We have had so many clients who chase likes and follows without really understanding the end goal,’ Renae said.

‘Collecting likes is not influential and we try our best to explain this to them.  Unless someone actually influences an industry, a subject or a group of people, they have no reason to be called in influencer.’

MORE: Why so many influencers are getting therapy

Not everyone is convinced about this, though.

Some argue that it’s just changing things up a bit. Instead of huge names collecting loads of followers and likes, we’ll see the emergence of the ‘nano influncer’. That is, someone with a highly engaged small following.

‘A Nano Influencer has 100+ followers on social media,’ wrote South Africa-based management consultancy JA Culture.

‘The recent kicker has revealed itself to be that you can be even more effective in promoting a brand, as a nano-influencer, than celebrities are in their mega influencer category.’

Taylor Lorenz, an established writer on all things internet culture and social media, points out that Instagram wouldn’t do anything that hurts engagement.

‘Removing likes is not going to fundamentally change the platform,’ she told Metro.co.uk.

‘The most engaged-with feature on Instagram – Stories – already has default private like counts.

‘People are still going to be able to see their own likes. Also, in the influencer world, almost no one is relying on public like counts as a metric. It’s a totally dated metric. Any brand seeking to do a branded content deal asks for more detailed analytics from the influencer’s private analytics tab. This isn’t going to change anything related to that. Also likes in general have become way less important. Comments have become a more important method of engagement as have Story shares.’

‘Also ultimately removing like counts will probably increase the amount of content people are willing to share on the platform. Which is only good for Instagram. They want us posting as much content on there as possible, not worrying about public metrics.’

So what is Instagram actually doing?

Instagram wants to make sure there’s less pressure to upload (Getty)

Instagram hasn’t completely done away with likes – yet. All the company says it’s doing is trialing what happens when they’re taken away – and only in a few select regions.

Users in countries including Ireland, Italy and Australia are among the first to experience the change which applies to the Feed, Permalink and Profile parts of the app.

According to Instagram the move is designed to shift the focus away from making Instagram feel ‘like a competition’ where users compete to see how many likes they can rack up.

‘We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves,’ said Mia Garlick, Facebook’s director of policy for Australia and New Zealand.

‘We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.’

Just focus on you (Picture: Getty)

The trial began in Canada in May and has also been rolled out to Brazil, Japan and New Zealand.

It shows those on the social media platform a user name ‘and others’ below posts, rather than the number of likes on their feed. It does allow users to see how many likes they have received on their own posts.





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