Instagram Poised for Seismic Shift

Posted on December 23, 2019

Instagram Poised for Seismic Shift - AdSerts, Inc.

One of the biggest mobile applications in the world is about to make a major change. Still in the trial process, Instagram is exploring the option of removing visible likes on users’ posts. Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and even some users in America have noticed their likes disappearing into thin air. Likes will still be visible to whomever posted the photo but will not be seen by the general public. Aside from the gratification one gets from receiving high levels of engagement on their posts, this poses for some serious ramifications in the digital marketing world.

There are reasons behind Instagram’s like-removal. In a statement made in 2019, Instagram claimed, "We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” As the youth of the world continue to download Instagram, the need for approval and validation will continue to rise. Removing likes eliminates hurt feelings one may experience from failing to obtain a desirable amount of likes on their posts. This is Instagram’s veiled attempt to preserve and rehabilitate the mental health of their users across the globe – or so they claim.

Instagram is a free application. When downloaded, users simply sign up and enjoy the content. Instagram makes a profit through paid advertising. Occasionally, users see a “promoted” post on their timeline from an account that they do not follow. A promoted post is one that has been paid for by a company in order to reach new followers. When promoted, the post appears on select timelines of the poster’s choosing. Companies that promote content pay anywhere from $1 to $1,000 to expand their reach, which is exactly how Instagram makes a profit. There are 111 million Instagram accounts as of 2019. With that many users, companies are competing with one another to get a share of Instagram’s digital real estate. With that in mind, consider how much money some of these brands have to spend, and then imagine how much money they are willing to shell out in order to reach new audiences.

Of that 111 million, 500,000 are labeled as “influencers”. According to Ste Davies, an acclaimed Digital Strategist who tracks all sorts of social media analytics and data, 39% of users with 15,000+ followers are paid influencers sponsored by at least one brand. These influencers make their money utilizing Instagram to portray a lifestyle that impressionable followers fawn over. With morals and ethics cast aside, these influencers rely on Instagram to keep their lights on; which is why likes truly matter in the digital marketing realm.

For every dollar that goes into an influencers’ pocket, Instagram makes virtually zero return on. Is Instagram removing likes to put more money into their own pockets instead of their influencers? This notion harkens back to why Instagram chose to remove likes in the first place. Was it to rebuild tarnished mental health? Or was it to combat influencers who make a profit off the application without spending anything in return? The fallout from Instagram’s like-removal is real, and it does not look good for the futures of influencers. 

Influencer marketing as we know it will unquestionably take a hit; just as it reaches the peak of its powers. When a company is searching for a potential influencer, the first metric they look at is follower count, followed by average post engagement. If the follower count is suitable, the company will typically check for how many likes and comments the user gets. By doing away with visible likes, companies will have to show their hands early by reaching out to potential influencers to see what their engagement is like. This also opens the door for users to falsify their engagement through photoshop and other editing tactics. Would a brand really gamble on an influencer when they could just pay Instagram to boost their posts?

An influencer is usually paid to promote and post about a certain brand, product, or event. For example, it has been reported by BBC that Kylie Jenner makes north of $1,000,000 per Instagram post. Of that amount, Instagram makes $0 in profit because the party seeking out Jenner as an influencer pays for her reach. The Facebook-owned platform will start negotiating with companies to promote and display their advertisements on users’ feeds, instead of having a separate influencer endorsement that drives dollars away from Instagram’s pockets.

Overall Instagram usage will see a decline, as influencers and users alike flock to platforms that still display validating metrics; like parent company Facebook, Twitter, Tik-Tok, and so on. At its core, Instagram is used to share photos and memories with the world. It has evolved into a self-gratifying experience where each like and comment provides acceptance from followers. When the like count is not where the user wants it to be, they become disenfranchised and remove their post. This is the trend that Instagram claims they are attempting to curb; people relying on the application to keep their self esteem afloat.

There are two sides to every coin. Instagram may be removing likes to make the application more wholesome; a place that is welcoming to any and all users. Conversely, this could be done to generate more money for Instagram as a company, taking profits away from esteemed influencers who have helped grow the application. No matter Instagram’s true intentions, removing likes will have serious fallout. Influencer marketing is a choir consisting of different vocal ranges, and Instagram is the conductor.

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