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As you're no doubt aware, Instagram is currently testing the removal of total Like counts from posts for users in certain regions, and Facebook has this week confirmed that it will also begin testing the same, starting with the removal of total post Like counts in Australia. Users in the experiment will still have the option to Like a post, but the cumulative figure will not be displayed, replaced with an 'and others...' note, indicating that more people have Liked the post.
The test has sparked much debate, and this week, we sought the knowledge of some of our SMT Experts to get their thoughts on the experiment.
Here is what they had to say:
On one hand, marketers may feel a loss of validation.
Marketers love social proof. It helps validate our content creation efforts.
Like counts were tremendously valuable in enabling tools like Buzzsumo to check to see what posts were the most popular, to inspire future, high-engagement marketing campaign ideas. I am sad to see them go!
Founder & CTO, WordStream, Inc.
Some people will be sad to see the number go.
Social proof is so important for organizations who want to establish credibility in the marketplace. However, there are folks who have manipulated this proof by acquiring fake followers. I think a ‘clean slate’ will be troublesome for some who use these metrics to quantify their presence. But, I also believe that it will require businesses to bridge the gap with higher-quality content.
Owner/CEO, Strella Social Media
As always, high-quality content is all that really matters. The algorithm isn't changing, so making sure that you share valuable content for your audience may become more important than ever.
On the other hand, marketers may feel a sense of relief.
Whether or not you like the idea of seeing (and showing off) how much others enjoy your content, it's time to focus on creating content that people care to engage with. Comments will become a real area of focus for marketers.
“I think that a lot of marketers learned pretty quickly that likes aren't really that important; what you really want is comments and most importantly, clicks and inquiries and ultimately, people buying from the business you're promoting. That being said, I do think that Facebook's userbase might not like it very much - and it might just give people another reason to move towards other social networks.
Founder, Lilach Bullock Limited
As Lucy Rendler-Kaplan goes on to say, “IMO, removing likes from Instagram and Facebook is a good thing."
In an interview with CBS News in June, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said that the idea of removing Like counts on Instagram relates to that company's broader focus on user wellbeing.
"We don't want Instagram to be such a competition. We want it to be a place where people spend more of their energy connecting with the people that they love and the things that they care about."
Lucy Rendler-Kaplan provided some additional context for her optimism around this test:
"I don't believe they would be expanding the Likes removal test if they hadn't found this to work thus far. And it must be going well if they're even expanding it to Facebook - though, I'll admit, there's that skeptical part of me that thinks Facebook is thinking more seriously about removing Likes in order to keep users on the platform longer. I am looking forward to delving into analytics and reading studies and reports, once they become more easily accessed, to see if user sentiments about their mental health while browsing the platforms is improving."
I'm all for doing whatever we can as a large community to make social media safer for everyone. We all know that Instagram and Facebook, but more so Instagram, does lead to feelings of low self-esteem. And the wild part is, this happens across the board -- all demographics feel it and these feelings of inadequacy don't discriminate based on age either. I personally see it on a daily basis from teens to seniors. People post, they hang onto their follower number and Likes number and will even delete a post if they feel it's not getting enough Likes. Despite my being skeptical, I'm still all for the change. If even a teeny percent of people report better feelings of mental health due to this change, then any growing pains will be worth it.
Founder, Arkay Marketing & PR
SMT Expert, Nathan Mendenhall agrees.
This is a great effort from Facebook (and Instagram) to try to improve the impacts on mental health that social media usage has. The better the user experience, the more users will experience! By making both platforms lighter and less of a competition, users may be more likely to increase time spent on site.
Digital Advertising Manager, Digital Resource
Those are some of the initial reactions from some of our SMT experts - optimism, interest, but ultimately, a level of uncertainty as to what it might mean. We won't know that, of course, until Facebook releases official data on the metrics it's using to measure the success or failure of the test, but it certainly adds another element to consider and may cause a shift in social posting practices.