The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.
Just like the detectives in the Usual Suspects when Kevin Spacey tells his elaborate, and over-the-top ruse about Keyser Söze, we’re currently being sold an elaborate and over the top ruse around Instagram’s recent announcement about the reasons for the removal of Like’s on Page Posts and Ads.
Let’s stop the bullshit PR machine that this recent change is about reducing the incidence of mental health amongst their users.
Removing Likes from Posts & Ads is about raising Ad revenue for the platform, and make Instagram more appealing for small businesses & brands to pump dollars into the growing social behemoth.
Sure, at this stage, it’s just a ‘test’; and while it won’t – but if – this ‘test’ proves unsuccessful, and Ad revenues decline, ‘Post Likes’ will be back quicker than Kylie Jenner can get a hashtag trending.
What is going to happen, is that Instagram Ad Revenue is going to increase, and you’ll never see your Post Likes again.
So, why all this pretence that Instagram are removing likes to decrease the incidence of mental health issues?
Firstly, many publications are misquoting the ‘Status of Mind’ research from the Royal Society for Public Health, which highlights Instagram as the platform most likely to negatively impact people’s wellbeing and health.
However, in the report, there is no correlation made between Instagram Likes and Mental Health. In fact, in their 7 x recommendations, there is not a single mention about Instagram Likes, let alone removing them in order to more positively impact mental health.
If Instagram really were serious about more positively impacting Users mental health, they’d take on board some of the report’s recommendations – namely, the introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media. Or, highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated.
Secondly, in April this year, Adam Mosseri from Instagram announced at their F8 conference, that the platform would be rolling out “Private Like Counts”, which it did in Canada of April this year, and is now releasing and rolling out in several other countries including Australia.
However, Adam spent zero minutes talking about the impact of mental health that this would have. In fact, Adam spent less than 20 seconds talking about ‘Private Like Counts’, before moving onto more substantial changes the platform is making to counter Cyber bullying – however none of these changes are related to ‘Private Like Counts’
So what does the loss of Like counts, mean for brands and businesses?
There are 25 million business profiles globally, but yet only 2 million monthly advertisers on Instagram.
Even though Ad Spend on the platform has increased by 177% over Facebook year on year, the gap between the businesses that pay and the businesses that use is a massive problem for the platform.
Small businesses account for 97.4% of all businesses operating in Australia, and so trying to get small business to advertise is a key strategic goal for Instagram.
Yet, if you’re a small business, trying to make some sales on Instagram, or raise awareness of your brand – gaining social proof amongst your target market – has often been a hindrance, rather than an advantage.
We know that businesses with a high level of social proof will receive a higher amount of sales. Likewise, those businesses with low social proof.
Who wants to eat in an empty restaurant?
Who wants to line up for an empty nightclub?
Who wants to click on an Ad that has 0 Likes?
Well – now more people will.
What Instagram has done, by removing the ability for people to see how many Likes an Ad, or even a Post has, is allow smaller brands and SMB’s to advertise without the fear that their Ad will have little engagement.
Now, it doesn’t matter to anyone on Instagram, whether a brand has any Likes on their Posts or Ads, so those advertisers will now likely see an increase in engagement, an increase in click through rate, an increase in sales, and thereby pump more dollars into the platform.
This change to Instagram is not about improving the mental health of it’s Users.
It’s about the dollars and cents Instagram receive through Advertising, and rather than improving the transparency between ‘Influencers’ and their audience, Instagram have shrouded one of their metrics in more secrecy, in order to help the people that really matter to the platform – the small to medium businesses paying for Ads.