While brands may become more cautious, it seems 'unlikely' that this will deter them from influencer marketing, says social media expert
Instagram is not exciting anymore and is becoming less appealing as a result of constant changes to the platform, according to influencers in the UAE.
Their comments come following news that Instagram is trialing the removal of ‘likes’ on its platform following criticism about its impact on mental health.
Users in six countries, including Australia, Italy and Japan, will no longer be able to see the number of likes on other people’s posts, however they will still be able to view the data on their own posts.
Speaking to Arabian Business, luxury hospitality influencer and founder of creative agency The Contourage, Talal Al Rashed, said Instagram is hiding likes because users are not engaging with the platform as much as they used to in its earlier days.
"When Instagram first [launched], it was something exciting. [People thought] ‘oh an app where I can give likes and my opinion under the picture, I can insult an influencer or say something nice about them’. Then after a couple of years, it [became] not important. It’s not exciting anymore,” he said.
"Instagram saw feasibility in not showing likes because people are not engaging anymore. So I believe they’re hiding [likes] because [of that], not because of pressure. It was always like that, why did they decide to do this now? Five years ago, people were already feeling the pressure.
"Actually, it was worse back then because people were not used to it. It was something new and people used to really take it seriously. Now they’re accustomed to it and it’s already becoming a silly thing," Rashed added.
Lifestyle influencer Rita Dahdah also said Instagram is becoming less appealing with every change.
"I don’t like the idea [of hiding likes] because I feel like this is how Instagram was built, on this model, and with every change they apply to their algorithm or their interface, I feel [it] is becoming less user friendly and less appealing. It’s losing the essence of what it was. It was perfect when it started,” she said.
Dahdah said the removal of likes will discourage users from interacting with posts, and as a result, demotivate influencers from creating content.
"If [Instagram] is trying to eliminate the competition aspect of it, I don’t see anything wrong with healthy competition… It’s not a hierarchy but if I put up good content, I’m being rewarded for it. When people don’t see likes showing up anymore, they’re going to feel like they don’t have to interact with the post, and that’s going to kill the entire concept of Instagram and what made it popular in the first place.
"The engagement will naturally decrease. I’m not saying impressions will decrease, but engagement will, because people won’t feel like there’s a point in them [engaging] with the post. In return, content creators are not going to feel motivated to create content anymore, and advertisers are going to feel like ‘okay, oops is this still the right thing to be using right now to promote my brand?’" Dahdah explained.
Zaib Shadani, managing director of Shadani Consulting, said Instagram’s latest move is a “well thought-out business decision” in line with its strategy of pushing users to ‘stories’ and general video content, as opposed to static images.
Shadani said it will ultimately benefit the advertising revenue, “where removing the publicly visible likes will encourage users to post higher quality content and further incentivise brands to put paid media support behind the posts”.
However, while brands may become more cautious, it seems “unlikely” that this will deter them from influencer marketing, she said.
"Instagram is fast becoming a powerful e-commerce platform and remains quite relevant across the Middle East. The removal of likes may indeed be a positive response to the pressures of comparisons and constant quest for ‘likes’ but interestingly, is also in line with Instagram’s move towards redirecting traffic to ‘stories’ and encouraging advertising spend to boost quality content and get maximum eyeballs," Shadani said.
Communications professional Alex Malouf believes there will be a period of adjustment for both influencers and brands.
"For a while, brands will stick to working with influencers who they know, who are tried and tested. Influencers will need to step up their understanding of analytics, so that they're able to better prove their value to brands. Brands will also need to look beyond vanity metrics such as likes," he said.
Malouf said the move will force content creators to “self-regulate” and ultimately improve the quality of content on Instagram.
"What many of us have noticed is that the quality of content has dropped, which may explain why people have been seeing a drop in engagement too. Getting both brands and influencers to look more at data, and getting them to ask questions as to why certain content works and other content doesn't (essentially, to self-regulate), may be one way to improve the overall quality on Instagram. If removing likes helps us get there, then I'm all in favor of this move," he said.For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.