Life after likes – Why social media platforms are removing ‘like’ counts and what it means for content creators

Life after likes – Why social media platforms are removing ‘like’ counts and what it means for content creators

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll already know that Instagram recently started removing the ‘likes’ count from its in-app experience, coming as a shock to Insta-lovers and influencers alike.

Now Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, is following suit by also testing the removal of the likes count, starting this month in Australia. Much like the Instagram change, soon Facebook users won’t be able to see the total number of likes on posts other than their own. This change is aimed at making the platform ‘feel less like a competition’ – demanding a re-focus on Facebook’s purpose of personal content-sharing, rather than posting content for the sake of driving popularity.

The decision to trial the removal of the like count on the Facebook platform comes from “a positive overall trend across both of the platforms” and to “help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story” says Mia Garlick, director of policy at Facebook ANZ. “We want to see whether removing the visibility of the likes and reaction count increases the value that people find when they’re connecting and sharing on Facebook. So do people find that this helps them focus on the quality of the interactions, rather than getting distracted by the quality of likes and reactions?”

Since the emergence of social media in the mid-2000’s, ‘likes’ have quantified our popularity across social platforms almost as much as a brands’ follower count or subscriber list. The linking of the two – popularity and likes – has become a visual representation of an influencer or brand’s validity and trustworthiness – the higher the number of ‘likes’ on a post, the more ‘social credibility’ the user has won. Data derived from ‘like’ and engagement metrics may indeed mean that content is great or highly engaging, but this isn’t always the case. Time and time again we’re noticing content out there that isn’t great but has a lot of likes. Why? Well, it’s no secret that services that enable buying likes and followers exist – in fact, so many people and businesses seem to be doing it, that ‘like’ metrics have largely become unreliable measures of a post’s true traction. This is no doubt one of the reasons at the forefront of Facebook and Instagram’s decision to remove the metric altogether. 

But what does the removal of the likes count mean for content creators? The hope held by Instagram and Facebook is that by removing the emphasis on likes, users will be encouraged to post more “authentic” content, without worrying about how many likes it gets. For content creators, the removal of the like count may mean an increased frequency in posting and activity on social media platforms due to less “posting pressure” to only post content that’s likely to garner likes. Where we once lived in a world that only rewarded truly engaging content with a double-tap or a thumbs-up, we can now throw all caution (and care) to the wind and post content that we truly want to post – regardless of whether we think it will prove to be popular with the likers. Does this mean brands should start posting five times a day, no matter how valuable the content? Absolutely not. 

Successful content creators know that when it comes to sharing content, quality will always trump quantity. Just because your audience can no longer keep an eye on how many likes your posts are accumulating certainly doesn’t mean you should post every BTS photo your business can produce. If anything, the removal of the likes count should come as a signal for brands to focus on posting quality content with purpose that is really going to resonate with the audience they’re trying to reach. With ‘likes’ becoming such a casual vanity metric (think of how many times you’ve ‘liked’ a post without looking at it for longer than 3 seconds), it’s no surprise that Instagram and Facebook are nudging content creators to consider moving beyond the ‘like’ metric in the hopes that they’ll strive to achieve results with meaning. Moving forward, considering the engaged audience’s demographics and rate of click-throughs will become powerful indicators of a content campaign’s success. 

At the end of the day, content creators need to remember that behind that ‘like’ button sits a human being who is physically engaging with their content. Beyond the ‘like’, businesses need to be considering what value their content adds to the lives of their audience. We can hope that as a result, we start to see a reduction in the amount of ‘engagement-bait’ posts – “double-tap if you agree!” – and an increase in content that actually makes social media a good place to be. 

Do you believe in life after likes?