Recently there have been reports that both Facebook and Instagram are experimenting with removing Like counts from posts so that, while users are still able to Like content, the number of people who Liked a post will not be displayed.
The reasons behind this have yet to be confirmed, but it seems likely that it’s related to the idea that Like counts damage the user experience by provoking feelings of envy and competitiveness when people are looking at each other’s posts. By removing the counts, the theory goes, people will stop treating social networks like a popularity contest and just enjoy the experience of sharing updates with their family and friends.
All well and good, but what could the impact be for social media marketers who often rely on Like counts as one of their key reporting metrics? Realistically it’s unlikely that Facebook and Instagram would entirely remove Like count data, so whether you’re using the native analytics tools in those platforms, or a third party tool such as Sysomos, you’re probably still going to have access to that metric even though it might no longer be visible to end users.
Even so, this could still be a significant change because it’s likely to alter user behavior and the way people engage with your content. We know that social media users are more likely to Like a post if a significant number of people have already Liked it, but without that social cue will fewer people be tempted to click Like themselves?
In this situation it could be that we see fewer Likes on our content, but those interactions might be considered more significant because people wouldn’t simply be following the herd and would have made a more meaningful decision to engage. An alternative viewpoint might be that this somehow devalues Likes entirely. After all, from the user’s perspective what value does a Like really add to a conversation, beyond acting as some kind of social score? And if there’s no number attached to Likes, they don’t even work as a score anymore, so might people stop using them entirely?
From a marketing perspective Likes can be useful for helping what messages and content our audiences are receptive to, but shares and comments are probably much better signals for us to focus on, so would we really miss Likes if they did disappear entirely?
This is all academic at the moment. The social platforms are still only experimenting with the idea, and we don’t know if it will ever become fully implemented but, if nothing else, it’s an interesting opportunity to think through what Likes really mean for social marketers, and how we’d adapt to a world without them.
Sysomos Engage social media management software can help you streamline your publishing, engagement and reporting workflows.