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There’s a Lot to ‘Like’ about Instagram’s Shift Back to Its Roots

Advertising Agency
New York, USA
INFLUENCER: Dentsu Aegis Network US' Emmy Burns on Instagram hiding its Like-counts hits the US

As Instagram’s current test run of hiding Like-counts hits the US, there’s already a lot of watercooler conversation on the potential negative impact on brands, and the ticking clock it puts on the influencer space. Though the verdict for this roll-out remains to be seen, critics have begun predicting the worst-case scenario for implications of brands working with influencers. Many are expecting a major shake-up to the influencer community, some even go as far as determine the downfall of influencers as a whole; however, the potential blow-back that pundits are anticipating from a brand standpoint may be far less than they’re expecting. Here’s why:

Relieving the Pressures of Being Liked

For better or worse, social media has changed our social etiquette for good - while it was once standard to mail a handwritten thank you note, this has evolved in 2019 into a ‘thank you’ shout out and tag on social. Along with this has come the added pressure to measure self-worth not by real-world actions, but by engagements. Instagram has been extremely vocal about working to relieve some of the peer pressure affecting its entire user base, and incentivising individuals to post without worry of content not receiving enough quantitative adoration.

While the pros and cons argument for users’ social pressures is being openly discussed, there is also a massive opportunity for brands to see past the challenges of removing ‘likes’ publicly, and prepare for a future where content creators work in lock-step with brands to take advantage of the paid partnership tool for their content. This allows them to get in front of the right eyeballs, instead of relying on an influencer’s organic followers and number of likes to set the bar for the value of a post.

Love at First Sight, Not at First ‘Like’

Don’t forget the initial promise of Instagram: Scrolling through your feed and seeing striking visual content that makes you take a beat and connect with stunning aesthetics. With the reduced visibility of public ‘likes,’ there’s an anticipated shift in trends back toward engaging with influencers as creative content creators as opposed to focusing on and leveraging their social influence community.

This will begin to level out the creative playing field for influencers and allow for the democratisation of truly talented content creators, increasing their likelihood of being discovered by users and brands for their creative qualities. The emphasis is back on the aesthetic alignment, not a popularity contest that ensues with influencers’ measuring their full worth based on the size of their following.

Influencers as Art Directors

With this new change comes a number of opportunities for brands, and even more so for micro-influencers. Added emphasis will be placed on the quality of the influencers, their creativity and what they can create, as opposed to brand’s historically compromising their equity for a follower-first approach to influencer identification. By working with influencers as creative producers, rather than social media talent, brands now have the opportunity to creative direct content on influencer’s channels. This also means more opportunities for micro-influencers who have a smaller, niche following but possess strong creative direction.

The new normal that Instagram is still testing speaks volumes about the way these platforms want to continue to build and grow their relationships with brands heading into the next decade of influencer marketing. By removing public-facing ‘likes’, Instagram not only makes incredible strides towards depressurising its environment for their users, but it realigns the platform’s vision back to its original promise to put visuals first, and further bolsters marketing efforts by leveraging paid media to target the best audience.

Emmy Burns is head of influencer brand partnerships at Dentsu Aegis Network, US

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