The death of the ‘like culture’.

Facebook has followed in the footsteps of Instagram in hiding the like count on Newsfeeds across Australia as part of an experiment in the name of mental health and improving the lives of users across the globe. Facebook is behind the globally recognised “thumbs up” symbol and overall ‘Like Culture’ which has become the socially acceptable way of indicating acceptance and engagement on the platforms. But why are they really doing it?

The main target of Instagram removing the like count was influencers. When the platform was established, influencer marketing was not seen as a threat. However, 57% of companies reportedly have influencer marketing strategies in place while influencer posts grew by 40% in 2018. The problem with influencer marketing is that the platforms do not receive any revenue for the posts. For example, if Versace pay Kylie Jenner $1.2 million to post a single image of a product, Instagram receives nothing. Therefore, Instagram decided to hide like counts to make it harder for influencers to prove their reach and engagement on posts and encourage brands to use their own advertising tools through the platform.

In conjunction with the removal of the like count, Facebook changed its News Feed Algorithm earlier this year, making it harder for organic content to reach users. Brands now have to spend more on the platform to reach their audiences in an effective way. The result of this has been an increase in the need for native advertising (paid content that is designed to match the style, feel and personality of the platform it is used for).

While accounts can see their own like counts, reach, comments and impression metrics have become more important in the overall measurement of post success and the focus has shifted to ongoing strategies and increase over time rather than focusing on single posts.

This 2019 dilemma has the potential to make or break the platforms, particularly Facebook, with industry opinions mixed on whether it is going from strength to strength or slowly collapsing after 15 years. With 2.375 billion active monthly Facebook users and 1 billion active monthly Instagram users worldwide the giants of the social media are changing the nature of how we use and advertise on the platforms, yet the 3 billion combined users have the power to change or kill the platform entirely.

Whether the experiment becomes permanent or Facebook and Instagram give in to the demands of the masses and reinstall the visible like count, the importance of authentic, engaging content in a well-planned content strategy has become more crucial than ever. The opportunity to replace click bait with real content is one that should not be passed up as the highlight reel begins to fade and like culture as we know it begins to die.