Instagram 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 taking the removal of likes on a test spin 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 ArabianBusiness.com-a sister title to ITP.net-for a Sunday report, luxury hospitality influencer and founder of creative agency The Contourage, Talal Al Rashed, said, "Instagram saw feasibility in not showing likes because people are not engaging anymore. I believe they're hiding [likes] because [of it], not because of the pressure." Rashed added, "It was worse back then, because people weren't used to it, and would take it all really seriously. Now they're accustomed to it and it's already becoming a silly thing."
Lifestyle influencer Rita Dahdah was opposed to the idea as well. She was quoted in the report as follows: "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."
Dahdah stated that 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, users will 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."
She added, "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 wonder if this is the right platform to promote their brands."
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, adding that 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."
Communications professional Alex Malouf believes there will be a period of adjustment for both influencers and brands. He said, "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."
Malouf said the move will force content creators to "self-regulate" and ultimately improve the quality of content on Instagram, adding, "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."