Social media influencers may have their work cut out for themselves, as platforms consider removing the like feature. Instagram, in particular, is set to become the first platform to make the move. The company announced that it will start removing likes in the US, allowing users to see their own likes, but not showing it to their followers and others on the platform.
However, likes have been an important metric for influencers’ businesses, especially in India. “It’s totally based on likes in India," said Ayush Choudhary, founder of DForDelhi, explaining how influencers are chosen for brand campaigns here. “The likes are their (the influencers) bread and butter," he said.
Choudhary did say that brands will eventually ask influencers to show backend data to know their likes, since the number of likes one gets is still available to the user himself/herself. Choudhary expects Instagram to remove likes in India too, within about six months.
In reaction to the removal of likes, influencers could move to TikTok and other platforms, just like they moved to Instagram from Facebook once. That’s because it’s easier to get likes on platforms like TikTok, not to mention the fact that they offer a whole new and huge user-base already.
TikTok in particular seems to be picking up interest amongst urban influencers in India. “Influencers are already moving to TikTok even before the likes removal on IG," said Samar Khan, who owns the handle Metrodoodle on Instagram, with 38,400 followers. “Tiktok gives you great reach and exposure. Something that's becoming less and less to happen on IG with time. This in itself is a very big reason to move to TikTok right now," Khan said.
According to Khan, while removing likes may “create a less pressurised environment", it may not affect influencers’ businesses since “there are so many other platforms that’d still have the like feature".
Instagram has said that it’s considering removing likes for exactly this purpose. “What we’re hoping to do is depressurize Instagram a little bit, and make it a bit less of a competition," Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, told Bloomberg recently.
Shudeep Majumdar, co-founder of Zefmo, an influencer marketing platform, echoed Khan’s comments. “The propensity to get ‘hearts’ (TikTok’s version of likes) is far better on TikTok as compared to Twitter or Instagram," he said. “Therefore, the time limit to become a super influencer on TikTok is shortest," he said.
Whether it is out of compulsion or the love for a platform, influencers in India are trying different social platforms anyway. Majumdar also pointed out that removal of likes is something that established influencers will need to be wary of, because they need to stay relevant on their platform of choice. Those who are starting off “will have the luxury of trying new platforms," according to him.
That said, there are still those who believe that Instagram will remain the platform of choice for those with established following on the platform. “I’m very happy the likes are going. I’ve been on Instagram since 2.5 years now and a lot has changed," said Shikha Sharma, who runs Studio Lumitex with over 51,000 followers.
“All these addicts add bots and generate fake likes and the real authentic accounts are hidden and never make it to feeds," she added. While Sharma did admit that influencers have been moving to TikTok etc, but “shifting to a new platform is a lot of work", so not many would want to move.
Sharma’s opinion is that Instagram will remain the platform of choice for people who depend on static posts, like herself, since TikTok is about short videos.