Facebook has followed in Instagram's footsteps by trialling hidden like counts on posts.
From Friday, some Australian users can no longer see the number of likes or reactions on posts by people or Pages. This is a trial, and is only in Australia at the moment, but Kiwi businesses should take note.
Instagram (also owned by Facebook) has been hiding like counts on posts in several countries since July, including New Zealand. No data from this trial has been made available yet, but the fact that it's being trialled on Facebook can be taken as an indication that it has been positive for the platform.
Facebook said removing likes from view is an attempt to reduce social pressure among users, which is a noble motivation, but one that many business owners believe is a guise to make them cough up more advertising dollars.
The common theme of comments (ironically, on Facebook) around this move indicate that many business owners believe this is "just one more way for Facebook to turn the tap off for businesses and rinse more dollars out of us."
In my opinion, the only business that has anything to fear about the hiding of Likes are those who are obsessed with the wrong metrics in the first place.
The hiding of Likes helps brands to refocus their campaign measurement away from 'vanity' metrics like Likes, and towards more important business objectives like conversions, leads, or sales.
You could also end up saving a lot of time, effort, and money by not having to create the kind of 'like-bait' content that does you no benefit in the long run.
Being less obsessed with Likes is good news for brand authenticity too - if you aren't concerned about the popularity contest of the Like count on a post, you're more likely to share content that you truly believe in and represents your brand more honestly.
When nobody knows if your post got just a handful of likes, or thousands of likes, you're less likely to hold back or airbrush the truth.
While Facebook indicates that the number of Likes a post receives is still an algorithmic factor in how much organic reach the post will get, for most small businesses organic reach is fickle anyway, and there are so many other factors that influence the reach of a post that Likes aren't the be-all and end-all. As a business, you should be paying to reach the right audience through relevant platforms and not relying on the trickle of free eyeballs on your content as your sole means of growth.
Across the many Instagram accounts I consult on, the hidden Like count trial over the past couple of months has had very little impact from a business perspective. A small number of accounts saw engagement dip, while others actually increased - anecdotally, some people are more inclined to give a like on a post when they know their friends won't necessarily see that they've done so.
As both a user and a marketer on these platforms, I welcome the hiding of Likes. It makes our experience that much more authentic and delivers what is ultimately a beneficial place to play. This is the future of social media, best get used to it.
- Tina Moore is the founder of The Optimal. She was previously the head of social media at the Herald.