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Did Instagram just kill influencers?

Instagram is undergoing a massive change. Images: Getty, Gretta van Riel

Instagram has removed like counts from users’ posts in a bid to make the platform a friendlier place. But for Instagram influencers, the move might have just made it harder to do business.

However, it will also clear the way for more genuine content, the founder of influencer platform Hey Influencers, Gretta van Riel told Yahoo Finance.

“There'll be a bit of a push towards more authentic content because people won't just be posting the type of content that gets likes,” she said.

But, she added, this is a double-edged sword for many influencers who use their like counts to open the door to brand partnerships.

“Brands often go mostly off influencer engagement rather than just follower levels, so now it's very difficult outside of comments to gauge exactly what the influencer engagement is.”

The ‘bikini-model’ or ‘girl-next-door’ type influencers will be the hardest hit, as their main marketing tools to brands are the likes they have on their posts, van Riel said.

But if an influencer is genuinely influential, posts solid content, and has something to say, they’ll find the change a lot easier as they’ve already been succeeding in connecting with their followers outside of the “vanity metrics”, as van Riel dubs them.

Does Instagram have an ulterior motive?

While Instagram said the decision to hide like counts was to help users’ mental health, van Riel believes Instagram and Facebook are also hoping to boost their bottom line.

“The number one reason why users don’t post more now is because every single time you post you’re being heavily judged by this metric on the quality of your post,” Steve Bartlett, CEO of social media marketing agency The Social Chain Group told Yahoo Finance US.

“If that’s removed, then a lot of people won’t feel that pressure and they’ll post more and that’s good for the platform.”

Van Riel agrees, adding that this could also be a move from Instagram to scoop up more of the money brands pay to influencers to promote their brands.

She added that the follower count isn’t always a trustworthy metric as followers can be bought but not actually engage with the influencer.

And with the like count now compromised as a metric, it’s now a lot harder for brands to see who is actually influential and who they should partner with.

That, she argues, could lead brands to spend more money on advertising through Instagram’s ad platform, rather than paying for influencers to promote a product.

“They will be testing to make sure user interaction doesn’t drop too much and that there is an increase in paid advertising spend across the platform.”

However, as a user she hopes that the move will help fit the “infinite scroll” and pursuit of the next dopamine hit delivered by likes.

“[I hope] we’ll begin to see more authentic, less curated content as people are looking less for the likes and more for content that is a genuine representation of themselves.”

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