Can Instagram Replace Social Validation with Algorithms?

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What would Instagram hiding Likes mean for the influencer marketing industry?

Let’s start with the numbers. As of now, data suggests that hiding Likes will have a negative impact on engagement rates as we currently measure them. It doesn’t mean that less people would actually engage with content – it just means that people may be less incentivized to click the Like button as a form of engagement. But why?

That question is far more complex, and one the industry is still grappling with. One possible explanation comes from a concept called Social Validation.

When you click Like on a post, you’re not expressing a purely private sentiment – you’re contributing to a very public metric, one that essentially acts as a social cue. Which would you rather pay attention to: a post with 10 Likes, or a post with 100,000? A high public Like count is one of many indicators that a piece of content is worth paying attention to. This extends beyond social media as well. As we know, trust is the ultimate currency, and nothing is more trusted than other people. When trying to decide what car to buy, or what restaurant to go to, we look at reviews generated by real people. More reviews = a more reliable score.

Social Validation is a powerful force in online influence, and something that’s powered the social media sphere since the early days of Facebook. The question is whether Instagram will be able to replace the current system of leveraging Social Validation with new content-curating algorithms. Users will have less transparency on what content is resonating within their social spheres, making the discovery process far less community-driven. This seems like a big bet, but it may not be.

After all, Instagram Stories – their fastest growing product to date – doesn’t rely at all on public metrics. If done right, a Like-less Instagram feed could represent a shift away from Popularity and more towards Relevance.