April 25, 2019: Instagram tests new feature to hide “Like” counts on posts; Jack Dorsey rethinks fundamental dynamics of Twitter; Marc Pritchard calls for new media supply chain; Facebook confirms the development of AI digital voice assistant; Vine returns as Byte
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Instagram Tests Hiding Likes
Instagram is testing a change to the feed where the number of “Likes” on a post would be removed for all viewers of the post and only the creator would be able to see the cumulative count.
Tell me more.
Discovered by frequent tipster Jane Manchun Wong, Instagram appears to be testing the removal of public likes for posts. Per the leaked prototype, Instagram described the feature as follows: “Testing a Change to How You See Likes – We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only the person who shared the post will see the total number of likes it gets.”
Tell me straight from the source.
Our take? Instagram will go live with this feature. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”
How are influencers reacting to this change?
They’re excited. As Ulia Pilmore of @Uliaali stated, “It makes me actually really excited for the change… Eliminating likes will make comments more important, will decrease the pressure of being ‘liked’ and will let creators focus on quality content and engagement with real people.”
With a bigger focus on mental health in our increasingly thirsty culture, social media platforms are forced to press reset. For Instagram in particular, the goal is to reduce the comparative pressure that dominates the feed, where users remove posts that don’t perform, engagement pods game the algo, and finstas are the lone destinations for ‘real’ content.
For Instagram, in particular, the update also signifies a move toward social proof, based on the fact that you can still see followed handles who also liked the post. It is, however, important to note that “Likes” still matter. From how ‘likes’ factor into Insta’s algorithm to the fact that influencers are still valued based on engagement rates, as long as the economic drivers of this ecosystem are maintained, the culture will persist.
Psychologically, this move does democratize the playing field a bit, putting the emphasis back on authenticity and content quality. It could encourage the growth of micro-influencers and their value because the overt signal to like a post for like’s sake will be removed, which favors influencers with higher reach.
Not Unrelated: Twitter Moves Away From Vanity Metrics
In an effort to make Twitter a healthier place, CEO Jack Dorsey said that the company is looking to change its focus from following specific individuals to tracking topics of interest.
Dorsey has said that he’s most worried about the quality of conversations on Twitter and specifically highlighted the need to rethink how Twitter incentivizes user behavior. He suggested that the platform works best as an “interest-based network,” where users can see content based on their interests no matter who posted it – instead of a network where users feel pressure to follow other accounts for the sole purpose of growing their own numbers.
Straight from the source.
“If I had to start the service again, I probably would not emphasize the follower count as much. I would not emphasize the ‘like’ count as much. I don’t think I would even create ‘like’ in the first place because it doesn’t actually push what we believe now to be the most important thing, which is healthy contribution back to the network.” – Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter
Both Instagram and Twitter appear to be making moves away from vanity metrics to focus more on content quality. However, even as platforms begin to move away from such metrics, as long as the demand for those metrics among marketers persists, the culture of fraud and gamification will persist – regardless of whether or not they’re visible publicly.
While the influencer economy is important, it’s still only a small percentage point of who’s using the platform every day. Again, it’s likely that the real reason that these platforms are making these monumental shifts in strategy is because of the mental health issues that have occurred as a result of time spent on their platforms and increasing pressures for regulation. The argument could be made that this is a way of ‘doing something’ without really doing anything at all.
Marc Pritchard Calls for “New Media Supply Chain”
Concerned about growing problems in the advertising industry, Marc Pritchard is calling for a “new media supply chain.”
In his speech to the Association of National Advertisers, he also said that P&G will support “common-sense national legislation” and that its preferred providers will be those who adopt “responsible privacy practices that reinforce consumer trust.” Pritchard outlined five goals that he said P&G is pursuing to gain a better advertising environment: elevating quality, promoting civility, leveling the playing field, simplifying privacy, and taking control.
Marc Pritchard is preaching to the choir (AKA: the audience who’s responsible for regulating this media-side supply chain). While Pritchard is focusing on the media side of the supply chain, the lack of transparency isn’t just a media problem. We must consider the entire marketing supply chain in order to achieve full transparency.
This includes greater transparency into consumer panels used for insights and research (do you really know who’s answering those surveys?), how agencies are spending brand dollars, how big ideas are validated, and how performance is measured. Until that greater industry shift occurs, transparency can be gained through social proof. For instance, marketers can validate consumer panels and whether they’re even qualified to share an opinion on the industry through social media – do they talk about and demonstrate their knowledge around relevant topics? Are they influential around those topics? Big ideas can be validated by product reviews and feedback.
Facebook’s Play for Digital Voice Assistant Domination
Facebook has confirmed it’s working on an artificial-intelligence-based digital voice assistant, similar to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.
I think I’m having déjà vu.
A few years ago, Facebook began developing an AI assistant for its Messenger platform called M. This time around, however, Facebook says it’s focusing less on messaging and more on platforms in which hands-free interaction via voice control and gesture control are front and center.
What’s FB saying?
Apple’s Siri is the most widely-used virtual assistant on U.S. smartphones, but Amazon’s Alexa leads the domestic and overseas smart speaker markets. In such a competitive ecosystem, it makes sense that Facebook would aim for ecosystem parity, in the very least, with an attempt to gain market share in its emphasis on gesture control.
Now Presenting Byte: AKA Vine 2.0
Tell me about Byte.
Dom Hoffman, the creator behind Byte, has shied away from sharing details of his new app. However, it has been reported that the app has a similar premise to Vine, allowing users to record or upload short, looped videos. Meanwhile, according to the Byte team, the main focus of the trial is on “catching bugs and getting a mix of technical and design feedback that we can incorporate into the beta going forward.”
Whatever happened to Vine?
It was acquired by Twitter in 2012. Twitter shut it down four years later after it struggled to generate revenue.
Given TikTok’s growing popularity, it’s likely that Byte will face an uphill battle for user adoption. In order to gain market share, Byte will need to differentiate itself – perhaps by focusing on a different audience segment than the ever-popular TikTok.
In its current testing phase, Byte has the opportunity to involve influencers to really understand what’s working (and what isn’t) from the current app design. Involving influencers in the creative design and ideation process is something that TikTok has made a point to do in its design process. As Sydney Brown of @sydneybrown_xo stated “I am paired up with a team member from TikTok and speak every two weeks on the phone about what is up and coming for the brand, hashtags that are trending, inside scoop on upcoming challenges, etc. I also receive frequent emails with what other TikTok creators have captured and why it has done well. I am able to provide feedback and give suggestions that would help me grow my audience and increase my views.”