You may have heard some news this week from social media land about Facebook removing likes. Alternatively, maybe you sensed something unusual on the platform, but couldn’t quite put your finger on it?
Well, in the wake of the test on Instagram, Facebook is now following suit and hiding the number of ‘likes’ on posts in Australia. This means that users can see how many people like their posts, but no one else will be able to see that number.
Seems ludicrous doesn’t it? The social media giant made the blue thumbs up a globally recognised symbol. Now, it’s going to stop showing you how many people gave that same tick of approval on posts.
Mia Garlick, policy director at Facebook Australia, told the ABC that this move was in pursuit of improving user experience and removing the social comparison factor of the site.
“Does that help people focus more on the quality of the interactions that they’re having on our services rather than getting obsessed by the quantity of the ‘like’ count”, she proposed.
However, let’s just say it. Facebook is a business, and this is a business decision designed to put more money in their pockets.
When Instagram removed likes a few months ago, it was under the perception that the change would improve mental health in its users, especially younger ones. There have been many studies that show the correlation between seeking out likes on the platform and negative mental health effects while using the platform.
The move to remove likes is great for mental health but we would be naïve to assume that the Facebook group weren’t making this move to also line their pockets with.
Since Instagram removed likes, every fifth post on a user’s feed is sponsored. The removal of the like count assisted in this high frequency of sponsored content by making the paid content look more organic.
With no like count, the sponsored content with its higher than usual content engagement, looked more natural on the feeds – especially from large companies who attract a vast amount of engagement.
Smaller businesses still benefit from this change too. In fact, the removal of like counts on Instagram and now Facebook appears to be in an effort to push small businesses to sponsor more of their content, and thus spend more money on the platforms.
Dave Levett, managing director at Murmur, writes for Mumbrella, “By removing the ability for people to see how many likes an ad has received, Instagram has allowed small businesses to advertise without the fear that their ads will have little engagement.
“Those advertisers will now likely see an increase in engagement, an increase in click-through rate, an increase in sales, and, therefore, an increase in the dollars they pump into the platform.”
Mental health is a great pretence for the change – and the impacts it will have are beneficial for all users – but the main reason for the change is for a greater push for profit.
This is Facebook we’re talking about. The tech company who will happily mine our data for profit and are constantly in pickles over privacy issues. It’s too trusting to believe this move is simply for user experience. But that doesn’t mean that user experience won’t improve as a result as well.
At the end of the day, business is business. Right?