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Facebook Poised to Hide Popularity

Facebook is poised to hide like counts from posts.

With potentially huge implications for social media metrics, Zuckerberg and co have quietly planted a likes-hiding code in Facebook’s Android app.

Losing likes

Jane Wong—a Hong Kong based tech blogger—uncovered the ‘prototype functionality’. The inactive code she discovered in the app will (when triggered) hide like/reaction counts from public view.

If and when it comes into play, Facebook users will still see a list of who has reacted to a post. But, it will no longer say the total number of people who have reacted.

Insta example

There are obvious parallels to the like-hiding implemented on Instagram, which Wong also revealed before the company confirmed it.

Instagram started testing hidden like counts in Canada in May 2019. They’ve since rolled it out to six other countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, explained to The Washington Post that the aim was to foster ‘a less pressurized environment’ for users.

Invisible popularity

Influencers hate the concept of hidden likes-counts: it removes one of their shiniest selling points from the shop window. But what is the likely impact for the marketers who finance them?

Instagram still collects all the data from interactions. And, they’re still showing like-counts to the people who post the liked content. So, the only functional difference is that the number of likes won't be displayed to casual observers. Is that such a big deal?

Competitor checks and Canadian behaviours

For accounts you don’t own, likes are among the most accessible metrics. If unable to see likes on rival posts, marketers will find it harder to benchmark their own social successes against competitor performance.

Hidden-likes will also change user behaviour. For the Instagram example, c|net reported on a Canadian survey that found:

'More than half of all respondents saw their likes fall… 18% of creators who had their likes hidden saw a dramatic drop. Users also noticed a slowdown in follower growth and fewer comments on their posts.'

If it holds true, invisible likes could be yet another nail in the coffin of organic reach on Facebook. But, before we sound the death knell (again), lets await data that reports discrete findings for genuine content creators and brand accounts, filtering out the discontent of real and aspiringing influencers.

PR and the here and now

Forbes contributor Paul Armstrong observes that talk of mental health benefits may be PR cover for a change that lets Facebook obscure its own declining popularity. Or, it may be intended to distract from harder issues, like political interference and privacy infringements.

So far, only Facebook knows the real motivations.

Meanwhile, marketers are motivated to look elsewhere for reliable indicators of competitor’s social media achievements.

Apocalyptic, inconvenience or inconsequential? Do you see hidden-likes as an issue for your socials?

Image: Facebook

Copy Transmission is a Melbourne-based agency :: Better Brands. Loud & Clear.

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