Instagram announced recently that they will test in Canada hiding the likes count from photos and views from videos. These are huge news for the industry for many reasons that could imply bursting a bubble that was being created as influencers gained followers and exposure by shifting attention to what matters: Content.
Advertisers once prioritized the size of a community based on its potential reach, hence the size of the community. Profiles that relied on paid followers were artificially bigger, driving their collaboration prices upwards with the promise of value that just couldn’t be delivered.
A profile that represents the brand image and values is fundamental. However, the real reach of a campaign and its profitability is determined by the quality of the audience, not on the influencer itself. Robots and fake followers can interact with content but certainly won’t buy any of the products or services that influencers recommend.
The lack of sound fundamentals, meaning trading an asset at a price or price range that strongly exceeds the asset’s intrinsic value is the exact same definition of a bubble.
The Shift of Attention to Content
Interaction comes under the basis of three main elements: The Influencer, the Size of Community and Content itself. The experiment removes the bias of the count of likes and blurring this element automatically drives the attention to the quality of the content.
Look at it like the restaurant that is always crowded. The fact that one restaurant is packed, doesn’t necessarily mean that another that is empty or less crowded is a bad one. It could mean many other things, like the lack of means or knowledge to advertise themselves. What is true is that they have to keep a competitive level for when a customer tired of queuing in another place steps into yours.
Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, said in fact in an interview that the test was about “creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves” and focus less on like counts.
What he means has massive benefits for the advertising industry because it will push profiles to create better content consistently, but clearly not so much for influencers that benefited from the exposure they gained to continue to get more followers as a snowball rolling down the hill. Benefiting meaning capitalizing collaborations with brands that, by the way, the social network is still not fully benefiting from.
Divide and Conquer
As social networks keep growing, more space for fragmentation and niche audiences emerge. The good news is that technology is here for advertisers to make the right decisions when it comes to selecting the right profile Along with a comprehensive analysis of the quality of its audience which, as said, is the basis of profitability.
This move is yet to prove if Instagram’s hypothesis and basis on which it was decided to turn out into the results they expect. In my opinion, is nothing but commoditizing profiles by turning user’s attention and driving ALL value to content (or at least try to). This means better landscapes of exposure for brands, with a combination of course with great content creators.
The definition of a qualified audience hence is shifting from quantity to quality, as it should. And that overall means bursting the bubble that wasn’t delivering any value at all. Perhaps this is another case of things where actually size doesn’t matter.