Take the like count away from Instagram and -- guess what -- fewer likes are achieved. But could other factors be at play as well in likes going down?
We usually hear of the mob mentality when social media users try to run someone with a view they disagree with out of town. We've also heard a lot about it this week regarding the very sad death of "Love Island" presenter Caroline Flack.
However, it seems to be a real factor in influencer marketing. When you think about it, it's pretty obvious. If you follow an influencer and something they are saying is gaining traction, it is far more likely that you will follow suit and like it too.
Proof comes via research from social media analytics company HypeMonitor. Its figures show that in countries where likes are being hidden on Instagram, the average number of likes achieved has dropped by as much as 28% (Brazil) to just under 4% in Ireland. Australia sits in the middle with a 13% drop.
When Campaign talked to industry insiders, the view pointed toward this being part of switching off the mob mentality. When total numbers of likes are unavailable, people are not getting a steer on what they are supposed to like, and so the results are more credible.
However, there is a fly in the ointment and it comes in the form of the UK. Here, where likes are still visible, smaller influencers have seen a 10% decline in likes but larger influencers, with followings up to 20,000 have seen a 20% drop off.
So I would like to suggest that there is some logic in the mob mentality argument being dialled down when the total number of likes are now shown. However, the UK shows that this is not the only factor bringing down engagement rates.
Could there also be an element of the social media giants cracking down on fraud and brands using better tools to route out dodgy influencers who buy likes? Could culls of followers, designed to get rid of dead accounts or those which are part of bot nets, also be having a factor here?
Could the public also be aware that they are being sold to? Now that influencers are being constantly reminded to add #ad to their posts, could the public be a little bit wiser in realising when they're being sold to.
I suspect so and I'm surprised that this research is being explained away too simply as an effect of switching off likes when the same behaviour is being seen in the UK.
It's too simplistic a conclusion, and shows there is more at play here. Namely, that sites and brands have woken up to like fraud -- and the public has woken up being advertised to.