“Adapt and quickly”: SMEs react as Facebook scraps likes count


The sign outside the main entrance to Facebook’s HQ.

Facebook on Friday announced its plans to hide likes and reactions, but small businesses say those leveraging the platform shouldn’t panic just yet.

Following Instagram’s lead, Facebook will begin a “limited test” in Australia to remove the counter for likes and reactions.

However, there is “no timeline as yet for the test or further information … on how long the test will last”, a Facebook spokesperson has confirmed.

This comes amid an effort to improve “user well-being and shifting the focus from the quantity of interactions to the quality of interactions on your posts”, Facebook said in a statement.

Much like Instagram, likes will still be visible to the poster.

Facebook hides likes

Facebook posts now (left) versus after likes are hidden. Source: supplied.

“While this has been testing on Instagram, Facebook and IG are different surfaces and we will likely see different data come from this test,” the statement said.

However, for businesses relying on likes and reactions to increase brand visibility and reach, the change in policy also brings questions about disruption to marketing strategies.

If Facebook’s statement is anything to go by, small businesses may have to invest in brand narrative over promotions and advertising.

“We don’t want Facebook to feel like a competition — we hope to learn whether this change can help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story,” the social media mammoth said.

Here’s what small businesses owners think of the change.

Adore Beauty’s Kate Morris: “You are going to have to pay for it”

Kate Morris, co-founder and executive director of Adore Beauty, sees this change as predictable and as confirmation of business’ needing to pay for platforms.

“It’s really part of the monetisation of those social platforms. I expect all of it is tied to getting companies to pay more for advertising and insight,” she says.

“We’ve always considered social platforms — even when they weren’t heavily monetised and when there were some options for organic reach — to be paid platforms. I think that’s the thing you’ve got to expect for all businesses. If you build your presence on third-party platforms, you are going to have to pay for it — if not now, then later.

“I’ve obviously got to look at how it impacts on interaction with any pieces of content that we post. We’ll keep a close eye on it and see what effects it has, if any.”

Parcelpoint’s Natasha Ritz: “This is the next phase”

Over the last decade of social media marketing, Parcelpoint’s head of media and communications Natasha Ritz has seen Facebook change “drastically”.

As such, she tells SmartCompany this is just another in a long line of platform updates that will force businesses to “adapt, and quickly”.

“My feeling is that the removal of likes won’t affect business that much, what it will do is force brands and businesses to be more creative and more innovative with their content,” she says.

“If the content is awesome, well-thought-out and relevant to the people engaging with it, then seeing the number of likes won’t matter.

“It’s more about the genuine engagement and value the customer is getting out of the content. This is the next phase of social media.”

Linktree’s Alex Zaccaria: “Create better and more authentic content”

The change was made predominantly for personal users, but will still challenge commercial users to create a more authentic tone, according to Alex Zaccaria, co-founder and chief executive of Linktree.

“The shift will challenge influencers and marketers alike to create better and more authentic content,” he says.

“Rather than simply collecting likes, they’ll need to create content that draws people in and prompts them to take further action — like actually visiting a site, sending a direct message or having a conversation.”

The Optimal Social Media Masterclass’ Tina Moore: “Likes aren’t the be-all and end-all”

Having consulted for Instagram accounts over the past few months of hidden likes, founder of The Optimal Social Media Masterclass Tina Moore says Facebook’s new policy will help businesses “refocus their campaign measurement away from ‘vanity’ metrics such as likes, and towards more important business objectives like conversions or sales”.

“When nobody knows if your post got just a handful of likes, or thousands of likes, you’re less likely to hold back or brush over the truth.

“The only business that has anything to fear about the hiding of likes are those who are obsessed with the wrong metrics in the first place.”

NOW READ: Aussie startup Stackla is taking Facebook to court: Is this a cautionary tale of over-reliance?

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