By: Cavan Chasan

On a recent visit to Instagram, I came across a post from RZA of Wu-Tang Clan and Silver Screen fame where he reflected “The goal is not to be liked…”

If you are not familiar with the RZA, a cliff notes statement on his relevance to how we at Guru see our world is that he is using his personal platform to better the world. One example of many is his launching of a 100% vegan winter jacket that is built from recycled ocean plastics. Yeah, that is 5 freedoms of animal sensitivity type thinking combined with addressing a major mother nature pain point rolled up into one effort. Talk about a movement to reduce suffering. Props RZA.

Back to his Insta post…

His reflection reminded us that Instagram has embarked on a global roll out of the REMOVAL OF THE LIKE. A pretty big change for a social media player whose rocket ship ride to relevance, popularity and influence can only be matched by the big brother who swallowed it up in a billion dollar acquisition to avoid being pushed aside.

To date, likes are most certainly the currency of social media. They are what users create for, covet and at times bend the truth to realize. This is true of the individual as well as the brand user. People and brands get up for likes. And why not, right? Likes are instant gratification in the human pursuit of acceptance. And, beyond acceptance, they amplify reach due to the way Instagram algorithms work. A trending post only grows in reach as more and more users double tap it. For brands seeking daily engagement with their customers and prospects, this is the new media, a less expensive way to scale reach and interact compared to mediums of the past.

All sounds great, right? Well, hold on. Maybe the fiscal expense has been reduced, but what have we done to our country, value systems and most importantly the self-esteem paradigms of our youth? What is the ultimate price being paid?

We have been following this story since Facebook announced Instagram would be rolling this out across the digital globe. We have long been hopeful it will happen at scale.

Let’s dig in on why we feel so strongly about this and why we see it is a HUGE opportunity for our clients to lead the new social media experience it will help define.

First some quick context on why Instagram is making this move…

Facebook has positioned the removal of public Instagram likes (individuals and brands will still see their like report privately) as being driven by their desire to reduce the barriers of content creation. They are vocal that people are so sensitive to going “unliked” that they refrain from posting. Their thinking is that with likes no longer a comparison point, people will post freely – creating more content and reinforcing the role of Instagram in community conversation.

And here is why we are so excited about this development:

We can stop comparing ourselves and start generating content that has purpose beyond garnering a like!

What if brands were solely focused on producing words and pictures that were true to what makes them a positive force for doing good in the world, with less regard to ensuring consumer approval in the form of likes? We are confident the approval would come faster and stronger and most importantly be felt and celebrated deeper.

Brands have a voice, often a powerful one by way of their platform and with that power comes the responsibility of influencing with good, healthy intentions. Media literacy has long been a big problem for our society. And while that dynamic antecedes the invention of social media, it is undeniable that social has only exacerbated the issue. We are a world where kids are taught to value themselves through the eyes of those who LIKE them.

If you buy our perspective on this, here is how we recommend brands make the disappearing like a moment of embracing their opportunity and more importantly responsibility to be doers of good in a world that clearly needs strong, healthy, accountable voices.

Our take: follow the RZA’s lead. We are not here to be liked, we are here to be….

  • Honest
  • Accountable
  • Giving
  • Thought Provoking
  • Pay it forward thinkers and doers
  • Authentic to the era of purpose
  • Creative to the bottom line of making the world a better place
  • Prophets of what it means to be profitable
  • Creators of a better world

With the above attributes and others as a brief, these will be different stories – manifested as Instagram stories and paid and organic posts – for each brand because each brand has a unique potential.

But how will I know it is working when the Like limelight inevitably shrinks for everyone?

We believe a new ROI focus will emerge. The save and the share will become far more valuable metrics. Let’s be honest, a like is lazy anyway and far from a meaningful leading indicator, but a share means someone was inspired and a save is well, worth taking the time to save and later revisit.

If you are down to be the change that disappearing the like creates, we at Guru would love to be your partners in dreaming the content that will drive your success and create your unique white space of the type of leadership our world desperately needs.

Oh and it looks like RZA got 15,558 likes on the post that got us thinking about this – far, far fewer than the average post from a politician, celebrity or for greed company, but soon hopefully, only he will know that.

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