Instagram’s impact on social learning


November 22, 2019

As a Learning Strategist, how can we leverage what we observe from Instagram’s recent move?

Is Instagram conducting a massive experiment on social behavior? And should we, as Social Learning Strategists, be carefully watching?

This week Instagram expanded its tests to obscure “Like” counts to its US consumers. On the surface, social media involves two roles, Consumers and Creators. “Creators” are individuals who post content on the platform. “Consumers” are individuals who view content on the platform. Instagram is expanding its test to hide like counts from Consumers. Creators who contribute content will still be able to view how many people “liked” their post.

Why do we use the word “massive” when describing this experiment? According to Brandwatch, the statistics for Instagram usage in June 2019 was “800 million monthly active users on Instagram” and “4.2 billion Instagram Likes per day”. No other organization can come close to experimenting with these numbers.

So why is this interesting for Learning Strategists? There are many learning platforms which gained inspiration for their gamification and community efforts through their observation of social media. Now that one of the major social media sites is changing the rules, what investigative questions can we ask as we begin to observe?

Here are some initial questions.

  • Does the removal of like counts influence the quality or quantity of posts?
  • Does exposing the number of likes mean that the content is more valuable to people, Consumers, who are looking for answers?
  • Does recognition (number of likes) of the posts influence the desire for Creators to share more content?
  • Are Consumers more encouraged to participate as Creators now that the potential fear of being judged by popularity is removed?
  • In learning platforms and communities, do likes influence the community to post more or less?

I encourage other learner professionals to add their own questions by sending us comments

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