Aishwarya Ramesh
Points of View

YouTube now hides dislike count on video; what are the implications for brands?

Is it possible that this will cushion the brands against trolls or make the overall user experience better?

YouTube recently announced that it will not be displaying the number of dislikes a video has gotten. Viewers will not be able to see this number, however, creators will still be able to track their dislikes in YouTube Studio alongside other analytics about their video’s performance, if they choose.

YouTube is not removing the dislike button altogether and users can still click the thumbs down button to signal their dislike to creators, but only as a private feedback. Individual content creators form one part of the YouTube content ecosystem, but YouTube is also a place for brands to showcase their work and connect with their audiences.

Lest we forget, we currently live in very polarised times. Brands like Tanishq, FabIndia, Sabyasachi and more have been trolled heavily on social media for ads or branded communication pieces that they have published. With the hiding of the dislike button, is there a certain amount of cushioning that a brand gets when it comes to protection from the trolls?

We spoke to experts to find out…

Arif Ehsan, head – digital marketing, Domino’s India

From a marketing point of view, any engagement platform – such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc – they give us an opportunity to get feedback from our audience. It’s not like a one way communication such as a TV ad or an ad outdoor ad – where a viewer just sees the ad but you don’t have the opportunity to gauge his reaction to it.

Likes, dislikes, and comments are important in that point of view. We often sieve through these to understand the consumer’s feedback to the content we’ve created and how can we change our strategy accordingly.

Arif Ehsan
Arif Ehsan

We pay money to do surveys and conduct research on our consumers to gauge their sentiments and understand feedback. But as far as mediums are concerned, this is the most organic way to gauge a reaction. That feedback is quite important and while its not limited to likes and dislikes but it helps to get a holistic idea of what people are saying about your brand.

Yes, there is a huge amount of trolling that happens these days. There is some amount of online bullying as well and this feature might help curb that, but when an ad gets trolled, it tends to be a result of inorganic activity. This may not make a difference to a brand manager when it comes to formulating the social media strategy.

Rahul Vengalil, managing partner, Isobar India

To understand the implications of this move, it has to be seen as a big change in the YouTube ecosystem. If you are to look at cases from the recent past, many content pieces have become controversial, leading to backlash for brands/agencies and creators alike.

Many times, these start as part of mass hysteria in the form of dislikes, negative comments and shares. If the dislike button is made private, it could possibly reduce the scale and speed of trolling that’s being witnessed today. With the dislike being made private, brands could possibly have more breathing space/time for trolls/crisis management in my opinion.

Rahul Vengalil
Rahul Vengalil

It won’t make a difference in the way a brand measures its perception among users, in my opinion. The Dislike option isn’t completely removed. It’s only made private which means that the brand still gets to see the data at the backend. I reckon it will only be people who genuinely have a problem with the content who will now be disliking and that mass hysteria would be removed. This would actually help the brand get a sharper understanding of the sentiments.

Jay Morzaria - Group Creative Head – Schbang

This move will not make a difference. Instagram had also implemented a similar move in the past where it attempted to give users the option to hide the number of likes that a person got on a post. It didn’t bring about much of a change because users can still see ‘billions’ of others have liked this post – they just can’t see the exact number; the content is still working for the same purpose.

Jay Morzaria
Jay Morzaria

Online bullying doesn’t start on YouTube with likes and dislikes – it starts with the kind of comments that people leave under the video. A comment filtration mechanism would be more effective in bringing about change than simply hiding the number of ‘dislikes’ a video has gotten.

Whether it’s branded content or content created by an individual user, people can still leave nasty comments on the content; the number of dislikes a video has doesn’t change this at all. Even if a brand is say, getting trolled for an ad they published, how does it help in any way if the number of dislikes is hidden? Action needs to be taken on filtering comments, but that might impact free speech on the internet. YouTube as a platform is trying to keep up with the other social mediums and this is an attempt to stay relevant.

Kopal Doshi, Digital Head and senior brand manager (Plain Oats) - Kellogg India

There are two ways of interpreting data – qualitatively and quantitatively. The dislike button was one such quantitative metric which lets a user see if the content is worth engaging with or not.

Typically, what a user does is when they go to YouTube, they check a couple of factors to see if they should watch the video or not. One factor is the comments and the other factor is the number of likes and dislikes the video has. If a video has a large number of dislikes, even if the topic is relevant, the viewer might end up skipping the video under the assumption that it will not work for them and hence, they wont waste their time watching it. Now the only barometer left for this is the comments, which can be even more polarizing.

Kopal Doshi
Kopal Doshi

From a brand’s perspective, it’s relevant for content centric brands, but if the brand is using YouTube to house its ads, marketing communications, I don’t think it will be affected because that is inorganically driven. For brands which are content centric, especially publishers – this is a great move because it makes the user more likely to watch the content! For eg: a movie trailer with no dislikes is definitely going to get more traction than it would have earlier.

As far as the trolling goes, most of it is not spontaneous. It’s very possible that when it comes to an ad that gets trolled, the hateful comments are not organic and the presence or absence or the dislike button is not going to impact that.