Instagram is trialling hiding likes, what does this mean for influencers?
19th Jul 2019
Opening Instagram today many users in Australia were greeted with a notification stating that the social media app would be testing a change to how likes are viewed. The notification detailed that during the test your followers would no longer be able to see how many likes posts receive, only you would be privy to that social status statistic.
How exactly does it work and look? On opening your feed the first thing to note is that the “likes” section now just shows a handful of the names of those who liked it, rather than how many people liked it. If you click on the likes section the number of likes on a particular post will pop up as well as who liked it, but that’s just for you to see – no more public displays of numbered affection.
For the regular, non-influencer Instagram user hiding the number of likes actually probably doesn’t make too much of an impact on your enjoyment or use of the social media platform. It’s still a place to post a (filtered) pictorial and video visual diary of your life for all your friends and followers to see what’s happening in your world right now.
And that is actually the reason behind the test, which has already been trialled in Canada and is expanding to a number of other countries including our own this month. Facebook Australia and New Zealand’s director of policy, Mia Garlick, said as much in a communiqué from Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) about the test. “We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves. We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love. We are now rolling the test out to Australia so we can learn more about how this can benefit people’s experiences on Instagram, and whether this change can help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story.”
However, what does hiding “likes” mean for influencers whose income and ability to attract paid sponsorships relies on this very visible, popularity contest-style metric? Instagram addressed this in their communication with Jeff McBride, Instagram’s communications manager for Australia and New Zealand, revealing that they don’t want the ‘Gram to “feel like a competition,” but that it wouldn’t affect measurement tools. “For business and creators on Instagram,” McBride wrote, “this test will not affect measurement tools like Insights or Ads Manager.”
But, we do have to wonder if hiding these first glance “likes” will in fact make it more challenging for influencers. If a brand is thinking about a potential partnership with an Instagram influencer, if they take a quick scroll through the influencer’s feed knowing that @123catlover and “others” (as it says in the likes section with the test running) like that post it is a different and perhaps less appealing proposition than if they can see that @123catlover is one of 200,000 followers that liked the post. It also remains to be seen how the change will affect the algorithm because of this.
Buying likes for those trying to boost their Instagram profile is also going to be off the table once likes are hidden. Why buy when no one can see them?
Will this be the end of influencers as we know it? Or will it give rise to a different style of influencer creating genuinely engaging content that brands and social media users actually like IRL, rather than content that’s just about the numbers? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, enjoy using the ‘Gram without the pressure of liking everything in your feed and on the flip side, posting for maximum likes.
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