As you have likely heard, Instagram will test hiding “Like” counts on posts in the coming weeks. Rather than showing the “Like” count below a post, users will now see the phrase “liked by *username* and others” (pictured above).
Why is Instagram making this change? CEO Adam Mosseri told BuzzFeed News that removing “Likes” is about “creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”
The hope is that hiding “Like” counts will create a safer, more inclusive environment for mental health where Instagram users can focus on expressing their creativity rather than on comparing themselves to others.
A report from Wired announced the rollout will start as early as Nov. 11; however, since this is a test, the feature won’t affect every Instagram user and will hit different accounts at different times.
We have been watching this news closely, and while it’s difficult to predict exactly how this will impact engagement long term, with brands and influencer marketing in particular, we do have insight into how this will impact reporting and engagement moving forward.
Impacts on Reporting
While “Like” counts on posts will be hidden from followers, they will not be hidden from profile owners.
Using the backend on Instagram, as well as third-party reporting tools, Instagram users will be able to collect analytics using the same methods they have used in the past.
The data for number of “Likes,” “Comments,” etc. will still exist in the backend, so with our measurement tools we’ll be able to capture engagement information for influencer marketing, as well as engagement on brand channels.
Impacts on Engagement
Although profile owners will still have access to “Like” counts, hidden “Like” counts on the follower side could have effects on user behavior. Will users still tap to “Like” without the instant gratification or context of how many others have done the same?
Of the seven regions where hidden “Like” counts have already been tested, many accounts experienced a decrease in “Likes” on posts, according to Social Media Today. With that in mind, hidden “Like” counts may challenge marketers to consider more authentic forms of engagement rather than vanity metrics when measuring social media advertising and influencer marketing campaigns. Saves, Direct Message Shares, Story “Swipe Ups” and Comments are all considered strong indicators of follower interest that may tell a stronger story of meaningful engagement than “Likes” ever could.
For example, we have seen Instagram Stories massively grow in popularity and even surpass Feed posts in terms of reach and user engagement regardless of offering zero public metrics. This proves that truly valuable, interesting content will rise to the top, and that value is not dictated by “Likes.”
While hidden “Like” counts may result in fewer traditional engagements for brands and influencers, this test offers marketers a chance to reevaluate the value of a “Like.” They inform marketers what content is working for the audience and help build social proof around a brand; however, many other metrics exist that may tell even stronger stories of audience engagement.
Only time will tell if Instagram will permanently ditch “Likes.” In the meantime, the best thing brands can do to nurture their communities, build consumer interested and generate traffic is focus on creating top-of-class content tailored for their audiences. Despite what public metrics are available to followers, creating irresistible content will keep them coming back.