If you’ve grown accustomed to posting Instagram selfies and receiving a superfluous number of likes, it’s time to find a new passion! In a Tweet posted by Instagram CEO, Adam Mosseri, this social media platform plans to hide how many people like a post. This has many Instagram influencers worried.


What is this change?


Imagine your friend (who you follow) likes someone else’s photo. It will state your friend’s name and his/her like, including likes posted by other Instagram followers. With this new change, you will be able to see the names on the accounts of people who’ve liked a particular post, but it will not state the number of people who’ve liked it.


This experiment has already started in some parts of the U.S., and will likely spread across the entire nation. The change in the like feature has been evolving since 2018. In that year, Instagram was already testing this modification in several countries, including Japan, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Brazil and Italy.


Why is Instagram hiding likes?


The decision to remove the capability of seeing someone else’s like count was motivated by the effect it was having on young people, Mosseri explained to WIRED. Removing this feature de-pressurizes Instagram. It prompts users to focus on connecting with people they like and topics that inspire them. In this way, users are forced to focus on the content aspect instead of the feedback. The goal is to create a less stressful experience.


This change comes in light of recent criticisms about the adverse mental health effects of Instagram’s parent company, Facebook.


In the initial roll-out of this policy change, many influencers saw their like counts drop in the countries where it was first introduced. According to analytics published by HypeAuditor, influencers who had anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 followers experienced a 3% to 15% decline.


What hiding likes means for influencers?


Imagine you are an artist whose speciality is landscapes. You’ve worked hard to amass 15,000 followers. Many of your paintings are liked and shared by your followers. Due to the popularity of your pieces, many larger accounts have purchased your landscapes. The likes that you receive for your paintings serve as a metric for the quality of your work. Other users and potential customers use this information to make their purchase decision. In a way, these likes validate your work as an artist. Without these likes, your work can only reach a select few, typically a few people in the art world.


Many celebrities, influencers, musicians, artists and regular users are going to be adversely affected by this change. Many are worried about losing their followers and even income. Hiding likes negatively affects influencers who depend on Instagram for perks and work. Many companies look at the number of likes received by post to measure the success of a campaign.


In recent years, the influencer market has skyrocketed. It is expected to reach a whopping $6.5 billion by 2020. Many influencers, like Kylie Jenner, often partner up with major brands. She shares pictures of herself on Instagram with an array of products ranging from facial cleansers to tea and vitamins. In return, companies pay her for the number of followers and likes she gets. It is estimated that Jenner gets up to $1 million for a single post sponsored on the social media site.


What hiding likes means for digital marketing?


Surprisingly, Instagram hiding likes is being seen as a welcome change by many reputable brands. For these companies, receiving a huge number of likes has lost its validity. They no longer use it as a metric to gauge popularity. Why? Because there are platoons of bots out there that fake engagement. It’s easy to purchase followers online as well. In fact, according to a study conducted by HYPR, in 2018, up to 64% of influencers admitted to purchasing likes.


Instagram’s change is a moment of awakening for the industry. The change will reduce and eliminate the number of people faking likes. Although this change will first appear as a shock, many influencers will realize that this is a positive change, especially for content creators. It will weed out third-party services that purchase fake followers and likes. It will force creators to work harder.


What hiding likes means for campaigns?


Marketing campaigns will be affected in two important ways- measuring effectiveness and identifying key content producers. “Likes” have lost their effectiveness as a metric to measure the success of a social media campaign. It is but one metric amongst a smorgasbord of tools such as comments, followers, click-throughs, shares and finally, conversion. So, losing likes is not a catastrophic change.


Marketing campaigns must as the fundamental question: “Who is influential for my brand?”


Is it the blogger who has thousands of likes for their post or the stay-at-home who shares their personal experience using a product with their network. Instagram’s main objective in removing likes was to get people to focus on personal connections and creative expressions rather than competition. Marketing campaigns should regard this as a cue. They must develop processes that identify content producers who can build relationships with many people and who also convince people to buy (convert). The future of marketing campaigns will be about genuine influencers instead of bloated credits.


Removing the “like” count feature by Instagram will force marketing companies to develop more meaningful content and build genuine relationships with people and communities.



To keep up with current news in Digital Marketing, also see GDPR in South Africa – What To Know.