News and insights • Posted on 30 August 2019

Does it really matter if Instagram hides the likes?

It’s been over a month since Instagram announced it was to trial hiding likes and video views in certain countries. Here, we discuss whether it really matters to influencers and brands that the Facebook-owned platform has decided to go down this route. After all, if it was completely detrimental to its business and users, would it really be trialling such a damaging change? Perhaps Instagram has made a move that more social media platforms should follow, as it supports a push towards more positive mental health and helps users ‘focus on the photos and videos’ that are shared.

The company tweeted: “We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get. You can still see your own likes by tapping on the list of people who’ve liked it, but your friends will not be able to see how many likes your post has received.”

The update means that a user can still see how many likes their post received but that number would no longer be visible to anyone on the platform.

The likes test vs influencers and brands

With over one billion monthly active users, Instagram is a platform that cannot be ignored by brands. Some would argue that removing the visibility of likes from posts allows brands to measure what really matters like engagement and real-time comments from customers. While influencer marketing is still on the rise, the latest update could dissuade marketers from focusing on vanity metrics that can be manipulated or even bought.

In 2017, the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health published a report indicating that, while Instagram appeared to provide a positive outlet for self-expression, it also has a negative impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out (FOMO). With likes not being as prominent, the trial, if rolled out indefinitely, could mean influencers and content creators have no choice but to take more creative control over what they’re posting. There will be a huge shift to focus on content quality because it’ll be more difficult to see how engaged the audience is if likes are invisible. What’s more, Facebook and Instagram have made it clear they’re attempting to push users more towards ‘stories’ to leverage the potential of video rather than static images. All this means that brands and influencers can help audiences feel like they’re a part of the conversation – part of a community – as opposed to simply clicking to ‘like’ a post they appreciate.

What does the future of engagement look like?

The shift reminds people that likes are not the be all and end of all of a post. However, if likes disappear from social media, it could mean that users will invariably find another validation to focus on such as followers, comments or number of shares. Improving user health and wellbeing is a huge promise from Instagram, but will this trial potentially open the door for new metrics for users to obsess over? Hopefully not because by reducing the focus on likes, creators are actually being given the opportunity to focus on new types of creative and quality content best practices. That can only be a great thing.

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Written by Alison Croston

Partnerships and growth director Ali ensures potential clients are paired with the right services and solutions to propel their business to the next level.

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