When Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, announced back in April that Instagram will be testing hiding likes from the public eye in certain countries, the industry had plenty to say on the matter.

Whilst the platform has already experimented with the new feature in seven countries including Canada and Japan, yesterday Instagram announced it will roll out the test globally. Not everyone will see their likes removed right away but users will still be able to see who has liked their own posts and a total count by tapping on the likes list. Followers will only see some names of mutual friends that like posts. When the likeless feed was piloted previously, some influencers complained that hiding likes would give them less leverage over brand deals and sponsored content. It has also raised concerns around hurting creators after HypeAuditor’s latest study found many of them of various levels of popularity 3% to 15% of their likes in countries where Instagram hid the counts. According to Mosseri, removing the likes comes as the company’s latest step towards its ambition of becoming the ‘safest place on the Internet’, and ‘depressurize’ the platform to help support its users’ mental health. However, experts think this strategy will allow Instagram to take a firmer hold of trending posts and commercialise content like never before. Here is what the industry is saying about the new feature. 

Industry experts respond to the change

Nader Alizadeh, CEO and co-founder, Linqia

“We applaud Instagram’s move to remove like counts. Social media anxiety, particularly among younger users, is indeed a problem, and this is a step in the right direction to stop the vanity and comparison nature of social media. With the possibility of like counts going away, how will that impact the number of likes on Instagram? We believe the like counts will go down.I know, as the co-founder of an influencer marketing company, I would want likes to continue as a driver of higher engagement but we’ve seen likes are not the only way to drive impact. It will get the industry out of the rat race of just trying to collect clicks to watching the impact influencer content can make by typing directly into marketing’s goals, including a lift in brand awareness, purchase intent, or actual sales.”

Mike Hondorp, CMO at Whalar

“The announcement that Instagram is testing removing likes comes as no surprise since they’ve been testing this in other markets now for a while. While this will certainly have implications for the Instagram user experience, regarding the creator and influencer ecosystem, we believe the removal of likes may lead to a rise in both creativity and authenticity on the platform. Without an obvious engagement metric for ‘success,’ we may find creators taking more risks personally and creatively, which is an exciting notion to consider.From an industry perspective, this will expedite the necessary focus on better and more robust measurement in the influencer space. A move away from vanity metrics towards true business objectives is positive, and frankly validating, for our industry, and we’re excited to continue to prove the efficacy of influencer marketing going forward.” 

Peter Kennedy, founder and COO, Tagger

“Influencer marketing platforms with API access will still be able to see an influencer’s likes and other ‘behind the scenes’ data. While likes won’t be publicly visible as a user scrolls through content, brands and agencies who use a platform with API approval will still be able to see, filter, and analyse an influencer’s engagement rate.”

Taylor Lorenz, internet culture reporter, NYT Styles

“I’ve said a zillion times and I said again on CNN last night, and will continue to say, hiding likes is not ‘killing’ insta influencers. They (along with others) will still have access to the rich back end data brands need.” 

Eva Chen, director of fashion partnerships, Instagam said at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit: Generational Opportunities:

“I definitely feel like I don’t really check the number of likes an image gets anymore, because it’s actually two steps to find the number of likes. The thinking behind hiding [likes] or making it not the first thing we see is really just to free up expression and creativity.”

Mark Dandy, influencer marketing specialist

“If the test is successful and goes ahead as a full roll out, there will be a big change in user behaviour. People will like less as they can’t see the results of their engagement. You’ll see Instagram move to a YouTube model of passive watching through IGTV and they will sell more pre-roll and mid-roll ads through this model. Engagement is no longer the currency, views and reach is. How do you get more views and reach? Ads. The skeptic in me says this is not about mental health in the slightest. But a very good curtain to hide the above under.” 

Jennifer Dragonette, executive director, Newport Academy

“Users may find that their experience posting on Instagram begins to revolve more around their individual expression, rather than social comparison or perceived popularity.”

Brian Solis, digital analyst

“Removing likes is touted as a positive investment in the psychological and emotional welfare of its users. Removing the semblances of popularity in everyday engagement could also promote healthier peer-to-peer engagement (and also marketing programs). Either way, this could be the beginning of something good for everyone. The question is Instagram can hold on to its user-base and inspire it toward more productive engagement and growth? I hope so. Because in the end, we, as users, are still the product and our attention and data are still primary revenue generators.”

Adam Williams, CEO of Takumi

“We wholeheartedly support platforms investigating ways to promote better mental health. We think it’s crucial that Instagram is taking this issue seriously and hiding likes on posts could go some way to understanding and reducing any negative impacts caused by peer pressure on social media channels.

The move could also be an important step in improving any negative public perception of influencers and ultimately, could encourage better marketing practices.

As a result of Instagram hiding likes, commonly seen as a driver of social media pressure, consumers may be more likely to interact with a wider range of brands and creators they have a genuine connection with and passion for, rather than simply liking the most popular ones or trying to ‘keep up’. Having likes hidden on Instagram could also result in more authentic individualism and creativity in influencer content, improving the experience for consumers. In the words of Instagram itself, the change is intended to get ‘your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes you get.'”

Robin Re, VP of marketing, Industry Dive

“As much as we don’t want to admit that we are swayed by what others flock to, social proof is still a strong differentiator for brands. Let’s say Google started showing you # of views in their search results instead of just the ranking… Aren’t you more likely to click on the one that has 1million views vs. 100k? Likes operate in a similar fashion in my opinion.”

Skai Pakalnyte, influencer marketing consultant and lifestyle influencer

“Maybe this will allow us to post more authentic photos and can actually help a lot of people out there to not worry so much about being ‘approved’ by others. This may just be the solution to all in terms of a better balance for our mental health, not just for content creators. As creators will still be able to see their statistics privately (same as IG stories now) this change should not dramatically affect us and may just help us.”

Peter Malachi, senior VP of communications, Hermes

“Growing regulatory pressure for transparency regarding paid posts and sponsored influencer content has also led to diminished growth, so cynically I wonder if Instagram is hiding likes to protect investment due to decline in engagement?”

Latasha James, digital marketing consultant and creator

“Looking at the number of likes is a vanity metric and brands are looking at various metrics in order to measure success. Sure, likes are an indicator of the quality of the content to some extent, but likes alone are not currency. To measure the true success of a campaign, you have to know the full path. And the best way to do this is simple: tie your business goals to social media metrics, then track, measure, and optimise.”

Do you have thoughts on Instagram hiding like counts? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us at @talkinfluence.

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