Last week Instagram announced (on Twitter) that the social network’s test of hiding the total number of likes and views on photos and videos posted to the Feed expanded to a subset of users worldwide. It’s been a bit controversial in the blogosphere, but I’m not worried about Instagram Post Like counts disappearing.
Starting today, we’re expanding our test of private like counts globally. If you’re in the test, you’ll no longer see the total number of likes and views on photos and videos posted to Feed unless they’re your own. pic.twitter.com/DztSH0xiq2
— Instagram (@instagram) November 14, 2019
This test is a step towards the platform’s efforts to make the experience on Instagram healthier, especially for young people in light of bullying and hate speech, even if it doesn’t help Instagram’s bottom line. (If you haven’t read the Time article Instagram’s War on Bullying, I recommend it.)
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri wants to reduce anxiety and social comparison. Mosseri shared at the Wired25 conference, “The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and things that inspire them.”
While the health of young people is critical to think about, Instagram must also balance the impact of this move on creators and influencers who make their living off of Instagram. An early study has shown that overall engagement for influencers in the initial test countries went down; however, there’s no need to panic. As Social Media Today mentions, “HypeAuditor’s categorization (influencers with 30% of their following in the test regions) does leave a few questions around the specific methodology.”
This change doesn’t signify the end of marketing for creators, brands, and influencers who use Instagram.
Since I can remember, Instagram has described itself like a beautiful magazine, and this move emphasizes content over popularity, which I agree with. But there are other specific reasons why I’m not alarmed – keep reading to see what they are. If you agree or disagree – do let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Would love to hear your thoughts!
I’m Not Worried about Instagram Post Like Counts Disappearing. Here’s Why:
The Insights on Post Likes Will Still Exist
Instagram users (individuals, brands, and influencers) will continue to have access to the total number of likes on posts, it’s just not going to be publicly available. At Sociality Squared we like to think of Instagram as the new website or portfolio for brands and influencers. In this analogy, Insights will be more like Google Analytics. They’ll be available so decisions can be made about content choices and they can be shared from influencers when negotiating rates. Most importantly, all of the other Insights that have been privately available – impressions, interactions, reach, profile visits, shares, saves – will be there like before. And other metrics that can be baked into influencer campaigns, like coupon code conversions or ad results, will also be available.
Post Likes are one piece in a much larger Instagram marketing pie, and its public removal isn’t the end of the world.
Post Likes Still Important for the Algorithm
I guarantee that Post Likes will always be considered for Instagram’s algorithm distribution – the algorithm isn’t disappearing. Since the algorithm is a black box, it’s hard to know ALL of the signals that Instagram takes into consideration for content distribution across the platform; however, likes on posts, I can assure you, will still be one of them. They will matter – they may just not be as prioritized as other forms of engagement. Comments have always been weighted more than likes because it’s more work and shows more involvement from the user to type than to just double-tap.
Total Comments May be Prioritized
I’m not part of this test so I’m not sure on this point, but based on the announcement, Instagram only shared that total number of likes on posts will no longer be public. This leads me to believe that the total number of comments will continue to be shown. To my point above that comments are a stronger indicator of engagement, this may also move evaluating some content publicly away from likes to the actual content of the post (yay!) and number of comments. If this is the case, I’d caution everyone reading this to not get too excited and think of all the gimmicky ways to foster comments – Instagram will still penalize content that games the system and hurts the user experience. Brands and influencers should think of ways that make sense and are authentic to the brand and efforts to foster comments.
Stories Don’t have Public Views or Reaction Counts
A major product that is critical to success on Instagram are Stories…and spoiler alert: there aren’t public counts of how many views or reactions Stories have. Despite this, they are critical for content creators being discovered and earning income from Instagram use. If you’re reading this, you should be thinking about how you can improve your Story strategy on Instagram instead of worrying about Post Likes!
Social Proof Is Still Visible
While seeing Post Likes is a great way to evaluate how engaged a users’ audience is with content, it’s not the only way to evaluate social proof nor should it be the only metric used. You’ll still see if people are commenting on the posts and the total account followers remain public. And if anything, maybe this move from Instagram will help disincentive the like farms that continue to be a problem (and probably will be in terms of follower count, so proceed with caution like usual).
Other Ways to Evaluate Influencers and Creators
Since many people make their livelihood and brands are built on Instagram, I understand the worry of how this will hurt their businesses. That said, Post Likes have never been the sole way that we at Sociality Squared evaluate influencers we work with and that won’t change. Is the influencer aligned with the brand values and mission? Does this influencer already support the brand? Does the influencer’s content reach and resonate with the brand’s target audience? These are the questions you should ask when partnering with an influencer.
More Avenues to Make Money on Instagram
In addition to getting paid to be an influencer on Instagram, creators will have more tools to make money on the platform, especially as it becomes more and more of a shopping destination. That said, I don’t think this move will at all hurt an influencer’s ability to get paid to create content that reaches and resonates with the brands they work with.
Build a Brand Agnostic of Platform
In general, while entire brands and influencers run their entire businesses off of Instagram, it’s a best practice to build a brand that’s agnostic of platform. This way your business’s success doesn’t hinge off of the whims of the platforms themselves.
If you’re an influencer reading this, I’d recommend expanding your influence to beyond Instagram: start an email list if you don’t have one yet!
In Conclusion: It’s Not the End of the World
The hiding of Post Likes is currently just a test, so we’ll see if Instagram actually rolls this out fully or not. My guess is that they will since they’ve seen positive results from their early testing and they have a core mission to make the platform healthier. I support these efforts and am confident creators and influencers will survive and thrive after this change. As I mentioned above, Post Likes are one piece in a much larger Instagram marketing pie, and its public removal isn’t the end of the world.