Instagram influencers: is there life after likes?

Back in April, Instagram announced that it would begin testing the effect of hiding total like counts on posts, a move which sparked controversy in an industry where likes are considered as currency. Last week, Insta CEO Adam Mosseri revealed that the changes would now be rolled out to US audiences. 

The move is pretty huge, and unfounded in a social media world that revolves around like counts. Immediate questions sprung to mind – how would the removal of a like count affect user behaviour? Would users be less inclined to tap ‘like’ if they didn’t know how many others had? How would it impact overall engagement? 

So, what are Instagram actually changing?

Users will still be able to see who has liked their own posts, but to everyone else the post will display with a generic ‘username and others like this post’, much the same as video likes currently display. 

Users will be able to see their own likes, but not the like counts of others.

Influencer platform HypeAuditor has released a study of more than 154k Insta influencers, each of which enjoys a following of at least 30% users in regions where the hidden likes test is running. These regions currently include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and NZ. 

The results found (with the UK as a baseline as we can still see like counts) are not definitive, but as shown below, influencers with between 5-20k followers did see a drop in likes. It’s tough to know just what effect the change is having without Instagram themselves sharing their findings, or indeed what internal KPIs they are using to measure success. 

HypeAuditor’s study saw a slight drop in influencer likes.

If you’re an influencer, you may well see a drop in likes when the change eventually comes to UK shores. However, that wouldn’t necessarily impact reach, or even wider engagement. However, it may well affect your enjoyment of what you do. Some influencers have already noticed their posts getting fewer likes and less engagement, pushing their posts down the algorithmic feed. 

If you’re a brand, on the other hand, it may well become harder to check how engaged an influencer’s audience actually is without using a technology platform to collect the data. If you’re relying on manual methods to collect the data (eg. scrolling through Instagram and updating a spreadsheet), you’ll have to reach out to the influencers for screenshots. 

It will be interesting to see how the change affects Instagram’s user base, which up until now has continued to spike. Will the one billion users who log in each month to get that little dopamine hit stop logging in so frequently? Time will tell.

Influencers seem to be responding positively to the changes.

Feedback from Irish Instagram users has been positive, as JOE IE reports. Irish influencer Jordan Harding, who has worked with brands such as Boohoo, says she has seen nothing but a positive impact since the change was made. She said that Instagram is now a “less pressurised environment for everyone, including influencers”.

What Digital Media Team think:

Aimee, Head of Content: “Let’s be honest, Instagram has been a pain in a lot of social media managers’ sides recently – with changes to the algorithm and feed sending us all a little stir crazy. But, this particular change could be a major shakeup for not only the future of the platform itself but how we approach content as a whole. 

“It’s hard to predict the impact this will have before it’s rolled out, but it’s certainly going to push users, influencers & brands to put their best (content) foot forward. Nobody will be able to rely on popularity to garner engagement anymore. Putting out high-quality & engaging content is about to get very competitive and honestly, I’m excited to be here for the ride.”

Kirsty, Operations Manager: “It’s a bit of unknown territory for everyone, really. It should put a stop to a lot of fake likes however, and as Aimee said, it should push people to produce better content. Better content should lead to a better experience for everyone.”

Ruby, Content Writer: “It’s interesting to see how this will pan out considering how much money goes into making sure content on Instagram actually sees engagement and likes. It will remove a lot of pressure from users and businesses, and perhaps people will focus on making better content for the platform now.”

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