Instagram has begun testing a significant change to its platform—removing the public like count and making this metric visible only to the content creator. The test has been rolled out to a select group of Canadian users who will have the number of likes and video views removed from their Instagram feeds, permalink pages, and profiles.
This is big news. Since the platform’s inception, likes and comments have been the social currency for posts. These metrics signal the popularity and value of content shared by users across demographics and industries.
In an effort to shift the focus from social performance to prioritizing mental health, Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s head of product, announced that Instagram is seeking to encourage a more “mindful usage of the app”, shifting metric visibility to emphasize creativity, authenticity, and expression rather than competition between users.
Previously, like counts were visible to any user who could view a photo post or video. Likes were tallied directly under the image or video, highlighting some key users and the additional number of likes the post had garnered.
With this new test, posts will still display a few key users who have liked the content but the total count has been transitioned from a value to a short line of text reading “..and others”. While total like counts can now only be viewed by the content creator, users can still click “…and others” to view a list of users who have liked the post.
All posts continue to display captions and comments, and remain shareable with other users via direct message and to users’ stories (but only if the content creator’s account allows for it).
What does this mean for businesses leveraging paid strategies on Instagram?
Although the like count can be a strong indicator of content’s relevance and success, the paid media strategies leveraged by businesses should be primarily focused on objectives that are unlikely to suffer as a result of this—namely brand awareness and engagement or click through.
Users losing insight into like counts will not impact a brand’s ability to target and serve content to a segmented audience in order to put relevant content in front of them to generate profitable action. For example, sponsored content posts and ads from fashion retailers will still land in their target demographic’s feed, regardless of whether or not users can view total post like counts.
But what about the influencers?
We know what you’re thinking, and you’re probably right: this test could lead to a massively disruptive change for influencers who rely solely on likes as the key indicator of their content’s value and success.
However, as content marketers we understand that it’s strong content, not likes, that fuels the influencer marketing engine. While likes can be a useful metric to review when brands are brokering a deal with an influencer, it’s crucial to consider engagement, follower growth, reach, video completion, and click-through rates as well. The key is to make sure the goal for the campaign is clear and measure its success with appropriate KPIs.
At this early stage, the removal of like counts is still in testing by Instagram. Brands and marketers may be concerned about how this reduced like count visibility will impact their campaign goals, but the viability and impact of Instagram marketing has already been proven out.
Want to prepare your social media marketing for a world without likes? Wondering if you should shelve your plans to engage influencers? Don’t be too hasty—we can play the long game together. Contact DAC.