Instagram is hiding likes – what does this mean?

Instagram hiding likes - Brave Bear Marketing

In July, Instagram announced that they were going to be making a big change – they’re going to start hiding likes. This news was met with a mixture of outrage and celebration depending on who you spoke to. There are many reasons why people are adamantly for and against this change. We’ve been doing some research to see how this will affect Influencer Marketing.

Why are Instagram removing likes?

Since it’s conception in 2010, Instagram has come a long way. Once used as an app to share random pictures with friends, nobody thought much of it. We’d share quick snaps of the dinner we’d made that night. Or upload a photo of the cat we’d stop to pet in the street. Not a lot of thought went into the content. Nobody had ‘curated feeds’ then, we’d just use one of Instagram’s filters. Nobody could have guessed that Instagram would become a career for anyone.

In 2019, Instagram is one of the most popular apps available with over 1 billion monthly active users. There are worries that using Instagram could be linked with bad self-esteem. It is impacting the younger generation who are seeing images of models and celebrities with “perfect” bodies and “perfect” lifestyles. Some people believe that this is leading to a lot of younger people, especially girls having a bad relationship with their bodies.

The social media network hopes that by removing likes, there will be less pressure surrounding the content that is posted. If a user can only see how many likes they have received and not others, there will be no way for them to compare themselves. While overall this is a positive change focusing on the mental health of younger users, it may have a negative impact on influencers.

So far, Instagram are trialling this in 7 countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, Brazil, New Zealand, Japan and Italy.

Instagram hiding likes - Brave Bear Marketing

How does Instagram removing likes effect Influencer Marketing?

Being an Instagram Influencer is now a full time job. While it’s not traditional work, there is a community of influencers who are earning a great wage from posting on the app. An influencer can earn thousands from just posting one photo for a brand. It’s estimated that Kylie Jenner can earn up to $400,000 per Instagram post. For those who have built a business around likes, this change is very worrying.

It has always been advised that influencers don’t “put all their eggs in one basket” and just rely on Instagram. As an Instagram user, you have no ownership over your profile and it can be terminated at any time. There have been recent reports of influencers’ accounts being deleted with no apparent reason, meaning that they have lost their primary source of income.

Buying followers and engagement

It is possible to buy Instagram followers, however this is bad practice – and obvious if you know what you are looking for. When we select influencers for campaigns, we always check out their engagement rate. Anything above 4% is considered to be very good, while anything above 6% is excellent. If someone has bought a few thousand followers, their engagement rate will still be very low. Buying followers seems like an easy option for those who want to become an influencer, but it can lead to them being blacklisted by brands and agencies. When likes have been hidden, we will still be able to check the engagement rate of an individual. Phlanx have already created a ‘like scraper’ which allows you to see the amount of likes a photo has.

The removal of likes will hopefully just encourage brands and agencies to do more research into an influencer before contracting them. It is not necessarily a bad thing for us, we will still be able to get insights and engagement data.

How the influencers feel

We have spoken to a number of different influencers on this topic to see how they feel. It is interesting to look into this from both perspectives. Many were worried that the having the likes hidden would impact their income. If brands can’t see how many likes they are getting, how will they know it is worth working with them?

For the removal of likes

While it’s a great metric to see how my post is doing generally, I prefer to look at things like comments, story mentions, reposts and where my blog is linked on other profiles as a true measure of engagement. 

The way I see it, a Like is more “this is kinda cool” but as comments, shares, etc take time, it’s a better indication that people like my content and want to engage with the message.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the profiles that focus on Likes as a measure of engagement do turn to buying followers, but I think the profiles that actively engage with their audience and encourage genuine interactions will probably keep on keeping on as they always have.

Emma Nassuada Ayres of Sass and Clack

I think hiding likes may negatively impact freelance influencers on Instagram, but if the overall goal is to ease the burden on people’s mental health in general then I am all for it. Industries adapt and so will this one. What’s more important is tackling this culture that places so much value on ‘likes’ and this is a step in the right direction I think. Even if it hurts my bottom line!

Kate Mai-Lyn of Ever After With Kids
Against the removal of likes

I think it’s just marketing. Instagram wants to pretend to be doing something without actually doing anything real. You will still be able to see your likes on the desktop. The only advantage is for Instagram. It will get paid more for advertising since people will like less – why bother if no one sees your likes? There’s no point removing likes and leaving other metrics like followers, impressions etc still there. The only thing this encourages is buying fake followers. This move suits and profits for Instagram – let’s not pretend it’s for our mental health. 

Anisha Kohli of Fashion and Frappes

What we think

While hiding likes may seem like a negative change, we are not expecting it to really effect the way we conduct our influencer marketing. There are still plenty of ways to see if an influencer is buying their following or engagement. Rest assured, we will only be working with influencers who have grown their following organically!

We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Are you an influencer? Do you work in digital marketing? Or are you simply just an Instagram user? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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