A World Without Likes: The Impact of Instagram Hiding Likes

In the world of Instagram, “likes” are currency. They’re how consumers gauge popularity, influencers gauge quality, and advertisers gauge success. What would happen if likes on Instagram were to disappear altogether? 

In some countries, this possibility has already become a reality with Instagram hiding likes in a buzzworthy test this summer. Australia, Canada, and Japan are just a few of the countries that are experiencing Instagram content without a quantified “like” count in their feed. What does this mean, exactly? As an individual looking at your own content, you’ll be able to see “[username] and others like this post” instead of the traditional numerical value. For everyone else viewing your content, likes are removed altogether – almost as if they never existed in the first place. 

Instagram tests removing likes to improve user experience

For consumers

Instagram has stated that this decision to hide likes is designed to improve user experience and promote quality content on the app. An Instagram spokesperson explained, “We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.”

The concept of likes naturally breeds competition and validation, with the potential to create a toxic digital environment – which many believe Instagram has already become. For many young adults, this has become a serious mental health issue, with likes being used to measure self-worth or even being a catalyst for cyberbullying. 

So, without likes? The focus of the app would hypothetically shift from the quantity of likes to the quality of posts – thereby limiting the public judgment of content. For the typical Instagram user like you and me, taking away likes means that, well… we’re free! If you’ve ever thought twice about posting a photo but decided against it because the voice in your head said “you won’t get enough likes” or “nobody will care,” with this update you’d now be able to post without this anxiety. So go ahead and post all the latte art, dog selfies, and #nofilter sunset pics you want! (I mean, we kinda wanna see your dog selfies anyway.) 

New Instagram user interface without likes

For influencers

Likes have become a key engagement metric that helps influencers determine what success looks like – and ultimately, this public engagement justifies the appeal for advertisers and brands to invest advertising dollars into influencer marketing. Since the inception of social media influencers, likes have been a way of proving that an influencer’s audience is engaged with the content they post, therefore signifying true influence. But what happens if you remove that public engagement? We looked to our Digital & Content team at Cercone Brown to weigh in on the matter. 

“Instagram hiding likes seems like a scary concept at first, but I’ll bet it will prove to be a positive thing for influencer marketing,” began Gina Uttaro, Senior Social Strategist at Cercone Brown. “With the rise of influencer marketing has come the rise of influencer fraud. Working in influencer marketing, we see it all the time at CBC. Influencers pay for engagement so they can secure bigger brand partnerships. So, in my opinion, removing public Instagram likes will actually start to weed out these influencers without truly engaged communities. The piece of content will have to speak for itself, and we’ll start to shift our focus from vanity metrics to ROI metrics like click-throughs and conversions.”

So without likes, influencers will need to evolve their KPIs to prove their influence in other ways, such as comments, shares, click-throughs, and conversions – not mindless double taps. That said, influencers will still have all their back-end analytics to report to brands (including total likes), so the successful ones shouldn’t be too affected by this change. What may change, though, is an Instagram user’s behavior and how they interact with content, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

For advertisers

For brands, what impact does Instagram hiding likes have? Coming from an influencer marketing perspective, brands will have to dig a little deeper to ensure an influencer’s credibility and acquire other metrics before entering into a brand partnership. From the perspective of a brand’s owned social metrics, the emphasis on – and definition of – quality brand engagement will continue to evolve. The metrics will still be there, it will just allow branded content to stand on its own with the hope of generating more conversation rather than just hitting a like button. 

As brands start to get more savvy with digital and social media marketing, we’ll most likely see a shift in focus from fluffy metrics (likes) and more goal-oriented metrics (conversions).

Instagram hiding likes will change how we measure success on the platform

Instagram helped introduce the school of thought “the more likes, the better.” It gave us something to obsess over. Other photo-sharing apps, such as VSCO, have sufficed for years without “likes.” But can Instagram tame the social beast that it helped create, while still maintaining its popularity among users who are addicted to likes-induced gratification? We look forward to finding out.

P.S. @Instagram: If you’re gonna get rid of likes, can we at least get chronological order back?