The Pros and Cons of Instagram Hiding Likes

By Kat on 26 July 2019

Instagram is currently testing hiding likes in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. The platform said on Twitter that the shift was to help you and your friends “focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” 

You’ll still be able to see your likes by tapping on the list of people who’ve liked it, but the number of likes will be fully hidden to your friends.

Whenever any platform rolls out a big update like this, there’s bound to be a little bit of backlash. But the social response on Twitter seems to be overwhelmingly positive so far.

So what are some of the reasons that users should be glad to see ‘likes’ go?

Pros


1. Greater focus on the quality of content

We like to think that engagement is a good gauge for success in the social media sphere. But the reality is that quality content can often get buried by such a fickle metric. This shift may mean that content creators and advertisers focus more on producing Instagram Stories and video to capture users’ attention in the moment, rather than waiting for the likes to build up on a single image post.

2. Improved mental health for teens

When 51% of girls aged 11 to 21 wish they looked more like the photos of women they see in the media, you have to wonder what kind of long-term impact the platform is having. If teens are indeed measuring their self-worth by likes, they might experience a boost in well-being from the feature disappearing. But it is worth noting that 78% of teens say that social media makes them feel closer to friends, so it’s not all bad!

3. People will post more often

Now that all the anxiety about social media performance has been eliminated, people might actually start posting to the platform more often. And this is likely the real reason why Instagram is backing this particular change. The more posts that people are scrolling through on their feed, the more adverts they’re likely to see as well. This may even be a boon for small businesses that are looking to increase their ad presence on the platform without the shame of limited likes.

4. A greater sense of community

The best end-goal for the hidden likes rollout is that the community on Instagram is actually more engaged than it was before. We even call likes ‘vanity engagement’ for goodness sake. Real engagement goes deeper than that. It’s a community that comments, digs deep, and from an advertising perspective, actually translates into sales.

But on the flip side, this slow roll out does mean that Instagram is expecting a bit of blowback on the following fronts:

Cons


1. There will be more focus on follower count

Getting rid of one metric might just move the goal post for another. If brands can’t vet influencers on first glance by their engagement rate, they might just zero-in on the follower count. After all, it does create an extra step to have to contact the influencers to find out the real story.

2. Paradoxically, it might encourage more people to buy likes

If no one can see the likes that you have, the transparency is completely eliminated as well. That means more people may be able to get away with buying likes for their posts without anyone questioning it. And if those phoney metrics go off to brands, they’ll be none the wiser. Here’s hoping Instagram has a few tricks up its sleeve to stop this practice…

3. It might limit influencer marketing

For brands that are already educated in influencer marketing, this won’t change how they are engaging with influencers that much. But for brands that haven’t worked with influencers or micro-influencers before, this might skew their perspective of performance. It may also mean that brands aren’t able to adequately assess what an influencer is worth.

4. It might mean that people rely more on other platforms

Let’s face it – people are obsessed with the dopamine hit that they get when they see a like or a favourite on a post. It’s become a real addiction. One that, for better or worse, our society just can’t shake. This change may just mean that people start migrating to other platforms to get their next hit. Only time, and this country-by-country trial, will tell.

Imperial Leisure is a creative communications agency specialising in viral marketing, digital and social media. We help our clients deliver the right message to the right audience. We'd love to hear from you so do drop us a line or follow us on Twitter.

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