By Shelcy Joseph

This week what would, once, have been unthinkable, actually happened: Instagram announced that it would test hiding likes in the U.S. The move, as CEO Adam Mosseri explained, is an attempt to protect users’ mental health at a time when likes can arguably give false validation. The idea is that if you can’t see how many likes you get, you can stop obsessing over them and really focus on putting out content you love. Sounds good, in theory? Well, it depends on who you ask.

For influencers, the change could release them from the pressure of having their likes displayed in real time, especially on sponsored posts. Additionally, it will give influencers greater control over their follower data by hiding likes from companies that mine and package this information to sell to advertisers.

For influencers who’ve been working with the change, not much seems to have shifted. Canada-based bloggers Tricia and Alya tell us that it has actually encouraged them to be more active on the platform. “Instagram hiding likes has really helped us focus on engaging with our audience instead of relying on likes to gauge their interest”, the Selfies & Rosé founders said. As such, influencers could stand to continue benefiting from this development.

On the brand side however, feelings are more mixed. For some, the shift may interfere with their community growth efforts. Removing likes, as swimwear brand Beefcake told Glossy, can diminish a brand’s credibility in the eyes of consumers. Furthermore, seeing the number of likes can signal so much more. “Our brand’s mission is to disrupt traditional notions of gendered beauty in swimwear. When you see images of people who are all different shapes, sizes and gender presentations looking confident and happy in swimwear, and those posts are getting hundreds of likes, it shifts your concept of what is attractive and beautiful. Removing likes removes some of the post’s power,” said Mel Wells, Founder of Beefcake.

That is, however, only one view. Perhaps it will actually deepen and make interactions on the platform more authentic, as brands will be required to engage with their consumers in an organic way. As Small Girls PR’s group account director for influencer and social media marketing, Lindsay Johnson, told Glossy “Essentially, it will require brands to focus on fostering community rather than surface-level content that appears pretty but doesn’t drive conversation. Brands will need to focus on the quality of conversation happening in places like in the comments section of posts, in DMs, and in responses to things like Polls and Questions tags”.

Here at BDB, on the agency side, we are welcoming the change. As our Founder and President Permele explained, the move will push creativity to new levels on the platform and empower creators to focus on quality creative. “This change should encourage users to create more dynamic content that drives conversations, which is great for brands”, added Permele. 

It’s also important to remember that likes aren’t the only metric of success, as our Founder and CEO Edward East pointed out: “We believe that comments and brand sentiment will become a more important – and genuine – measure of success, because up until recently the emphasis has been on likes rather than genuine comments”. While brands won’t have access to influencer likes, they can nevertheless acquire that information through agencies. “Our tech tool partner Companion”, says Ed, “which works through the Instagram API will still be able to collect data on likes even if they do not appear in people’s feeds”.

All things considered, hiding likes stands to impact the industry in a positive way: we expect to see more creative work and genuine interactions on the platform. Whether or not it will ultimately help safeguard mental health remains to be seen.

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