Our thumbs are now accustomed to double-tapping on Instagram...but what happens if that no longer means anything? We’ve known for a while now that Instagram was testing the removal of Likes altogether, but it seems they’ve come to a conclusion…
Users will have the option to hide their post Likes from the public.
The goal of Instagram is for users to focus on the media that they, and others, are sharing and not the number of Likes that may set them apart from more popular accounts. It’s no surprise that this is happening as the age of social media users are becoming younger and younger.
“The theory, at the time, was that by removing like counts on posts, that would reduce competition over vanity metrics, which would in-turn lessen social comparison, and its associated negative impacts. That's especially important for a visual-focused platform like Instagram, which is also particularly popular among impressionable young users.”
- Social Media Today
We’ve seen this coming for a while, but it’s officially safe to say that Likes are no longer a significant form of currency on Instagram.
Let’s cover the following:
The history & appeal of Instagram likes
Will businesses on Instagram be affected?
*The information in this blog is based on the assumption and the latest rumor that Instagram will be giving users the option to hide Likes, and will not be taking away public view of Likes permanently for all.
Here’s the gist: the exact number of Likes you receive on a post will only be visible to you, if you so choose. Previously (and currently, for most), you could see the total number of likes on a post and could scroll through to see who Liked the post (left).
Now, if someone hides their Likes, you’ll see the above (right).
If you tap the word “others,” it’ll still take you to the full list of people who’ve Liked that post...so I suppose if you wanted to dumpster dive to see how many Likes someone’s post received, you could, but I imagine that would be quite the task.
However, we hear that users may be able to share their likes with others in just a few taps. We’ll see.
On the front end, this is the only thing that will visually change. On the back end, you’ll be able to see how many Likes your post has received. We’ll get more into what this means for you later, if you’re a brand on Instagram.
2. THE HISTORY & APPEAL OF INSTAGRAM LIKES
The first photo ever posted on Instagram was by the app’s co-founder, Kevin Systrom, months before the app was launched to the public on October 6, 2010.
Riveting. It’s sort of funny to compare what Instagram used to be to what it is now. And what it is now, is successful.
Through taking a look at Instagram’s history of development, you can get a sense of their overall mission (and how they have, believe it or not, for the most part stood by that), why they were so successful, and why they have been able to maintain that popularity and success over the past decade. By taking a look at their history and their beginning values, you may even be able to predict where they could go.
Given that Instagram is arguably the #1 social media platform in the world, "Likes on social media are addictive because they affect your brain, similar to taking chemical substances. Likes symbolize a gain in reputation, causing you to constantly compare yourself to your peers." - Dr. Steve Rose
When people say "social media is an addiction," they're not totally wrong. Recent evidence shows that getting Instagram Likes triggers the same area of your brain as chemical addictions.
Think of it like this: you ingest a specific amount of a drug. Eventually, your brain adapts to the dopamine response from that amount, and you might need an increased amount to feel the same affects. And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have an addiction.
Social media, specifically Instagram, is truly an interesting concept. While we receive dopamine hits with every double-tap on our content, we know social media can assist with increasing depression and decreasing. self-worth.
We'd love to give credit to our favorite source, Dr. Steve Rose, so we recommend checking out this article he published on his website. He dives deeper than we are into the psychology of social media.
The bottom line? It's HOW you use social media that matters.
3. WILL BUSINESSES ON INSTAGRAM BE AFFECTED?
The short answer? Yes...sort of.
Being able to understand where you are in popularity and strategy is really important and effective when implementing branding and marketing strategies, especially on Instagram. As far as marketing goes, you can always learn by A & B testing, trial and error, etc. And for social media, Likes used to help determine what type of content worked well and was largely consumed by audiences.
Hiding Likes will make this a little more difficult, but not impossible. Running an Instagram account may now feel more like a second job for businesses, rather than something they just “do” 3 times a week. It will mean an even more so, full-fledged studying + strategy + implementation approach, rather than throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Without any visual metrics of other accounts to compare similar strategies to, it may be more tough to find the answers to if your campaign is actually going well, if it’s some kind of fluke, or if you 100% hit the nail on the head. However, it’s not impossible.
PS: you’ll know you’re running your Instagram account correctly if it ALREADY feels like a second job (that’s why we exist!)
Keep in mind that success IS relative.
Keeping Tabs On Influencers
While Likes are no longer the top determining factor when it comes to engagement rate, it definitely still contributes to the overall rate (at least for now). Therefore, it will be a bit more difficult to discover if it’s worth it to work with a specific influencer (mainly if you're manually tracking their engagement), but there are plenty of programs out there to help you calculate engagement rate. You won’t have insight into what factors these programs apply and what they use to determine it, but if you compare a couple programs they usually come out to roughly the same percentage.
If you’re interested in working with an influencer, we recommend asking for their metrics specifically on post Saves from similar past brand collabs, and/or Swipe-up actions taken on their stories. If they refuse to provide, it’s not a total red flag - just be sure to check their overall engagement rate.
Influencers: when you’re partnering with a brand, it’s a good idea to have a few specific metrics handy. It’s no longer out of the question for brand’s to request specific metrics or actions taken on certain posts of yours. You could refuse to provide them, given that it’s your own backend data, but be prepared to provide an awesome media kit, your rate card, and to negotiate.
Rumor Has It...
As Instagram gives people the option to hide Likes, there will no doubt be hundreds of third-party programs that pop up to still be able to analyze competitors and collaborators accounts on Instagram, efficiently and effectively.
This is definitely one of the biggest changes for Instagram in a while, aside from adding Reels...it’s something that’s been there from the start, that they’re taking away. So naturally, we’ll have some questions that we’ll eventually need answered:
Do we have to hide likes each time we post?
Is this permanent or just a test?
When will this go into effect?
Will Likes also be hidden on Reels?
We’ll be sure to continue to update you on these questions, along with the several others that will no doubt come our way.
Many are asking, “Why did Instagram make engagement such a necessary and enticing part of being on the platform, and now are taking it away?”
We live and learn. We all make mistakes and don’t realize the consequences of our actions sometimes until the damage has been done. Also, I'm sure throughly studying the effects of social media on our wellbeing and discovering concrete, irrefutable evidence takes time.
While we may never know if this Instagram whiplash is intentional or not, what’s important is to see all the good this feature can bring about. It’s so unfortunate that social media has the ability to have a negative impact on those who use it, when each platform's mission states something about “bringing us closer together.”
However, we believe this feature may be the first of many big and positive changes coming. This is a good move on Instagram’s part, and great sign for things to come.
We’ve reached a point where it’s almost impossible to live without social media, and the way Instagram decided to look out for the mental health of its users is a much-needed act of social responsibility that will hopefully inspire other social media giants.