Hello, hello, friends! Brace yourselves — the hiding of Instagram likes is coming! I want to take the time to really break it down today and give you guys some insight about what I think about the change (spoiler alert: I welcome it), and exactly what this could mean for creators. Now that I’ve started to make an income from my Instagram, it’s really important for me as a creator to understand how this shift in the platform will change not only how I interact with other creators and followers, but how I interact with brands (my employers), as well. I’ve done quite a bit of research about this and I hope this gives you some insightful information on how to brace yourself for the change.
Removing vs. Hiding
So, first off, this isn’t a permanent change; however, I think this beta testing is truly the beginning of a permanent do-away with likes. And, I should note: the likes aren’t going away, technically. However, others won’t be able to see how many likes you’ve gotten on a post, meaning that you are (the creator of the account) the only one able to see the like count. Instagram executives have said this shift is an attempt to “depressurize” the platform and pave way for a shift back toward quality content. Instagram has made this change in hopes that it will improve the mental health of users around the globe, which is so incredible. I’ll be the first to admit that vanity metrics are difficult to digest sometimes; it breeds an environment of competition, comparison and an implied (yet heavily misguided) ideal of success.
A Shift Back to Quality Content
With this change, we’ll see a shift away from content that is intended to maximize vanity metrics and instead a focus on quality content that is authentic, organic and personal. In the wake of vanity metrics, we saw a greater emphasis on ‘viral’ content; we also have seen a rise of inauthentic and ‘paid for’ vanity metrics. Without the pressure of others being able to see your metrics, posters no longer hold the fear of content ‘failing’ on the platform.
A Greater Emphasis on Stories
We’ve seen a really controlled focus on Instagram stories in the past year or so. It seems every time Instagram rolls out any kind of update, it gives greater range to the abilities of the Stories feature rather than fixing algorithmic qualms that seemingly plague the feed [please, just bring back the chronological order]. So, although this is perhaps independent of the likes feature disappearing, we will see a greater emphasis on the use of Stories.
More Sophisticated Engagement Analysis
Since likes are being hidden from users, there will be a shift toward different methods of engagement. This is especially important for creators/influencers that utilize their platforms to make money through brand collaborations and sponsorships. Now that brands won’t be able to see the amount of likes on a post, they must now rely on follower count and comments in order to determine if their investment in that creator would be worthy. Brands will most likely begin to ask you for your vanity metrics and insights [something many of them do already — asking for backend data and insights]. In addition, we may see a push for creators to write compelling copy that encourages users to have a conversation with them within the comments. Keep your eyes peeled for more intentional call-to-actions and lengthier comment replies.
Greater Opportunity for Micro-Influencers
It’s also very possible that this change will cause more opportunity for micro-influencers who were once limited by their vanity metrics, and instead open up the conversation for brands to connect with those creators based on their quality of their content and the possibility of connecting to micro-targeted audiences.
Wait… Could This Be For Money?
What a silly question. Of course this for money. This is Instagram after all; and while it’s nice that the platform is perpetuating the guise of doing this for users’ mental health, I feel that’s probably just a side-effect to the true root of all of this. Instagram recognizes the popularity of the platform for influencer marketing. They’ve seen this sort of explosive growth in the past few years; influencers have thus really driven advertising in a way that is unparalleled to traditional marketing techniques. I’ve talked about this before, and how influencer marketing is truly powerful because of parasocial interaction, but I digress on the subject for now. The point is — it’s powerful. It drives a ton of money into the pockets of brands, and in a way, it’s a much cheaper way of promoting content than traditional means.
Brands Can Promote Through Your Account
Instagram rolled out a feature that allows brands to promote influencer content through their accounts this past summer. I’ve only had one brand utilize this feature, but I do have more brands more frequently asking if I have this feature enabled should they choose to use it. Imagine my surprise when I received my Facebook analytics a few weeks ago and saw that my account had reached 400K in a week (lol). This is a really effective way for brands to promote content without reposting it or going through their own brand; all they have to do is pay for Instagram to promote it. Catch where I’m going with that?
The brand paid me $100 to create content for them, and in return, they had the ability to use my account, my name, my handle and my content/copy to promote their product to 400,000 people. That’s pretty wild. I’m not saying this as a bad thing, but it’s a pretty smart move on behalf of brands; they’re really getting a bang for their buck when turning to means like this.
So, it’s naive, I think, to think that money isn’t a major, MAJOR player in this. And I’m not exactly sure how it will effect influencers and creators — but I guess we will see.
So… what do I do?
Hopefully this information has given you a bit more insight of some changes we will see in Instagram in the coming months. I’m interested to see how this will benefit or create problems for creators especially in the future, since our income does rely on scoring collaborations. Will there be a greater emphasis on sending over screenshotted analytics, or are those too easy to ‘fake?’ Will there be a greater shift away from inauthentic vanity metrics, or will this make it easier for people to hide their true analytics? I’m interested to know what you all will think about it.