In an effort to make Instagram a less pressurized environment, the platform is beginning to experiment with hiding like counts on posts as well as possibly making follower counts less prominent on profiles. The test, which started in Canada, is officially expanding to Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. It's a logical step following Instagram's recent increased efforts to prioritize mental health and encourage more mindful usage of the app.
In the social media economy, likes have become a crucial form of currency — the pursuit of which can negatively affect mental health and breed addictive tendencies among users. This announcement has been met with a largely positive reception. Who doesn't want to feel less bad when they open their phone and scroll through a grid of curated perfection with the numbers right there to quantify it? Still, the announcement leaves one to wonder: How might this impact influencers and content creators, for whom like and follower counts are the bread and butter of their work?
Like count is an important metric by which influencers can determine follower engagement and broker deals with brands — the value of which drove an egg to international stardom in January when it garnered 35 million likes and thus usurped Kylie Jenner's throne for most-liked Instagram photo. But it's not the only metric that brands value when it comes to partnering with influencers and creators.
Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, an AI-based influencer market place, says: "Content, not likes, is what’s driving the train. There are several other metrics that can be used to measure the validity and effectiveness of a brand’s campaign. We also look at story engagement, follower growth, and attention metrics like video completion, audio on or off, and valid and viewable impressions. Click-through rates that measure new leads and website traffic is also something that we look at very closely."
Influencers and creators can earn big paychecks on Instagram — thousands of dollars for throwing an #ad in a caption. Mediakix, an influencer marketing agency, told Refinery29 last year that influencers with fewer followers and lower engagement rates can earn $444,000 a year, while those with higher numbers can earn closer to one million. It's not unusual for brands to pay as much as $15,000 for a post.
Instagram recognizes the importance of like count for creators, and the platform is considering how potentially hiding like count could impact influencer-brand relationships. It's an impact that Caila Quinn and Belle Bakst, two influencers who frequently partner with brands for posts on Instagram, told Allure last week could make it more difficult to determine how their posts perform.
"We understand that [like count] is important for many creators, and while this test is in exploratory stages, we're thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners. We hope that by making the number of likes private, people will be able to focus more on the photos and videos posted in Feed, and that this will ultimately drive deeper engagement," said an Instagram spokesperson in an email to Refinery29. Clearly, Instagram is trying to keep its creators happy: On Tuesday, it also announced the expansion of IG Shopping to include creators and influencers, so that users can shop directly from their posts the way they already can from brand posts.
Still, it's a move that some content creators like Ani Acopian, a video director who uses Instagram to showcase her work, view as a welcome return to Instagram's original purpose. "Instagram has started to feel like a competition instead of somewhere to go for inspiration," said Acopian. "I think hiding like counts will encourage people to share things they truly care about again instead of things they think other people will like."
Ultimately, Detert at Influential doesn't think hidden like count will have much bearing on the way influencers and creators do business with brands, as the space is ever-evolving: "While brands may initially question how removing likes will impact their campaign goals, the viability of marketing on Instagram has already been proven."