What Instagram’s decision to hide Likes could mean for brands

Thought Leadership
Following the recent announcement that Instagram is expanding its trial of hiding Likes on the platform to more regions around the world, Strategist Matt Friedman examines what this move could mean for brands, should the update be rolled out globally. 

For the past several months, Instagram has been testing hiding Likes in a few countries, and is now continuing to roll this trail out globally in smaller batches – including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand.

The United States is noticeably absent from the list of test countries, likely due to the oversaturation of influencers making money from their mass followings and the massive disruption a test here could cause.

The continued dialogue around the effects of Instagram on the mental health of its users, especially the younger ones, is likely the driving force of this test. Users are struggling to keep up with the reels of their friends and the celebrities they follow, and it’s proving to be exhausting and often toxic in many cases.

In an attempt to alleviate some of these pressures, under the new system, Instagram users will no longer be able to see the amount of Likes others receive on posts, however, the user will still be able to see their own Likes within the backend of the platform.

Individual user behavior could change, but marketers and influencers would be most impacted
With Instagram becoming more of a marketplace for brands than a place for users to interact with one another, this feature may encourage users to create content like they used to, should it be rolled out globally. Similar to the recent changes with Facebook, Instagram appears to be trying to return to a focus on personal content shared between friends and family – though we can’t help but wonder if there are underlying financial motivations driving the test.

While the effect that this will have on user’s posting habits is still cloudy, it’s clear that brands and influencers especially will have to adapt the way they use the platform most radically.

The biggest factor at play is how marketers, brands, and influencers will agree on the price of sponsored posts, as there won’t be an individual public metric to standardize pricing against (outside of follower count). The change could encourage both marketers and influencers alike to value other behavioral metrics, such as video completion, and to produce content that isn’t explicitly engineered to game engagement metrics.

Transparency would also become increasingly important, as brands would become more reliant on influencers to share first-party analytics to understand content performance.

While all of these changes may initially exacerbate frustrations for performance measurement, it may have the long-term effect of placing greater importance on content formats (Stories, IGTV, Shoppable IG) that provide actionable metrics such as swipe-ups and purchases — allowing us to track performance metrics as well as calculate ROI.