Hidden In Plain Sight: Instagram Tests Hiding Like-Counts From Public View

 In Social Media

A social media calamity erupted in Canada a few weeks ago when Instagram removed the “like-count” from photos on user feeds. At Facebook’s annual F8 Conference, Instagram – a platform owned by Facebook – announced future changes to the photo-sharing website. The new test will make like-counts private for some users in the Canadian market. The initial results from the test hid like-counts, which are normally displayed below every photo and video, from users’ public posts.

Since the test first launched, the fallout included a drop in overall likes for the majority of feed posts. Unsurprisingly, this is a disturbing development for users and brands alike.

Users currently affected by the test can still view the volume of likes on the photos and videos they upload. However, the like-count usually seen beneath photos won’t display on other users’ feeds. While it’s unclear if this test will roll out onto other markets, brands keep scrambling to understand how this change can affect online marketing.

According to Instagram, the test stems from an effort to shift users’ attention away from the volume of likes that a post receives, and toward the content of the post itself. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, commented, “we don’t want Instagram to feel like a competition. We want to make it a less pressurized environment. We want people to worry a little less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram, and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about.”

How Will Instagram’s Like-Counts Test Affect The Marketing Landscape?

As this change looms over users and brands alike, marketers must now re-evaluate performance measurement across Instagram’s platform. Instagram likes hold great weight in measuring success ever since brands and influencers realizing the platform’s potential as a marketing portal. Today, Instagram marketers use likes to determine which types of posts resonate with their audiences, helping them to tailor future posts and actions.

In the event that this test becomes the new norm, marketers will have to rethink KPIs on Instagram. Users will also need to determine how to navigate a like-free platform when planning their posts.

While it is not yet clear exactly how like-count hiding will affect brands, here are a few possible scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: This change will make users less likely to “like” a post in line with their interests. In this case, brands will struggle to plan future posts based on the past performance of similar posts.
  • Scenario 2: This change could weed out “bandwagon likes” – or likes that derive from the viral propensity of a user to like posts with which his/her friends are interacting. If this is the case, marketers can tweak their posting formula based on better data, allowing them to share posts that truly resonate with their audience.

Moving Forward with Instagram’s Changes to Likes

It’s currently unclear if this test will become permanent. However, marketers affected by the change should prepare for either outcome. As digital marketers, we need to adapt to new media as well as changes within current media platforms.

In response to this, marketers should:

  1. Continue to put out quality feed posts for audiences to enjoy.
  2. Increase the number of Instagram Stories, which studies show help extend reach. Also, Instagram stories continue to grow in popularity among users. You can also use Instagram stories to promote the daily content that you share on your feed.
  3. Work with an experienced digital agency. These social media gurus can help you understand how to move forward under these changes.

Our Final Thoughts Instagram’ Like Test

Any changes to a platform as large as Instagram will certainly cause tension for users. But it is important to remain focused on the task at hand: building your brand. Focus on creating quality content, and your efforts will soon yield measurable success.

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