Instagram, one of the first and most prominent platforms in the influencer marketing space, is testing hiding Like counts and video views in 7 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. Our Italian teammates can already see the change reflected in their feeds, which removes the “Likes” metric that used to sit below each post.
Influencers will still be able to view Likes on their own posts, which means that marketers can still analyze this data as part of a complete campaign evaluation. Furthermore, the Instagram algorithm will continue to rank posts based on Likes, so creators are still heavily incentivized to produce quality content. However, the fact that followers can no longer see how many likes a post receives (unless they click-through for more information) has huge implications for how content creators work.
“We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves,” said Mia Garlick, Facebook Australia and New Zealand’s head of policy. “We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.”
What does this mean for influencer marketing – an industry that has for so long relied on such metrics to communicate campaign results to clients?
In the early days of the influencer marketing, marketers determined rates largely on follower counts and likes – what’s commonly referred to as vanity metrics. The result was an unspoken incentive for users to juice their numbers by any means necessary, such as the use of bot farms to artificially increase followers, likes, and event comments.
As the industry matured, marketers realized such data can look impressive on the surface, but fail to capture a comprehensive picture of campaign performance. Decreased trust in vanity metrics have pushed marketers to find better ways of demonstrating value. But while marketers have been pushed away from focusing solely on these numbers, creator culture is still very much influenced by the never-ending quest for social validity.
A Return to Authenticity
One of influencer marketing’s most powerful assets is the perceived authenticity of content creators. Through authenticity, influencers build trust with their communities and establish meaningful connections.
However, the pressure to perform has resulted in a creeping sameness on the platform, with creators feeling compelled to post content they believe will receive the most likes. But content that’s made to fish for likes, instead of providing real value to users, is a trap that this update aims to fix (not to mention the potential upside for mental health).
Without the fear of “looking bad” in front of their audience, influencers will become emboldened to experiment with new styles and formats. One only has to look at the meteoric rise of Instagram Stories (the platform’s fastest-growing product), which provides no publicly visible metrics at all. Users report decreased self-consciousness when posting to Stories, likely due to its more casual atmosphere.
If there’s one thing we can say about Instagram, it’s that they’re certainly not afraid of change. This particular shift affects influencers more so than brands, and a few creators are still struggling to wrap their head around a Like-less feed.
Still, this is influencer marketing – an industry built on disruption and innovation. Change gives rise to greater opportunities and creativity (but most importantly, it’s necessary for survival). If Instagram indeed pulls the trigger on a global rollout, we’re confident that both creators and brands will adapt, just as they’ve always done.
In fact, many creators are already embracing the change with open arms:
If you’re considering making an influencer marketing play on Instagram, we’d love to discuss new strategies to make the most of this new frontier. Drop us a line here!