Possible impacts of 'hiding' likes on Instagram

by Marianne Stenger
Posted: September 02, 2019

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For quite some time now, participation in social media has been a popularity contest of sorts, with each user vying for approval and validation in the form of ‘likes.’ Posts that don’t generate enough buzz are often swiftly removed from public view.

Hiding 'likes' on Instagram

Instagram recently announced that it is running a test that hides the number of likes or views each post receives to help people focus less on ‘likes’ and more on telling their story. In some cases, users in the trial group would still be able to see when someone they follow has liked something, but in general, the number of likes on each post will no longer play a significant role.

While this may not be a big deal for the casual Instagram user, it’s likely to be a game changer for brands and influencers who use Instagram for marketing purposes. So what kind of impact would the removal of ‘likes’ have on social media marketing for businesses? 

Here are a few predictions:

Inauthentic engagement will be a thing of the past

Currently, a great deal of importance is placed on the number of likes each Instagram post generates. This model has lead to inauthentic practices that are meant to artificially inflate the appeal of a user’s account. In fact, research shows that more than half of influencers have engaged in fraudulent activity such as paying for followers, likes or comments. 

However, if the number of likes on each post were to be hidden from other users, there would be very little incentive for brands and influencers to pay for fake followers and likes. Ultimately, this would lead to greater transparency and authenticity on Instagram.

More emphasis will be placed on genuine interactions

Without being able to rely on the number of likes on each post to boost their image, brands and influencers will have to put more emphasis on connecting with their audience and sharing content or providing feedback in meaningful and authentic ways. For example, in order to boost engagement on each post, more effort will likely be put into making sure captions and images are as thought-provoking as possible.

The lack of visible likes on each post may also encourage users to read captions more carefully and leave thoughtful comments rather than just ‘liking’ the post or leaving an emoji.

Content will become stronger and creativity will flourish

An Instagram without ‘likes’ would likely push brands to deliver stronger content and also find more diverse and creative ways to engage with their audience, such as through videos, stories and live video streams. Currently, brands tend to post things based on what has gotten them the most likes in the past, which often leads to repetitive content. But without the pressure to rack up as many likes as possible, creativity will flourish, as Instagram users will be free to think outside the box and experiment with new and unexpected types of content.

Of course, it’s impossible to say exactly how Instagram’s proposed changes will alter the social media marketing landscape, but all-in-all, a greater emphasis on quality content as well as genuine interactions can only be a positive thing for both consumers and brands.

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Marianne Stenger

Marianne Stenger

Marianne Stenger is a London-based freelance writer and journalist with extensive experience covering all things learning and development. She’s particularly interested in the psychology of learning and how technology is changing the way we learn. Her articles have been featured by the likes of ABC Education, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and Psych Central. Follow her on Twitter @MarianneStenger.

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