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Instagram expands hidden likes test

“We don’t want Instagram to be such a competition. We want it to be a place where people spend more of their energy connecting with the people that they love and the things that they care about.” — Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram.

I’m sure you heard about Instagram’s plans to hide the total number of likes content receives. Influencer marketing platform HypeAuditor has published an analysis of content from over 154k Instagram influencers, who receive at least 30% of their following from users in the regions where Instagram’s hidden Like counts test is currently being trialed.

Currently, Instagram is testing hidden like counts in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. The UK, where the test is not active, is used as a benchmark for the normal trend. Next up, they have announced to roll out the test in the USA.

Instagram expands hidden likes
Graph by Social Media Today

What does it mean?

Instagram has not issued any reports on its own yet. Therefore, it is hard to explain the exact impacts. In the end, it is important to remember that Instagram is a business that needs to generate profits and noble statements by the CEO are just nice words.

A decrease in content quality

Like it or not, but Instagram is competitive. For many, it’s a platform to do business and fight for attention from users. A number of likes are a validation of their content. Engagement rates are powerful in determining the quality of content and its relevance. By hiding the likes, Instagram indirectly tells that the quality does not matter as nobody will see whether a post got 50 or 5k likes.

A push for paid advertising

If organic reach and engagement are dropping, Instagram will push paid advertising onto businesses. They know that the conversion rate on Instagram (especially in certain regions) is horribly low. That’s why businesses and influencers will have to rely heavier on paid advertising to minimize damage caused by drops in organic engagement rates.

Personally, I don’t find Instagram advertising worthwhile. It is great to get huge numbers of double-taps, but it leads to no conversion and a very low increase of followers.

Engagement rate is likely to drop

Whether Instagram hides the total number of likes or not, your engagement rate will drop. The engagement rate has been on a drop for a while, as people become less and less likely to engage with the content. Now, if the total number of likes is not there, some of the users may feel that their double-tap is worthless and simply do not engage with the content.

Maybe, by not showing a total number of likes, Instagram is actually trying to hide the drop in engagement rates? Engagement is what drives their business, after all.

Instagram will become a useless tool for businesses marketing

Marketers rely on certain metrics to measure the successes and failures of campaigns. The most basic ones are, of course, impressions, engagement rate, and the number of followers. By eliminating, by far, the most important metric, Instagram makes itself useless in business marketing. Nobody would work on Instagram campaigns, invest money in content production when the results cannot be measured.

Instagram will become the sole keeper of all data

Currently, Instagram analytics is very limited. That’s why many business accounts rely on third-party providers to get more detailed insights into their posts. If the numbers are hidden from the public, most likely the third-party apps won’t be able to crawl and analyze the statistics of the posts, which will mean that Instagram will be the sole keeper of any data on your account. This is again bad for marketing a business or a product on Instagram, as the results won’t be measured.

Even if Instagram is considering its noble mission of reducing competition for likes, it must take into consideration those who bring lots of visitors into the platform. These content creators are crucial for Instagram’s success and further growth. If they are not satisfied with what the new platform is, they will take their audiences elsewhere. This will create a void on Instagram, with much poorer quality of content and naturally much lower revenue.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a positive change. But again, it’s an experiment that Instagram is conducting and it’s worth waiting for the results.

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