What hiding Instagram likes means for marketers

In early summer 2019, Instagram announced a move that could potentially be monumental for the social media world – it would trial hiding Instagram likes on the platform.

The trial was first noticed in Canada, and a Tweet from Instagram confirmed that it would also be testing on some profiles in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. If the change does happen then it means that people won’t be able to see how many likes a post has – though the number of likes will be visible to the user who posted.

Instagram said it launched the trial to find out whether it can help its users focus more on “telling their story”. Earlier this month, Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri, said that hiding the number of likes could benefit users and that “the big idea is to try and make Instagram feel less pressurised”.

While the announcement has got brand marketers and influencers alike talking and many disagreeing, when given more thought it seems the move might result in a social media world that is more authentic and responsible. Marketers should embrace and see the opportunity in authenticity – even if it does mean a few issues at the start!

man holding phone looking at Instagram - hiding Instagram likes

The platform hopes that with hiding Instagram likes, it will encourage people to post content that better reflects their own interests and that’s true to themselves – and not just for the visible likes.

Many social media experts agree that Instagram’s users tend to like posts on a whim. This means if the number of likes are hidden, people will be less encouraged to follow the crowd and engage with content that they genuinely like. Likewise, the effect it will hopefully have is that those posting will have content that’s more authentic and as a result should have better influence over their audience who genuinely like and trust the content. 

Working in an agency environment, I’m not alone in thinking the influencer bubble, at least as we currently know it, (although it’s been reported that the industry will be worth $6.5bn by the end of 2019) is due a pop before it evolves. In my judgement, hiding likes gives brands an opportunity to connect more authentically with their customers – and hopefully this means better conversions!

Let’s not forget the responsible side of hiding Instagram likes. With social media often blamed as a key contributor to poor mental health and low self-esteem, the possible change might mean that people are less bothered by likes if they aren’t visible on posts to anyone but them. 

With social media, as with all marketing and communications, the possible change is testament that nothing is ever static and those in the industry must evolve to make sure we keep up with the fast-moving environment. 

It can be easy to panic and see the negatives caused by change (like when SEO agencies and experts throw their arms in the air when there’s a Google algorithm update) – especially in this case, for those who have created a career solely around influencer marketing. The only way to take the reins is by looking at the opportunities these changes offer, not just about this but other unknowns that will inevitably pop up. 

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