Instagram has started testing the hiding of like counts and video views globally, including the US, last week. This test is making waves across the industry, but don’t panic. CLEVER Product Manager Carmen Shiu breaks it down for us.

TL;DR:

  • What is Instagram doing?

    • Some users currently will not see the # of Instagram likes or video views of posts — only the user who posted can do so.

  • …But why are they doing this?

    • Instagram says it’s for mental health reasons, and it’s always a good idea to be mindful of mental health issues. This may be true, but also: this is business and this is a business decision.

    • Whether this becomes a permanent change could highly depend on how it impacts user behavior, such as a decrease in engagement, especially in Instagram ads.

  • Will this change user behavior?

    • It’s important to note that this isn’t just a change in the metrics we can see. What users do may also change — our influence is the same, but how people show that they are engaged may be very different.

  • How will this impact our industry?

    • What we’ve been saying for the past ten years is even louder now: Quality content is more important than metrics.

    • We have a clear advantage: We have been curating our network for years based on engagement and content quality.

    • Another question remains to be seen — will this potentially deter influencers or brands away from using their apps?

WHAT IS INSTAGRAM DOING?

Facebook (who owns Instagram) has started testing the hiding of Instagram like counts and video views earlier this year with other countries and they finally started testing globally, including the US, last week. Note that this has not been rolled out to all users, but some users currently see these changes.

 

If you’re part of the test, you’ll notice that all the posts in your feed say @[handle] and others where it used to say the # of likes (or video views for videos):

 

 

As an audience, you’re able to click on it to see who liked the post, but it won’t tally the # of likes for you or show you the # of video views.

 

The idea is that the only person who can see the total # of likes (and video views if it’s a video) is the person who posted by tapping on where it says [@handle] and others, who will then see this:

 

…BUT WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?

Instagram says that mental health is the reason why they’re doing this. While that may be true to some degree, the real damage, as some have argued, is in the comments, where abuse actually happens.

 

Ultimately, we don’t know why Instagram is doing this. It’s likely a business decision — possibly to try to increase control, usage, or monetize down the road. 

 

While the chances of this being a permanent change seem high (solely because they’re willing to test it on their biggest market), it comes down to how it all plays from here out on here. 

 

Even though Instagram is testing this, it could backfire: engagement could decrease. And more importantly, engagement could decrease on boosts/ads, because Instagram ads also no longer display the # of likes:

 

 

Given that ads are a revenue generator for Instagram and CPE is a crucial metric for companies, it’s hard to imagine either party will be happy and want to keep the change if it means engagements dramatically dip here.

 

That brings us to the next question:

WILL THIS CHANGE USER BEHAVIOR?

It’s important to note that this isn’t just a change in the metrics we can SEE. What users DO may also change. If you can no longer see the # of likes number going up for a friend, maybe you won’t like as much. 

 

It remains to be seen whether hiding likes will make people want to like more, less, or the same. And if they are liking less, it doesn’t necessarily mean people will comment more.

 

Our influence is the same, but how people show they are engaged may be very different, as it will need to adapt and change in order for this social platform to stay social. 

 

HOW WILL THIS IMPACT OUR INDUSTRY?

What we’ve been saying for the past ten years is even louder now: Quality content is more important than metrics. The influence the content creates won’t change — only the way we measure or see that will change.

 

If this data remains cut off from public access, then vetting influencers based on engagement is not really possible, or at least not the same way as before. Really, quality content is key.

 

While this is happening in the world of Facebook/Instagram, another question that remains to be seen is: Will this potentially deter influencers or brands away from using their apps? Will Twitter make a comeback? Will TikTok, which is getting more popular and popular every day, take the reign of being the social app? There is so much we do not know.

 

What we do know is this:

We have been curating our network for TEN YEARS based on engagement and content quality. Nothing changes our mission or our belief that our influencers are the most talented, most highly vetted, most professional content creators in the business.