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Dec 05 2019

The “Future” of Instagram: Who Likes It?

If you’re keeping up with the wild world of social media, you may have heard about Instagram testing hidden “likes” in select countries earlier this year. It seems our friends at the photo sharing platform liked what they saw (pun very much intended) enough to extend testing into the United States market.

If you haven’t heard this industry tidbit – or if you’re scratching your head wondering what this all means – let me explain.

Instagram’s test involved removing the total number of likes on photos and videos a user views in their feed. The creator of the post still has the ability to view the number of likes on their content, but that number won’t be displayed to the account’s followers.

But, Like… Why?

Instagram understands the strong influence its platform has, especially with younger users. “The idea is to… ‘de-pressurize’ Instagram, make it less of a competition” CEO Adam Mosseri offered at the WIRED25 Conference this past November. This isn’t a wild idea, if you think about it: one 2013 study suggests the wealth of information available to Facebook users can exacerbate feelings of envy and diminished personal satisfaction. While the study did not include Instagram, it’s not much of a reach to consider how repeated exposure to curated photo content might have similar effects.

What Could It Mean For Your Business?

Whether you are an influencer or rely on one (or more), the idea of hiding the relative success of an Instagram post can feel a bit unsettling at first. That number can certainly feel like a badge of success! First things first: your content will still be seen! Followers liking and engaging with your content will still influence Instagram’s algorithms and ensure it stays visible and prominent. The key word in that previous sentence: engaging. In 2019 and beyond, those double taps are not enough to keep your account at the top of folks’ feeds. Creating content that your customers want to engage with regularly – in the form of comments and sharing with others – is key.

Stop Worrying About Likes and Start Getting Real

You’ve likely heard us lament the overuse of “authenticity” as a marketing term. While we haven’t found the perfect alternative in our thesaurus yet, the concept still stands: your customers want to see the real you, and know about the real skills and gifts you have to offer. Letting go of the need to create content that “performs” gives you the freedom to be as authentic as you want to be… which ideally leads to more genuine connection with the folks who like what they see. 

Of course, all of this is speculation right now, since Instagram is only testing this new feature with a limited number of its accounts (if you happen to be one of those accounts, let me know!). That said: don’t be afraid to run some tests of your own! Free yourself from the notion that your content has to perform like your competitors or your peers, and see what happens. You can always reach out to me for help, or for ways to measure its success.


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