How should you feel about those little hearts on Instagram? Would you like Instagram better without them?
Instagram is currently testing a like-free environment in seven countries. In the new display, users will still be able to see the likes and views their own posts have received, but the total number of likes and video views on the accounts they follow will be hidden.
If likes become a thing of the past, here’s what Ihope we’ll see:
Content quality improvements. Without an immediate way to see a post’s popularity, users may be inspired to focus on the quality of their content rather than the end reaction. Users are already reporting a sense of freedom from chasing validation through likes.
Without visible indication of how successful a post has been, what will ultimately inspire us to keep sharing content? Perhaps the content itself will become the reward, a return to the simple pleasure of capturing and discovering life’s little moments.
Stories will gain traction. Thanks to the Swipe-Up feature on Instagram Stories (available to verified/business accounts with 10,000+ followers), sponsored Stories are a measurable and transparent way to promote branded content and drive sales.
The short-form Stories offer unfiltered, behind-the-scenes glimpses into the less curated world creators actually exist in. I think we’re going to see more brands partnering with influencers to creatively align with their lifestyles through Stories.
Metrics will matter more than ever. Since likes will still be available to each user, Instagram’s API will allow those of us in the industry to measure likes along with other engagement metrics that aren’t visible to audiences: actual impressions for posts and Stories, post saves, Story replies, and more.
Without likes, it will definitely be more difficult to evaluate an influencer's engagement by just glancing at their feed. That’s why working with an agency will be important for brands who want real performance metrics.
Follower counts and post likes aren’t necessarily linked to sponsorship performance — ie, microinfluencers are often a much better brand partner than celebrity influencers. Ultimately, engagement, views and other metrics will prevail as KPIs, because likes have never truly been an indicator of success.
Fraud tactics will shift. With likes no longer showing, people won't feel the need to artificially increase numbers to make their content look more popular. But it will all come down to how Instagram’s algorithm works: for instance, if a flurry of likes soon after a picture is published continues to bump it up in newsfeeds or the explore tab, we’ll likely still see some shady practices.
Paid support will be more valuable than ever. Influencer marketing is all about reaching audiences in a way that feels more authentic and natural than traditional advertising, but that doesn’t mean paid media doesn’t have a place in this environment. Paid support helps amplify a post to a wider audience, with fine-tune targeting and measurement capabilities. In particular, the ability to promote branded content ads in-feed is a terrific option for using great influencer content to reach new audiences in a credible, organic way.
Some influencers are going to freak right out. I mean … yeah. This kind of thing is going to happen. Change can be hard. But many will be fine:
Taking away likes is going to relieve some of the stress of knowing that folks "have your number". I think it'll encourage creators to be original again instead of doing things because they know certain types of content always get likes! Brandi Riley, influencer at Mama Knows It All & Courage To Earn.
I’d love to see a world where people don’t value themselves in relation to their social media success, and if removing likes helps us move in that direction, I’m all in. Brands will have to take a closer look at which content actually drives their business goals, and that’s not a bad thing. And while we wait for all of this to become a reality, can we reduce the number of fear-mongering, click-bait articles about the death of influencer marketing?
In the end, likes were always a fickle valuation. Ditching the vanity metrics in order to focus on real engagement? I like that. I like that a lot.