Hidden from their audience

In July 2019, Instagram announced it would be trialling hiding Likes. The Likes would still be visible to the author, but hidden from their audience.

It appears that Facebook may now follow suit, conducting the same trial in Australia. Twitter and Youtube have also both previously stated that they have considered a move to remove popularity metrics.

Opinions are divided on why social platforms are looking at making these moves. The social platforms say it is due to mental health concerns for their users. But cynics believe it may be more down to these platforms wanting to nudge brands towards paid advertising.

Whatever the reason, there is little doubt that this move will have a significant impact on a digital world that has seen the rise of influencer marketing, built on Likes.

Impact on influencers

As expected, the potential decision to remove Likes from social platforms, particularly Instagram, has left many influencers feeling concerned about their position in the industry.

Brands who work with influencers often rely upon this metric to select the talent they want to work with and evaluate the success of campaigns with influencers.

Influencers who have been affected by the Instagram trial are already seeing an impact on their accounts. A recent research study of Canadian influencers by #paid, found that more than half of influencers involved in the trial have seen the number of Likes drop on their posts.

This drop creates a catch-22 for influencers. The Like feature is linked to how Instagram’s algorithm prioritises what is seen on feeds. The fewer Likes a post receives, the less the author’s posts are seen. Therefore the fewer likes their other posts receive, the smaller their account growth. And if influencers’ posts aren’t receiving engagement, and their followers aren’t growing, then brands won’t be looking to work with them.

Impact on Instagram

However, although most of us probably see influencers and Instagram as going hand in hand, this is not necessarily the case.

Several years ago the social platform Vine was all the rage. Vine users existed with millions of followers. Yet, when Twitter announced it would be shutting down the app within a few months, the smart accounts took their content elsewhere and their audience followed. These same people are now sharing their videos on Instagram and being paid for their influence.

There is a chance that Instagram and Facebook are alienating their audience with the removal of vanity metrics. Influencers may move to new platforms, taking their followers with them.

However, with 1billion monthly active users and 500million daily active users, the collapse of Instagram is unlikely.

The true age of influencing

Instagram might experience an initial knock-back from influencers who are not happy with the removal of Likes, but it’s extremely unlikely it will drastically impact the established social media giant.

We think, should Instagram go ahead with removing Likes across the whole platform, it will ween out the floods of ‘influencers’ who lack influence.

There are tons of accounts on Instagram that share picture-perfect posts and rake in the Likes, but lack a true connection with their audience and fail to convert those Likes into sales for the brands that pay them.

Removing the vanity metric, may put true influencers back in the spotlight.