23 July 2019 Instagram is hiding likes – what does this mean for marketers?

Could removing the ‘like’ function from Instagram open up opportunities for agencies to push for transparency in an industry where campaign results can sometimes be difficult to decipher? Icon Agency’s Account Executive, Saskia Dodds-Painter explores how the removal of an outward-facing like count could improve the agency-influencer relationship and influencer marketing as a whole. 


In today’s digital economy ‘likes’ are a commodity – and Instagram generates over 2 million of these dopamine-inducing actions every 60 seconds. 

Despite this, last week, many Australians woke up to find they could no longer view like counts on Instagram. 

No, it’s not a glitch. Instagram has been testing this new system in Canada since early May and it seems it could eventually be rolled out worldwide. 


But why are Instagram testing this? 

Here’s what the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, had to say about the change: “We want it to be less of a competition… we want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they get on Instagram, and a bit more time connecting with people they really care about.”

Users will still be able to see the likes on their photos, but their followers won’t.  

It’s a bold move considering the social media platform has long been defined by the ability to rack up likes, but it’s also a logical one. 

Over the past few years, social media platforms have been under fire for damaging people’s confidence and feelings of self-worth. This is particularly true of Instagram, where the focus of the platform is sharing beautiful images and users project a perfect life to pull in more likes and engagement. 

Ultimately, Instagram is trying to move the value we place on a certain post away from the number of likes it gains to something more meaningful. 

It’s likely that the decision to move away from likes was influenced by the success of Instagram Stories. Instagram has theorised that the appeal of stories was due to the format giving them the freedom to be more authentic. Of course, part of this freedom would come down to the fact the post disappears after 24 hours, but it may also extend to a lack of worrying over the outward-facing metric. 


What will this mean for marketers? 

Likes have played a huge role in influencer marketing – they can determine the worthiness of a collaboration between a brand and an influencer and are one of the metrics often used to prove return on investment.   

Without an outward-facing metric such as likes, outreach research may become slightly more tedious and time-consuming task for marketers, and as for influencers, they may have to rely on other resources to prove their content is worthwhile for brands to invest in. 

But this change is likely to be beneficial to influencer marketing. Without a public like gauge, brands and agencies will be forced to ask influencers to share more of their metrics early on in the relationship. These could include impressions, post saves, page actions, and specific audience insights as well as likes. 

Removing likes could open up opportunities for agencies to push for transparency in an industry where campaign results can be difficult to decipher. 

Deeper levels of engagement

Without likes, the captions and comments of an image could become increasingly important. Especially if the quality of comments is used to measure the value of an influencer, it’s likely they will put more importance on creating content that encourages discussion and activity in the comments section.

If influencer posts are able to spark conversation, attract attention and still incur engagement, then brands will be happy. It might just require agencies and influencers to dive deeper into content types – Instagram Stories, more specific imagery or actively replying to comments – to remain at the head of the curve. 

Increased focus on content 

It’s no secret that many Instagram users, especially younger audiences, feel pressure to produce content that generates likes. Many people have routinely deleted posts that haven’t met their standard of success. That shouldn’t be the case – users should feel comfortable owning their accounts and sharing content that they care about. The audience should come second. 

Re-thinking KPI’s 

As the focus on likes decreases, we may see a natural progression for influencer marketing to become more focused on actual sales and other stronger methods of measurement. 

These could include measuring the number of positive comments, reach, or post saves. 

Undoubtedly, Instagram’s new shopping tool for creators will become a priority for brands. Giving users the ability to sell directly to their followers, the app will separate content creators from people with real influence and provide marketing teams with a powerful ROI to prove the value of influencer marketing. 

Only time will tell if these changes will stem our addiction to likes without impacting influencers effectiveness on campaigns, but we at Icon Agency welcome the new change. It opens the door for healthier dialogue and truth – something this world needs a little more of. 

Want to learn more about how the latest Instagram update will affect your business? Reach out to our team of PR and influencer marketing experts here