What Will We Do Without Instagram Likes?

As far as 21st century status symbols go, Instagram likes are a pretty big one. Many people will only post select pictures on Instagram, afraid of having a post that flops—and brands and influencers can depend on likes in a much bigger way. After all, it’s hard to read anything about social media metrics without hearing about the importance of engagement. However, Instagram itself seems to be tired of the emphasis on likes. 

Instagram has been testing hiding the like counter in Canada since April, and has since expanded the test to several other countries. Basically, in markets affected by this test, users have to “opt-in” in order to have their like count shown publicly. By default, like counts are hidden to the public, but creators can still see how many people liked their posts—and the public technically can too, if they’re willing to count all the likes manually.

When Instagram first announced this test, people were predictably upset—but Canadian users actually lik the update (no pun intended)! Many people now feel that they can post what they want, and more often, because they are not afraid of judgement if a post doesn’t get a lot of likes. The nature of likes can also cause a lot of social anxiety — which is something that Instagram is trying to decrease with this change. It’s clear that Instagram wants its users to focus on quality of content over popularity, and hiding the like counter is an overall win for personal Instagram accounts.

But what about brands?

Brands, influencers, and other businesses on Instagram have a unique relationship with likes. Often, likes are a key measurement of a post’s success—especially for influencers who have to prove their worth to brands. Here’s why brands and influencers shouldn’t be worried about hidden likes—and why it might even be good for them:

Creators can still view their metrics

The like counter is only hidden to the public, meaning that creators can still view their likes and other metrics that are available to Instagram business profiles. This is good news for influencers—they can still show their brand partners how a particular post fared.

Engagement isn’t everything

Social media mavens love to preach about engagement and how important it is. But while engagement is an important metric, there are other factors that are just as or even more important. Especially for influencers, conversions driven by a post (often determined by a promo code or tracking clicks) are becoming more important to brands than engagement rates. Follower counts shouldn’t be sneezed at either—and those aren’t going anywhere soon.

Building stronger communities

Brands and influencers’ relationships with their followers on Instagram tend to be shallow compared to other platforms like YouTube. While YouTubers often interact with their fans in more meaningful ways, like making videos to answer fan questions, read funny comments, or asking fans for feedback on their content, Instagram relationships are fairly limited to likes and comments. With no more likes, brands and influencers would have to find new ways to build their communities — which could turn out to be a very good thing. 

With the rising popularity of Instagram stories and IGTV, there are so many ways that brands and influencers can interact with their followers without the like count. Hopefully, brands can turn this change into an opportunity to build better relationships with their consumers—whether they like it or not.