Instagram is Hiding Likes. Now What?

I “like” a lot of things in life, but Instagram “likes?” Not so much. Last Friday, Wired confirmed Instagram will be hiding user “likes” in the U.S starting this week. While it won’t happen to everyone all at once, some accounts will see them removed from their profiles in just a few days time.

For those of you who don’t use Instagram, this news isn’t a big deal. I get it! 🙂 To be transparent, today’s blog post may not be for you! You may even say, “Who cares? It’s just a like.” Totally agree! It. Is. Just. A. Like. However, for many bloggers, Instagrammers, influencers, and brands, “likes” matter. Some (keyword SOME) brands cast campaigns based solely on this form of measurement. Additionally, they’re a reason why many content creators keep creating content.

Years ago, Instagram “likes” were LOVED by bloggers and influencers alike. It was a great way to gauge readers’ opinions and preferences. Then, in 2016, Instagram made a drastic change. The feed went from being chronological to completely out of order and based upon what the app thinks you would like. In March of 2018, Instagram introduced a revised version of the algorithm to make it more akin to the Facebook news feed (i.e. its parent company). Unsurprisingly, everyone moved into an “it’s complicated”-like relationship status with Instagram.

Instagram Hiding Likes

Like many, I’m tired of the rollercoaster ride of emotions tied to a simple tap of a heart icon on a phone screen. Since the app is an integral compliment to my blog, Instagram is something I’ve been diligent about for a very long time. Moreover, after years of posting, you become accustomed to the cadence of likes and engagement. So much so, that I can roughly predict how many total likes a post might get based on the first fifteen minutes. Pretty crazy, right?! The same is true for most bloggers. It really goes to show the mathematics behind Instagram.

So today, I’m hoping you’ll join me to transition from the “it’s complicated” status and move into a new era: “broken up.” For me, when it comes to Instagram likes, N’SYNC put it best, “Bye Bye Bye.”

Why Instagram Likes Used to Matter

Many years ago, Instagram “likes” served as a major barometer of success for brands and bloggers. A “like” was similar to casting a vote. They were authentic and real, and most companies and agencies would use the number/data to cast campaigns, identify paid partnerships, and evaluate a publisher’s performance.

Fast forward to today, and likes have become a vanity metric. They’re the least interesting—and frankly most ineffective—form of measurement for clients and brands. Smart(er) companies evaluate performance with things like reach and conversion.

Moreover, while “likes” used to be real, a huge percentage of influencers have started to buy their engagement. Everything from purchasing bots/followers, paying for engagement, and worse. For those who know Instagram well, it’s pretty obvious (and sad to see) when someone is cheating the system. I’m proud to have never bought engagement, followers, or employed other shady tactics to make my content appear more popular. I don’t say that to brag, but rather to highlight how I’ve been able to accurately observe the ebbs and flows of all the Instagram changes in the past three years.

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Anyway, agencies and brands have noticed the shift to fake engagement. Yet, the tools to authenticate someone’s audience can’t keep up. As such, likes turned into dislikes among EVERYONE, and the entire funnel of communication and campaigns on Instagram have come into question.

Why Instagram Likes Are Going Away

Months ago, I spoke on a panel at a CreatorIQ event about my thoughts about the transition to “hidden likes.” When asked by the moderator, Reesa Lake of DBA (my management company), “raise your hand if you want likes to go away,” my arm shot up faster than the crowd. Here’s why I think we should all be happy about this decision and how you can take back control of your channel. Disclosure: these are just my personal views and not at all a reflection of the agency or company for which I work full-time.

Reason #1: Mental Health

We all know mental health is one of the most important aspects of our lives (both on and offline). It’s also a prevalent issue when it comes to social media: the comparison game is very real and often toxic. Follower and like counts can create a false sense of self-worth, and our egos can easily fluctuate depending on how a post performs. I’ll admit that when a post takes a complete nosedive, it’s hard to be completely unaffected. Especially when it’s something to which you gave a lot of thought and care.

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Over the weekend, I asked my Instagram audience what they thought about the pending change, and many individuals responded that they love the idea. Especially considering the mental health of young people. After all, kids and teens are much more impressionable and don’t always know how to manage the unnecessary pressures of social media. I’m totally aligned with this perspective. However, it’s not just a Gen Z or Millennial issue. It’s about EVERYONE.

According to Instagram head, Adam Mosseri, part of the purpose to hide likes is to “depressurize” Instagram. Given that hiding likes could help with mental health, I say – remove ’em. I’m 100% here for it!

Reason #2: Getting Back to Creative Content

When the algorithm shifted, most bloggers started to focus more on posting images that would perform over photos they truly loved or ones that displayed more creativity. They assessed what the algorithm was doing and tried to alter their content and habits to better align with what they thought would perform.

As such, we stopped posting what we loved or even experimenting with new concepts. I’ll use myself as an example. Years ago, I used to enjoy posting photos of landscapes, murals by themselves, scenes from the day, and even flat lays. However, I stopped sharing most of those types of photos because they didn’t perform as well. Sad but true!

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Now that Instagram is moving towards hiding likes, their hope is that everyone will go back to posting for the joy of sharing. I hope that will be the case!

Reason #3: Instagram Wants to Make Money

Let’s keep it real—Instagram is a business. They want to make money, honey! The only way they’d remove likes is if they know it would make the channel more profitable.

Another big reason several followers think Instagram is removing likes is so brands are forced to invest in more advertising with the channel itself and not influencers. Many feel like it’s Facebook/Instagram screwing over digital content creators (excuse my language, lol).

Well, in some ways, I agree. Yes, brands will start investing more advertising dollars in Instagram itself in order for their content to be seen, and as the shop tools and features start to grow. At the same time, the most valuable asset for Instagram, and the ONLY way for them to stay in business is ENGAGEMENT and USERS.

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Look at Vine, Tumblr, and even Snapchat. Vine and Tumblr lost their luster among influencers, and in Vine’s case, it closed. Tumblr influencers moved to Instagram, and the channel has lost 198.4 million users in SIX MONTHS. Even Snapchat lost $1.3 billion of company value after Kylie Jenner simply tweeted, “”Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.”

Influencers are a huge part of Instagram’s ecosystem. If/when they chose to move to another platform due to a lack of interest/engagement, audiences will follow. It’s not conjecture, it’s fact. Instagram needs data, users, and engagement in order to drive brands to continue to invest in ads. In my opinion, part of the reason they are hiding like counts is to try and get their users to post more and, and a result, “like” Instagram again.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m thrilled to see this pending change. As new channels like TikTok start to rise in popularity, Instagram needs to make moves in order to remain relevant. In general, I love that hiding likes will help with mental health, stress, and ultimately encourage more fun and creativity.

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How are you feeling about the change? Do you give it a double-tap?

Some big changes are around the corner for Instagram. In today's post, I'm sharing some recent news for the app and my take on it.

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