Instagram is removing likes from instagram. For over a month now, rumours spread that your likes would disappear from the social platform.

Now, the next phase has begun and the social media giant is changing how people view your content engagements. Short story: Instagram is removing likes and it matters. 

When the testing phase was first showcased by users who’s likes had disappeared, the notification from instagram read:

“We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only the person who shares a post will see the total number of likes it gets.”

When is this happening?

You might still have the ‘likes’ feature so you’re thinking this is fake news. Trust us though, this is a legit thing. Although some areas haven’t yet had likes removed, there are a few countries where the feature is now in place. 

In July 2019, the update was initially tested in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Brazil. These countries were later followed by the U.S. introduction of the feature. If you haven’t seen the difference on your feed yet, it’s very likely to be coming soon as Instagram continues global tests. 

For many marketers, growing a presence on instagram is a big part of their social media marketing strategy. Instagram removing likes means a big shift in how users behave on instagram and how marketers will measure success. Here’s a few ways instagram removing likes will impact your average user and a few hypotheses on why they would remove likes in the first place.  

Photo of Instagram likes leaving

Removing the need to buy fake likes on Instagram. 

Have you heard the news? Facebook and instagram are cracking down on bots, fake followers and purchased likes. They are doing everything they can to put a stop to accounts made for unsavoury purposes.

They even launched a series of lawsuits against companies selling fake likes for instagram posts. This all in attempt to show they are serious about fighting fraud:

“By filing the lawsuit, we hope to reinforce that this kind of fraudulent activity is not tolerated – and that we’ll act forcefully to protect the integrity of our platform.”

Removing likes from Instagram removes the desire to boost their number of likes. Artificially adding engagement on posts might help you reach larger audiences, convince marketer’s to sponsor you as an influencer or just impress your friends. Removing likes completely could create a more quality driven instagram experience.

Removing Robot likes from instagram.
Bye bye, robot engagements.

Fraud, influencer marketing and finding Instagram influencers.

While this might not have been a goal for instagram, it certainly impacts how marketers measure the ROI of influencer marketing. Unfortunately vanity metrics are still fooling marketers into sponsoring creators. While some focus on the real return on investment, many are measuring based on likes.

News flash: Likes don’t pay the bills.  

My company is helping companies find instagram influencers and Twitch influencer marketing.  My perspective is that this is a good thing for the industry. Some folks will be crushed. Their whole strategy might have been based collecting hearts. But the strong shall survive.

For marketers still relying on likes as a measurement of influencer marketing success, this will be a wakeup call.  Now, they will be relying on more financially viable metrics like user acquisition, referral traffic and the quality of the users acquired from influencer marketing. This will be a very valuable shift for their businesses.

Calculating engagement rate when finding influencers will also become more difficult. For marketers, this is one of the go-to metrics when manually finding Instagram influencers. Counting post likers will hurt for companies still trying to discover influencers manually.

Removing likes, focusing on quality. 

As humans, we all have the itch to climb hierarchies. Having more likes than your friends scratches that itch. Instagram’s business model is based on how much time users spend looking at the app. When users only check  to see how many likes their photo gets, they don’t spend as much time absorbing content (and ads).

liking instagram posts

If people’s behaviour shifts to spending more time viewing other content and less viewing their own, they can sell more ads. If Instagram can foster better conversions and higher quality content, they can keep users on their platform longer. Removing likes might be one small experiment on the path of Instagram’s mission to retain user eyeballs. In the long term, that’s good for their bottom line.

But, Instagram isn’t just interested in having you view more of other people’s content. They want you to post more, too! The platform is trying to get rid of posting shyness because of users’ anxiety about getting likes. 

Their theory is that by removing likes, more people will post as they feel less stressed about the number of likes they get. And it’s very simple math. “Less pressure, more posting”. More posts = more time on the platform. 

And that’s exactly what Instagram is after because your time is money! After all, Instagram has upwards of 1 billion users, the highest numbers being among teens. Instagram is also valued at more than $100 billion and there were over 3.7 million brand-ads posted on the platform in 2018.

What will Instagram look like without likes?

It’s kind of crazy to imagine Instagram without likes considering that the whole vibe of the platform is posting content for followers’ admiration and clout. As wild as it might seem, though, the change is not very drastic. 

Previously, you would see the number of likes below a person’s feed post (i.e. liked by XYZ and 52 others). The updated feature still has the text below the picture. Instead, the text will quote one handle – most likely a mutual follower to you and the person posting. The change is that you will not see the number of people on another user’s post. It will just read, “liked by XYZ and others.”

You are the only one that can see the exact number of likes on your post. Your followers can still see who liked the post, though. So, if they have the time, then they’ll be going one-by-one down the list to see the exact likes.

To measure the success of a post, you know, for influencers and such, the wording is still quite comparative. For example, a Rihanna post might say “liked by rih_fanpage and millions of others”. While your cute cat posts may just say “and hundreds of others”. 

So, this is how Instagram will measure likes now:

Less than 100 likes: “and others”

Less than 1 000 likes: “and hundreds of others”

Less than 100 000 likes: “and thousands of others”

Less than 1 000 000 likes: “and hundreds of thousands of others”

You get the drift!

So say goodbye to those tiny hearts.

Luckily, you can still view the likes on your own posts. Most likely you will still be able to moving forward. The dopamine rush of seeing your like count increase is something Instagram won’t want to impact too heavily. It’s part of what keeps us going back for more.

The testing phase for likes being removed is already rolling out. It’s possible they decide to go back on this decision, but I think Instagram is going to stick with its choice to remove likes permanently. For the better.

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