Instagram has been conducting tests that involve hiding the “likes” of a photo uploaded on the site. Recently, these tests have been expanding to different markets around the world, and this might be a problem for influencers.

Influencers are people who work with different sponsors and companies by promoting their products or services on their social media accounts. Since these individuals largely depend on “vanity metrics” like followers, likes, and favorites, they might have to change tactics by focusing on “actual sales” instead.

The photo-sharing platform owned by Facebook stated in April that the tests are aimed at building “a less pressurized environment” for its users. Those who have participated in the trial were able to see the list of people who “liked” their post. What they were prevented from seeing was the exact count of “likes” someone else had posted. The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, explained that this is one of the ways to make the app “feel less like a competition.”

 While this change can result in a more favorable environment for its users, marketing experts also expressed their concerns about how these could further incentivize many companies into putting paid social media support for their hired influencers. It may also translate to influencers working harder to make their content better, as they will not be able to rely on the likes that their posts can get when it comes to brands hiring them. Although the public can still view the follower count, it does not provide accurate statistics when it comes to the engagements that a post receives. “Engagements” refer to the times that someone on the app has viewed or interacted with the post.

Obviously, a marketing agency for influencers, recently surveyed Canadian influencers after Instagram’s test was conducted in their country. Out of the around 100 influencers who participated, 62% mentioned that the time they spent on creating their content did not change, and agreed that it led to creating more contents that are of high-quality.

Becoming Independent from ‘Likes’ and Establishing Deeper Connections

Ryan Detert, the CEO of another influencer marketing company called Influential, stated that the changes might weaken the industry of fraudulent likes that is rampant on Instagram because they would not have much value when measuring a post’s engagement. Detert also pointed out that counting the engagement is not a priority for their company anymore. Influential has previously worked alongside major brands such as McDonald’s and Pepsi.

Detert also explained that the reason for this is that their company has started to focus on counting in-store and online sales brought in by posts from influencers. There are available software and programs that help companies in determining if a click on a post can be converted into an online sale or if a customer goes to purchase the product from a physical store.

From a statement released last June, Instagram said that they are figuring out a way to let advertisers promote influencer posts. Before that, companies were also able to post contents from hired influencers through their page or using third-party accounts.

The general manager of influencer and social media marketing company Ahalogy, Bob Gilbreath, mentioned that agencies are starting to resort to hiring paid models to take advantage of the money spent on the influencer marketing present on Instagram.

Moving Image & Content, another digital agency, CEO and founder, Quynh Mai, believed that an Instagram that will not depend on likes would force influencers and brands into “creating a community on the platform.”

Mai compared the system in which YouTube and Instagram influencers operate. She mentioned that influencers from YouTubecan build a community because they would have to read fan letters and respond to comments on their videos whereas Instagram engagement is limited to fans leaving likes, thumbs up, and emojis. Mai described such a system as a “shallow measurement of the community.”

An example worth citing is how YouTube-famous Jeffree Star can easily create a frenzy over sponsored events and products since their subscribers are well-engaged.

Mai also added that such a phenomenon has not happened on Facebook or Instagram yet. She is hopeful that the removal of ‘likes’ would challenge both the influencers and the brands to invest their time in building a community instead of a simple fan base. She believed that the growing Gen Z’s preference for engagement is drastically different because they want to become “a part of the conversation” instead of being a bystander.

Utilizing the Power of Videos

CEO and founder of Social Native, David Shadpour, mentioned that hiding the likes of a post is part of the strategy created by Instagram and Facebook that will push their users into updating their own and viewing others’ “Stories.”

Through an email interview, Shadpour said that he thinks Instagram and Facebook believe that “the future is in short-form videos” instead of the static images that can be viewed in a user’s News Feed. He said that the company has started to focus on increasing the “consumption rate of video” by getting more creators that will make those videos.

Shadpour also predicted that the likes of a post would eventually be useless even if Instagram does nothing about it.

He also explained that as ‘likes’ are being replaced as a success indicator, content creators will gain creative control, causing them to focus on the content they provide and how they can effectively convey it in their videos. With these changes, there will also be a shift in how the success of an influencer is measured. This can be in the form of time spent, post engagements, and others.

Experts are also worried that without likes and the dopamine it brings to users, customers might spend less time on the app. However, others believe that such a change can bring a shift into the relationship that people have within the app. Social Chain’s managing director, Oliver Yonchev, said that this might result in people posting more on their Instagram accounts.