Instagram is testing out removing what is perhaps its most famous feature, the beloved "Like" count, from posts. What was initially rolled out in Canada has now expanded to several other countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Instagram says that the motive behind hiding Likes is to encourage users to post more authentic content instead of being motivated to post content which will generate the most Likes. Within countries in which Like counts are no longer displayed, content creators can still open the private "Likers" window to see who has liked a specific post.
Is this new test feature truly altruistic? If you take a look at influencer marketing, Instagram was getting a small piece of the pie since influencers could promote brands for free and rely on Likes and engagement rates as key performance indicators. Starting in the summer of 2019, Instagram gave advertisers the ability to promote organically branded content by influencers as Branded Content Ads, which comes at a cost that is most likely to be eaten by the advertisers themselves. However, it gives advertisers more control over influencer marketing strategy through custom optimization and by creating targeted audiences for posts, the end goal being that advertisers will reach beyond the influencer's own followers. The thinking behind this strategy is that targeting non-followers who happen upon an influencer's Branded Content Ad are just as, if not more likely, to engage with the post and make a purchase. This is just one example, and there will surely be others to follow, of Instagram serving itself a bigger piece of the ad-spend pie.
We will keep you posted with the latest developments on Instagram removing the "Like" count feature and what this means for influencers, brands, and advertisers.