Have you updated your Instagram app this week, only to find Instagram likes hidden?
Don’t panic – you’re not alone, and it doesn’t mean your engagement is doomed.
I’m giving you some major insight into what’s going on Instagram. I’m also diving into why it’s happening, how it’s affecting engagement and what it means for your Instagram marketing.
Spoiler alert: you’ll like where this is headed.
Why Is Instagram Hiding Likes?
Instagram is hiding likes as a new way to lower the pressure and competition on Instagram. The test is part of a new push to protect the mental health of vulnerable young users.
Okay, so here’s what happened:
Late last week, the Head of Instagram dropped a bombshell tweet that stunned the Instagram community: Instagram would be testing making likes private in the US.
Heads up! We’ve been testing making likes private on Instagram in a number of countries this year. We’re expanding those tests to include a small portion of people in the US next week. Looking forward to the feedback!— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) November 9, 2019
The US is the latest in a list of countries where likes are being hidden, joining Canada, Australia, Italy, Ireland and more in a new, less-competitive Instagram experience. The test has already been running in other countries since the summer of 2019.
In an interview with WIRED, Adam explained the thought process behind private likes, and how they help protect mental health on the platform:
“The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram. Make it less of a competition. Give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them.
“But it’s really focused on young people. We have to see how it affects how people feel about the platform, how they use the platform, how it affects creator ecosystem, but I’ve been spending a lot of time on this personally.Adam Mosseri
Essentially, hiding likes is meant to help people focus on connections and remove competition and high pressure around how many likes a post will get.
After the initial announcement, Instagram rolled out the test with lightning speed! ⚡️
I polled the Tailwind office with a show of hands to see how many people had seen like counts vanish in the new update (I was one of them!).
Nine team members with personal and Creator accounts were seeing Instagram likes hidden.
Only a handful of team members with Business accounts still saw likes normally (stay tuned! )
Now for the question we’re all wondering about – what does this mean for Instagram engagement?
How Has Hiding Likes on Instagram Affected Engagement So Far?
Preliminary studies of influencer accounts located in the countries where likes are hidden suggest that engagement is being affected- with up to 29% drop in some countries.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the study from HypeAuditor, an influencer marketing platform.
Now, I mentioned before that making like counts private has already been tested outside of the United States for the last few months.
That’s where HypeAuditor focused their study – on 154,000 Instagram influencers with a following of 30% or more in countries where the test is running.
Results of HypeAuditor’s Study on How Instagram Hiding Likes Has Affected Engagement
Specifically, the platform asked the question “how has the Instagram hidden likes experiment affected the number of likes?”
They split their test groups of influencers from the U.K, Australia, Ireland, Italy, and Japan into four tiers:
- Nano-influencers with anywhere from 1K to 5K followers
- Micro-influencers with anywhere from 5K to 20K followers
- Macro-influencers with anywhere from 20K to 100K followers
- Mega influencers with anywhere from 100K to 1 million followers
Here’s how each group was affected:
Most accounts with 1K – 5K followers saw a drop, but not a dramatic one.
The Effect on Nano-influencers:
The UK – declined 8.6%
Australia – declined 10.17%
Brazil – declined 17.72%
Ireland – no change
Italy – declined 5.94%
Japan – increased 6.38%
The Effect on Micro-influencers:
The UK – declined 3.7%
Australia – declined 15.0%
Brazil – declined 15.17%
Ireland – declined 11.74%
Italy – declined 9.80%
Japan – declined 5.77%
The Effect on Macro-influencers:
The UK – declined 1.7%
Australia – declined 13.2%
Brazil – declined 29.63%
Ireland – declined 3.10%
Italy – declined 12.21%
Japan – declined 1.63%
The Effect on Mega-influencers:
The UK – increased 0.6%
Australia – declined 13.26%
Brazil – declined 28.33%
Ireland – declined 3.85%
Italy – declined 3.26%
Japan – increased 6.84%
While the general trend of the result seems to be an overall decline in likes, take them with a grain of salt. Less likes are definitely not the end of the world, especially when you’re engaging with your followers in other ways.
Plus, Instagram hiding likes is already having some positive effects for professionals and business owners in the tested countries!
Take a look at what international testers are saying about their likes being hidden:
How International Testers Are Navigating Likes Being Hidden on Instagram
Jenn, Nutrition Coach, @thenourishingyogi
“I think that it was shocking at first, but the transition was honestly quite easy.
Since I have a business account on Instagram, I am still able to look at the engagement I have on my posts, which is something I was unsure of prior to the change.
It was strange not to see the number of likes while scrolling through my newsfeed, but I quickly adjusted!
“I believe comments are more genuine engagement and that’s what I focus on now. I still continue to interact with other accounts and my followers through both likes and comments.”
Aimee, Virtual Assistant, @themindfulaimva
“I’ve noticed that people aren’t as active in liking my posts and the posts of my clients.
The general consensus is that this is a positive change. A lot of the target market for my accounts is 20-something women, so the fact that they see this as a positive is important to acknowledge.
We shouldn’t be measuring likes and followers, anyway.
We should be measuring the engagement and relationships we’re building with our followers and target audiences.
Grace, Adventure Blogger, @extremenomads
“There was no massive change to my own activity. I’ve always liked pictures based on merit, and still do.
However, I do click through to people’s profiles more out of curiosity to see if an image has been posted by a big established account or a small creator.
I’m inclined to say the effect is positive. I feel it puts limits on the “sheep effect” ie liking a picture because thousands of others do. It encourages people to like based on whether or not they actually appreciate it themselves.”
Lara, Fashion & Lifestyle Blogger, @lara.passaro
“In the beginning, I was skeptical about likes being hidden because I thought that it would be more difficult to collaborate with brands.
After a few weeks, I actually found that I loved the fact that likes were hidden, because I felt less pressure and competition. I could focus on creating quality content!
Now, I tend to think about the content instead of the likes. I feel like you can really see the value of an account and not just be influenced by likes!
Creators can now feel less pressure and focus on what represents them better. It also helps to not feel bad if a photo doesn’t get the results we hoped for!”
Glenny Decasa, Creator & Consultant, @glennymah
“It did take some time to get used to in terms of analyzing my own performance as I saw changes in engagement.
It’s nice to see people start to get out of their comfort zone and really be creative in their space by showing their authentic side without having to worry about when & who will get the most likes!
It really was a dog-eat-dog world out there and I saw how #s of likes was affecting people’s mental health — including mine for a while.
It’s a breath of fresh air to be able to use your creative talent on a platform without the stress of finding validation through # of likes a post has.
Whew! Don’t you feel better knowing these bloggers, businesses, and creators are thriving in a like-free Instagram?
I know I am. In fact, the whole Tailwind team loves it. The secret to engagement and success on Instagram is not based on the number of likes on your posts. This move frees you up to create your best content without fear.
Plus, you’ll probably feel so much better not anxiously watching your like count! #MentalHealthMatters
How to Measure Your Success on Instagram Without Likes
If you ask me, likes are already a pretty weak indicator of how much your followers connect with your content – or are willing to click through to your blog or product page!
Here are some ideas of what you can look at instead to make sure your content is working on Instagram:
1. Check Out Your Saves and Shares
There’s a new sheriff in town, and it’s called the Save button.
Okay, perhaps it’s not a new sheriff in town, but it’s definitely a powerful indicator of how well your content is resonating. When someone saves your Instagram content, they’re planning to reference it later.
That means it was so impactful, that they want a second (or third…or fourth…) look! Since your Saved posts are often where the most inspirational, funny or awe-inspiring content lives, it’s a huge measure of how well your content is connecting with your audience.
The same is true for Shares! Whether your post just found a new home on someone’s Instagram Stories or was sent to a friend, both are great indicators that your content is interesting and relevant.
Gear your posts and captions to be as attractive, inspiring and helpful as you can make them. You never know who will be referencing those posts… and they just might fall in LOVE with the rest of your content.
2. Work On Your Call to Action (CTA) Game
If your goal is to get sales or exposure for your carefully crafted blogs, driving traffic from Instagram is an important measure of success.
Start by monitoring your click-through rate from your Instagram page to your website with a link in bio tool like Smart.bio by Tailwind. Your CTR will tell you if your prompts (tap my link in bio! or see my latest blog post) are working, or if you might need to adjust your approach and craft CTAs that resonate more closely with your followers.
Plus, Smart.bio displays your total link in bio page visitors, overall click-through rate AND the lifetime count of clicks to each link all in one spot! And did we mention it’s COMPLETELY FREE, NOW AND FOREVER?!
Tap below to learn more about Smart.bio, and claim your own free customizable landing page!
3. Start a Conversation in the Comments
Whether you’re a blogger hoping to land partnership deals or simply a marketer desperate to figure out if your Instagram is driving impact, there’s one thing you need to know:
Instagram likes are much less powerful than the number of comments you receive on a post.
After all, it’s easy to double-tap while we’re scrolling without breaking our flow. Pausing to read a caption, think carefully and respond in a comment requires a commitment from your followers, however small.
Instead of worrying about how many likes your post got, plan to engage your followers with entrancing prompts and ultra-relatable images and captions so they can sound off in the comments!
As of now, comments are still visible on Instagram – and everyone from your brand partners to your followers will take notice of this booming engagement.
Want some quick inspo on how to build a community of engaged and thriving followers on Instagram? Lifestyle blogger Chloe Alysse sat down for an interview with us to tell her tips, tricks, and mantras for building an engaged audience.
How are we feeling about likes disappearing from Instagram? Sad, mad, happy, nervous but excited? Let me know in the comments below – I read every one!
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