Instagram hides likes: Relief for authentic content or drop in ad spends for brands?

As the platform takes the 'like' test global, many debate if influencers may migrate to other platforms. talks to experts to find out if ad spends of brands could take a hit or if the move would lead to more transparency in the wake of bots manipulating likes

Akanksha Nagar
New Update
Instagram hides likes: Relief for authentic content or drop in ad spends for brands?

As Instagram expands its ‘like’ test globally in a bid to reinstate that users feel comfortable while expressing on the platform, and to help people to focus on photos and videos they share and not how many likes they get, there has been a barrage of different arguments.

Some experts say this might bring down business as users may shift to other applications; others argue this would lead to more transparency and uniformity on the platform.

Brands for long have been associating themselves with influencers on the platform based on the likes they used to garner. So would this lead to slow biz for influencers and bloggers too? What does it mean for brands and their ad spends? Would it lead to brands withdrawing themselves from promotions?

With Instagram saying it is a change in the positive direction, it is time for users and others to get used to the change as it seems to be in for the longer haul. talked to influencer platforms and agencies to understand what the change means and its impact.

It all began in Canada in May 2019 and expanded to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil, Ireland and Italy in July this year. It will now roll out in India, as part of the global expansion, to a small percentage of the user base. 

Vishal Shah, VP, Products, Instagram, said that feedback from early tests has been positive. He said this is a fundamental change to Instagram and so the platform is continuing the tests to learn more from the global community.

Experts say Instagram has been plagued for years by bots, which had manipulated the app to give users more likes, and the move would lead to uniformity and bring in transparency to posts.

Prashant Sharma

“A lot of fake bots help push posts to the top or to trend globally. There are lot of authentic accounts whose posts don't get global space despite generating good, authentic content. The removal of the like feature will be a relief for authentic content makers and help them to get the recognition that they needed,” said Prashant Sharma, CMO, NOFILTR Group.

For a longer period of time, the platform has been the top choice of users for conversing within their communities. But with Instagram deciding to remove the Like feature from the posts, would it still remain the most engaging platform?

The word “social” itself means you want people to know about you and appreciate you on both personal and professional fronts. When Instagram started off, the idea was to connect people from different spheres of the world in the form of images, etc., and let people appreciate each other’s work or craft. That’s how it grew to a scale where brands use Instagram as the main platform to run campaigns.

For an influencer, the ‘like’ button, number of followers, overall portfolio, etc., are basic metrics that catch the eyeballs of any brand and also reflect on their genuineness.

So if we analyse, everything is interrelated. Content helps to increase the number of likes; more likes lead to self-motivation; more motivation generates better content and the likes follow.

Ritika Gupta

“All these factors increase the overall follower base of an individual and, hence, brand attention. So if you will disturb any one factor, it may hamper the overall chain of influencer marketing. But from the perspective of a brand, this is a good move as it eliminates fake likes. Instagram can be perceived as the only-close-to-being-genuine platform for their campaigns. This gives Instagram the first mover advantage in this highly competitive digital world,” said Ritika Gupta, Business Strategist, TopSocial India.

Kalyan Kumar

Kalyan Kumar, Co-founder, CEO of Social Catalyzers, said brands engage with influencers for the credible advocacy they bring to the table, and all such likes and engagement data can always be procured through insights. The fact is Instagram remains a great platform.

He added, “However, there will be an impact on engagement, in the sense that 'likes get you more likes', which is to say it encourages herd mentality of followers to like a post, which, therefore, could result in slightly lower engagements owing to the feature being 'hidden'.”

Will lower engagement lead influencers or users to other platforms?

Gupta said influencers or brands might shift focus to other platforms such as TikTok, which can give them more value in terms of appreciation, followers, likes, etc. But it is too early to say if such a transition could happen.

If Tiktok and Tumblr start getting more and more influencers who are followed by a lot of people, they might overshadow Instagram, just like influencers of Vines app moved to YouTube with all their subscribers, Sharma said.

However, Kumar said it is still the most visually increasingly 'influential' platform of preference for users and brands alike and more changes can be expected from Instagram itself.

For brands, having multiple metrics other than just ‘likes’ for their association with influencers is important

It had been reported that Instagram has around 16 million fake profiles. And for brands, associating with influencers on the basis of their actual engagement rate regardless of their follower base is vital.  Comments can reflect the genuine impact of any post as likes can be purchased via bots, Gupta said.

She added, “Even currently, the metrics to judge an influencer’s capability is not limited to the number of likes’ received. The followers’ base, quality of their comments, their TG, other demographics, post reach, etc., also exist. This ‘like’ feature is just to get the first impression of any particular influencer.”

Impact on ad spends, biz

As advertisers had been using the platform for their promotions, Sharma said the main aim of an advertiser is not to get likes but to direct that person from the platform to their website, or getting to fill a lead generation form, or call for an enquiry regarding their business as likes on a post is one-time and people often don't follow pages immediately. Advertisers are more interested in ROI and click-through rates from a post. They also get metrics like impressions and reach for a particular post. As such, there may not be a major fall in case of advertisers.

But Gupta said as everything is inter-related, it may have a short-term friction in terms of business for the platform. From a long-term perspective, it is hard to predict the impact on overall business. There are always teething problems in the beginning whenever any change takes place. It may even increase the overall business as it the first genuine platform for influencer marketing.

“Can’t really say what Instagram is planning, but there is little a platform like Instagram would do without further future revenue and monetisation plans beyond the public good that they may be claiming,” Kumar said.

Other than that, Instagram recently announced ‘Restrict’, a new feature to protect users’ accounts from unwanted interactions.

Instagram hides likes