Goodbye ‘Likes’, Hello Authenticity! Why Instagram hiding likes is great news for brands

Kelsey Formost

12 Nov 2019 · 3 min read


Goodbye vanity metrics, hello authentic connection! We’re excited to see how Instagram hiding likes from the public will increase the accuracy and value of user data, and minimize influencer fraud. And while we’re excited to see what’s next, we also know that many influencers, brands, and agencies alike are nervous about the change. Here’s everything you need to know about what this update means for the future of influencer marketing.

There are a lot of questions buzzing around the social media marketing world regarding hiding likes from the public on Instagram. Will this affect engagement rates? How will brands set marketing KPI’s? Will user behavior be greatly impacted? Will we still be able to accurately measure campaign success? Is influencer marketing as we know it over?

We’re going to address all those questions and more, but our overall reaction to this news is overwhelmingly positive. Here’s why we believe hiding likes is GREAT news for influencer marketing!

First thing’s first: Are ‘likes’ completely gone?

No. They’re just no longer visible to the public.

The act of liking a post will still be available to users (don’t worry- you can still double-tap to your heart’s content!), they simply won’t see the numerical value of how many other people have previously liked a post.

It’s important to note that while a post’s like count will no longer be seen by the public, influencers and brands with API access will still be able to track how many people are liking and interacting with their content behind the scenes. The hope is that by removing the public nature of a post’s like count, influencers will feel less inclined to delete posts that under-perform or inflate a “vanity metric” by purchasing fake likes.

Will likes still affect the algorithm?

Yes. Just because likes won’t be visible to the public, they will still have an effect on the overall algorithm. Because likes still exist (albeit behind the scenes), they continue to affect an influencer’s engagement rate, as well as how likely their posts are to be seen in users’ feeds.

In short, the way that likes influence the algorithm will not change. The more likes a post gets, the more likely it is to be seen in more user feeds.

API access is more crucial than ever

“Influencer marketing platforms with API access will still be able to see an influencer’s likes and other “behind the scenes” data,” explains Tagger Founder and COO Peter Kennedy. “While likes won’t be publicly visible as a user scrolls through content, brands and agencies who use a platform with API approval will still be able to see, filter, and analyze an influencer’s engagement rate.”

This issue of ethical data gathering will now be absolutely paramount to brands’ influencer marketing success. If a brand has been using a platform that “scrapes” data, they will no longer have access to any information pertaining to likes. That means everything will be thrown off; likes, engagement rate, and more.

Making sure the influencer marketing platform you use has API approval is the only way to know for sure you’re creating a campaign strategy based on accurate data.

Higher quality data & potential (positive!) changes in user behavior

Based on the information that’s been gathered while this feature of hiding likes was tested overseas, we believe this update is great news for brands! Why? Users feel freer to authentically engage with posts they genuinely like.

Users who may not have liked a post in the past- perhaps because they felt their ‘heart’ was insignificant, getting lost in a sea of hundreds of thousands of likes, or even not wanting to give up a ‘like’ on a low-performing post- may now base their decision to interact with content on whether they actually like it!

This update supports a move back towards the original intention of the ‘liking’ feature, which is to curate a user’s experience based on their true affinities, rather than social pressures. In theory, brands will now be able to target their true ideal audience based more on user behavior, not just an influencer’s metrics.

With this one change, brands will get a MUCH clearer picture of what kind of content is truly resonating with audiences.

Where should marketers go from here?

While we wait and see what overall effect hiding likes has on user behavior, it’s a good idea to shift your campaign KPI’s away from “vanity metrics” like ‘likes’, and instead focus more on social listening, impressions, and brand awareness.

In addition to adjusting campaign KPI’s, marketers should increase efforts on using data to find an influencer who is truly a perfect fit for your brand. When you’re able to tap into an influencer’s audience that already connects with what you’re sharing, you’re able to develop a more successful ongoing relationship with both the influencer and their audience.

The days of scrolling and spreadsheets are over. Powerful search filters and behind-the-scenes API access are the new gold standard of influencer marketing.

The Bottom Line

A shift towards authenticity is great news for everyone. With less pressure to publicly inflate their metrics, brands and users get a much more accurate look at an influencer’s data and style of communicating.

Influencers can now create content based solely on genuine affinities and connections without feeling a need to alter output for a higher public like count. This creates a much more nurturing atmosphere for true, high-value engagement.

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