How Instagram's experiment to hide likes isn't sustainable for influencers

McKenzie DeGroot
Segment Producer

An Instagram (FB) without likes could soon become a reality — and that may be a problem for the power of social media influencers.

Back in April, the photo-sharing platform announced it would be experimenting hiding likes on posts, allowing only the individual user to be able to view how many likes they received.

As a result, social media marketing firm #paid recently decided to conduct a survey to see how this change was affecting Instagram users — particularly the people who make a living on the platform: Influencers.

Influencers are compensated by big brands to nudge followers to buy their products. They range from bigger celebrities, like Kylie Jenner — who tops the list of highest paid influencers at $1.27 million per post — to more niche accounts like beauty guru Hudda Kattan, who rakes in $91,300 a post, according to HQ Hopper.

#paid CEO Bryan Gold told YFi PM that the data they had collected wasn’t conclusive, and there “hasn’t been a concise move one way or the other.”

However, “On one hand across the board, we’re seeing influencers report a decrease in the amount of likes they’re receiving, as well as comments and new followers, which is not sustainable or healthy for their growth,” he added.

Over half of creators were seeing their likes fall, with a fifth of them seeing their like-count drop drastically, #paid’s study found. It also said that comments were taking a hit, with about a third of users reporting fewer comments.

Gold said they were also seeing the opposite effect as well. “We are seeing some news that creators feel a little more creative, a little bit more positive about testing their style, but most importantly less pressure to post, which has positive mental health effects.”

TV personality Kylie Jenner attends the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

Influencer partnerships

Facebook launched the hiding likes initiative in Canada just a couple of months ago — but “it has now expanded to at least six other countries,” Gold continues, “Things seem to be moving towards the direction of Facebook rolling this out globally.”

The survey also highlighted problems influencers were seeing when it came to their brand partnerships. About 41% reported lower engagement, and 16% said their brands were confused with the change.

“There were a number of influencers who reported brands being confused about the change, and not quite willing to partner with them and pay them for sponsored posts because of it,” Gold told Yahoo Finance.

Gold says that the “biggest problem in the industry is a lack of trust. Brands don’t confidently trust influencer marketing to achieve their critical business objectives.”

The CEO said this could have an interesting affect on social media users.

“Rather than people with millions and millions of followers who get all these likes, the value is no longer placed on the like, but more so on the content, the style, the engagement, as well as that north star metric a brand is working towards,” he added.

McKenzie DeGroot is a producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @degrootmckenzie

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