Get ready for the next big shift at Instagram.
On Friday, at the WIRED25 Conference in San Francisco, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri announced that the platform will be extending its test of hiding total like counts to users in the US.
"Not the whole US at once, but just some of you," Mosseri told the audience. "Are you into this idea? Yeah?" Mosseri then queried.
Instagram's hidden like counts test has sparked much debate in the social media industry, with some seeing it as a major win for platform health, and others questioning the impacts it will have on engagement, influencer marketing, etc.
The initial test was launched in Canada back in May, before being expanded to seven more countries in July.
We’re currently running a test that hides the total number of likes and video views for some people in the following countries:— Instagram (@instagram) July 17, 2019
✅ New Zealand pic.twitter.com/2OdzpIUBka
But while the test has been active for some five months, we still don't have any data from Instagram as to how platform usage has or hasn't changed as a result, nor do we have any insight as to what the platform is looking as a measure of success for the now expanding test.
As we reported earlier in the week, influencer marketing platform HypeAuditor recently published a study which appears to suggest that total like counts have fallen in the regions where the test is active, at least for the influencers included within its study.
As you can see here, HypeAuditor's test uses the UK - where the test is not active - as the yardstick for regions where hidden like counts are active. The overall numbers suggest that the change has had an impact user activity, but because the test is isolated to influencers only, it's not 100% clear whether these trends are reflective of all users.
But you'd expect that they are, which would mean that you can also likely expect to see a drop in your total Like counts. How that impacts reach and engagement as a result will be up to each individual profile and business to measure.
But one way or another, it does appear that everyone, eventually, is going to find out.
As per Mosseri:
"It's about young people - 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."
Wellbeing has been a key focus for Mosseri since taking on the Instagram role a year ago. And indeed, Mosseri says that he has been very involved in this change.
"We have to see how it affects how people feel about the platform, how it affects how they use the platform, how it affects the creator eco-system, but I've been spending a lot of time on this personally."
The fact that Instagram is expanding the test to American users would suggest that it is generating results, but what those results are exactly, and what their extended impacts will be, we don't know as yet.
But this will be its biggest test yet. As a user in Australia, where the test has been active for the last few months, I would say that it is worth noting that test is not as extreme as some think. You can still tap on the 'and others' notification beneath any post and see a full list of people who've liked it, while you can still view total like counts for your own content.
And while I think this is probably a glitch, or just an overlooked element, I can still see the full like counts on any post when I check it via the desktop version of the app.
That may also be the case in the US, so from a metrics standpoint, it's not necessarily a total elimination of likes as a data consideration.
But as shown in the above results, it does appear to be causing a drop in total likes. Whether that also means there's an increase in comments as a result, and/or how that subsequently affects post reach, you'll need to measure and monitor as the test expands.