Back in April, Instagram announced that it would begin a new test of hiding total like counts on posts, a move which sparked much concern among platform influencers and those who use Likes as a proxy for their relative content performance.
How would the removal of Like counts change user behavior? Would users be less inclined to tap 'Like' if they didn't have the context of how many others had done the same? And how would that impact overall on-platform engagement?
This week, influencer marketing platform HypeAuditor has released a study of content from more than 154k Instagram influencers, each of whom sees at least 30% of their following coming from users in the regions in which Instagram's hidden Like counts test is currently running.
For context, Instagram's hidden like counts test is currently live for users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, Japan and New Zealand.
The test is not active in the UK, so HypeAuditor has used the UK listing as a baseline, reflecting normal Like trends on the platform in comparison to the regions involved in the test.
Here's what they found.
The HypeAuditor team has split its results into four influencer tiers:
- Those with 1k to 5k followers
- Those with 5k to20k followers
- Those with 20k to 100k followers
- Those with 100k to 1m+ followers
For nano-influencers, there has been a pronounced reduction in some regions, but not all.
For the next tier, the results are more definitive:
Brazilian influencers have again seen a bigger hit in the mid-tier influencer range:
While Japanese influencers saw another spike in the major influencer category.
The results here are not definitive - while they do reflect an overall reduction in Like activity in regions impacted by the change, HypeAuditor's categorization (influencers with 30% of their following in the test regions) does leave a few questions around the specific methodology.
But the data does show that the removal of total Like counts is seemingly having some impact on overall engagement stats for influencers.
Is that a good or a bad thing? It's hard to know - maybe reducing the reach of influencers who showcase unrealistic lifestyles and/or physiques is actually kind of the point, as that would also lessen the negative societal impacts through comparison.
Maybe. We don't know because Instagram hasn't shared its measures of success for the trial, what metrics it's looking at, internally, in order to determine if removing total Like counts is a beneficial step. But either way, the data here would appear to suggest that, overall, removing total Like counts is likely to also reduce total Likes allocated overall, at least to influential users. Japan is the only real anomaly - and HypeAuditor notes that Japanese influencers so see the second-highest overall engagement rates in the world (behind Greece).
So, if you're an influencer, you may well see a reduction in your Instagram engagement - but then again, that wouldn't definitively impact reach, or even engagement on balance. These stats look at influencer performance specifically, but if the same trends hold for all users, that may mean that influencers still perform just as well, with comparative stats for regular people also dropping. If that's the case, then influencer engagement may remain well above the norm, so again, the true impacts are hard to determine.
The data provides some interesting, yet non-definitive, insights into the Instagram Like test. Hopefully, Instagram will soon be able to provide more clarity around the impacts that it's seeing and recording within the test regions.