In a bid to allow its users to “feel comfortable expressing themselves,” Instagram has removed the ability for followers to view ‘like’ counts on posts since November 2018, in a move that has since become a worldwide update. Only owners of accounts will be able to view the total number of likes.
For influencers, the removal of likes seemed to herald their demise. According to HypeAuditor, in the initial rollout of this update, likes fell from 3-15% in the countries for influencers from 5,000 to 20,000 followers. Influencers have thus expressed concern that the removal of likes, which were a visible metric that they could use to justify their worth to brands, would adversely impact their livelihood.
Yet, prominent influencers have spoken out in support of this update, among them most notably Kim Kardashian. Some of these influencers agree with the move because of its contribution to the mental health cause surrounding social media, a long-debated issue that social media companies have been lambasted.
Furthermore, consider that the impact of likes has become less significant over time. Likes can be easily doctored or bought, especially with technology such as engagement bots, with 64% of influencers admitting that they did so according to a 2018 study by HYPR. Likes can be easily manipulated, losing their validity to users and brands.
Additionally, the removal of likes does not affect all influencers the same way, depending on the nature of their following. Removal of likes spotlights high-quality content and the personality of creators, which is where niche and micro-influencers would benefit. These influencers with smaller audiences can build up a rapport of trust with their followers more so than huge celebrities. Hence, the likes garnered would reflect the genuine appreciation for their content.
However, for larger creators that thrive off popularity, their followers would not feel as compelled to jump on the bandwagon by simply liking content.
Hence, it seems that the move is intended to weed out influencers who have genuine content to contribute.