As the experiment expands to US accounts, some influencers are worried they will lose followers or income
Instagram has begun to hide the number of users who have liked a photo for some accounts in the US in an ongoing effort to create a less stressful experience.
The shift had influencers, artists, celebrities and everyday users up in arms Nicki Minaj even said shed stop posting on the platform with many worrying the transition will lose them followers and ultimately income.
Instagram removing likes may be terrible for emerging artists online, said Peter DeLuce, a fine artist who said he gets the majority of his business from the platform.
DeLuce has been on Instagram since 2017 and has amassed more than 10,000 followers. He paints space-themed scenery and said his work has often gotten purchased because larger accounts saw the popularity of his pieces and then shared the posts to their own followers.
Instagram allowed me to reach a whole new section of people who dont normally get to see art, he said. Likes are a good metric to prove your art is high quality that there is a validation of your ideas and content.
Without likes, recognition in the art world returns to who you know or subjective elitist tastes, he added.
Instagrams change to the like feature has been in the works since 2018. That year, the company began quietly testing hiding them from posts in seven countries, including Australia and Japan. Last week chief executive Adam Mosseri tweeted the change would be expanding to include a small portion of people in the US.
Users will still be able to see their own likes, it is only their followers who will now not be able to see how many likes a photo got. In the early rollouts, influencers saw like counts fall in countries where it was hidden, a study from analytics firm HypeAuditor found. Likes fell 3% to 15% in all the countries for influencers with 5,000 to 20,000 followers.
The backlash to the change in the US was swift, with the CEOs announcement drawing a slew of negative comments on Twitter. Instagram has repeatedly stated it is making the change to allow users to focus on content rather than feedback. It comes as social media is increasingly criticized for adverse mental health effects and Facebook, Instagrams parent company, has become the target of antitrust investigations.
The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and things that inspire them, Mosseri said.
For some people who have come to rely on the platform for income, as with DeLuce, the change was a startling shift. They have argued hiding likes will negatively impact influencers who rely on the platform for work or perks, as companies often look at likes on posts as a measure of how successful a campaign has been.
The influencer market has ballooned in recent years and is anticipated to grow to a $6.5bn industry by 2020. Influencers often partner with brands and get paid in exchange for sharing photos with a product to their thousands or millions of followers. Celebrities such as Kylie Jenner, who hawks everything from vitamins and tea to facial cleanser, have been known to get $1m for a single sponsored Instagram post.
Others have argued the like has long lost its validity as an indication of popularity and that the change is a positive one. Between legions of bots faking engagement and the ease of buying followers online, the like no longer carries as much weight as it once did, they say. Some 64% of influencers admitted to buying likes, a 2018 study from influencer marketing platform HYPR found.
Likes were always a bad metric, Gil Eyal, HYPR founder and chief executive officer said. They are very easy to manipulate and dont actually convey the level of excitement someone has about something.
Many reputable brands had already wised up to the epidemic of influencers buying likes and followers long ago, said Matt Zuvella, a spokesman for influencer marketing platform FamePick, and hiding likes will only speed along the process.
Its a moment of reckoning for the industry, he said. People faking it will fade away, and people who are real will stand out.
Even some influencers say they are ready for the change. When Stephanie Tyler, an Instagram influencer with more than 32,000 followers, first heard the platform where she makes the majority of her income would be removing likes from posts, she felt shocked, but ultimately was excited for the change.
I was caught off guard, because I feel that is the No 1 metric most people look at, she said. Once I got past that, I realized it is going to be a net positive for content creators. It is going to weed out the people who are using third party services to buy fake likes and followers and force creators to step up their game.