All about Instagram’s latest move to test hiding likes

Last Thursday, Instagram took Australia by storm implementing its new testing of hiding the number of likes on posts on the platform. Since then there has been immense speculation and opinion on how this will affect businesses’ marketing efforts. At Purple Giraffe, we strongly believe social media should always be a tactic in a greater overall marketing strategy. A diversified strategy protects you from potential challenges on social media platforms now and in the future.


So, what exactly has changed as part of the testing?

When news broke late last Wednesday, fear and speculation grew on what Instagram actually changed as part of this testing. Let’s go straight to the source and get all the facts straight. On the 17th of July Instagram tweeted “We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get. You can still see your own likes by tapping on the list of people who’ve liked it, but your friends will not be able to see how many likes your post has received.”


In reality this means underneath an image on Instagram where the number of likes would normally appear is now blank. Unless someone else you follow has also liked the image and then likes will appear as below.

You will then be able to click others and see a list of likers. Never fear! The total number of likes will still be available on users’ own posts privately and in insights for businesses.


But why has Instagram moved to test hiding the number of likes on a post?

The testing follows Instagram’s release of new anti-cyber bullying features in an effort to improve the wellbeing of users. It is hoped by making likes less of an external facing feature users will feel less social pressure. To a lesser extent businesses can also experience pressure to reach a certain amount of likes or be perceived as well liked for commercial success.


What does this mean moving forward?

While the feature is still under testing, it is expected likes will become a less prominent external metric of success. Real engagement via comments will become more of a focus. Which is something that has always been the case for businesses. For example, it is better to have a smaller audience who value and engage with your posts rather than a large audience who don’t. While creating posts that cause people to stop, take notice and comment on can be a more time consuming and creative task the outcome will create more value for businesses. Often the reward of having an engaging social media presence is not immediately seen or immediately converted into sales. However, the connection built over time is what creates value and often becomes a source of competitive advantage for businesses. As we consider who to purchase from we often choose those businesses we are already aware of and have a connection with. Social media is a relatively cost effective way to achieve this awareness and connection with potential customers.


Now, that likes are hidden how can I encourage comments on my post?

With likes hidden many businesses are under even more pressure as they feel the need to now encourage commenting on posts. While external users may not be able to see your like count don’t discount this as a measurement of your own success. In fact, it will still be available as a metric in your Instagram insights. However, we do understand the mounting pressure for more valuable engagement.


Not every post should be focused on generating comments as this will become old very quickly. All content posted on your social media should be focused on providing value for your followers. Which will generally result in real and valuable engagement, including comments. However, the following approaches can be used at your discretion to encourage commenting:


1. Ask your followers a question

Lead your followers in with a short opening statement and then ask them a question. For example, you might describe your favourite holiday destination and then ask them what theirs is.

 2. Ask your followers their opinion

Your followers are a market research database you should be tapping into. If you’re developing something new or making some changes – ask your followers what they think!

3. Encourage your followers to tag a friend

This works well with humorous content as we’ve all become very well accustomed to being tagged in relevant and relatable memes on social media. It’s also a great way to expand your organic reach!

4. Respond to comments

There’s no point encouraging your followers to engage if you’re not going to respond. Engagement is a two-way street and rewarding followers for their input will only further encourage them to do-so in the future.

5. Run a competition based on engagement

Running competitions on Instagram is nothing new and one of the most common tactics is encouraging people to comment a response or tag a friend they’d share the prize with. Another more creative approach is to run the competition for a fortnight or a month and include comments on all posts in that time frame as an entry. For example, on each post for that time frame you would add ‘For this month/fortnight we are running a competition to win (x), simply comment below to be in the running!’.


While any changes on social media platforms can cause stress and concern for business users. Overall, we see Instagram’s move to remove like counts as a positive one. It will certainly be interesting to see how this change affects content sharing on the platform. If you’re feeling confused and concerned about your current content strategy in light of these changes on Instagram. As always, Purple Giraffe are here to provide you advice on how to best manage social media and utilise the platforms to strategically create value in your overall marketing strategy.

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Jane Rundell

Jane is a young marketing professional passionate about delivering actionable, practical marketing insights. Jane has had exposure to many international and diverse markets through her undergraduate degree and placements, including study in Cambodia, Laos, South Africa, and Malaysia. She has also completed marketing placements in the areas of technology, fashion, ethical and sustainability-focused businesses.

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