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Will Hidden Likes = Less Money for Instagram Influencers?

Think back to 2012. It was an exciting time in social media, and Facebook decided that a still-young Instagram was totally worth $1 Billion when they purchased it. Since then, Facebook has connected the two formats on the backend, via the Ads Manager tool. Ever since that merger, it has been possible to run ads on Instagram AND Facebook, which seems like a great innovation.

And since 2012, Instagram has developed in ways that nobody quite predicted (including, possibly, Facebook.) In 2018, Facebook generated about $16 billion in ad revenues, and more than half of that came from Instagram ads.

While Instagram stalled for years, in 2018, innovations on the platform revved up a sluggish revenue source, resulting in exploding ad revenues, and more changes are in the works.

Instagram has been trying to figure out how to get a slice of the lucrative Influencer market, including rolling out Influencer ads earlier this year. According to Facebook, 68% of users say they come to Instagram to connect with Influencers. And being an influencer can make you rich – Kylie Jenner rich. In fact, Kylie Jenner charges an average of $1.27 million per post. And Facebook and Instagram don’t get a cent of it.

With so many people coming to Instagram for the Influencers, and with Influencers making so much money on the platform without any kickbacks, it’s easy to see why Facebook and Instagram would have a love/hate relationship with Influencers.

Maybe that’s why the recent announcements about Instagram’s intention to expand their test of hiding “likes” on posts were alarming. The motivation for the changes was couched in social responsibility. Instagram said in April that hiding likes would create “a less pressurized environment” on the app. High school bullying was mentioned.

But for Influencers, this translates into the inability to openly share key metrics. Measuring likes is one of the ways advertisers assign value to each Influencer.

Want to hear a more cynical interpretation of the Instagram test to remove the visibility of likes? These changes are meant to incentivize brands to move away from Influencer paid posts. They want advertisers to use Instagram ads to support their influencer posts and to focus on Instagram Stories, the video and photo posts that are live on Instagram only temporarily.

The Bottom may Fall out of the “Fake Likes” Market

Of course, not every like is genuine. There has been a trade in buying fraudulent likes on Instagram for years. Hiding like means that the number of followers will now be the most important measurement, and that means the market for fake likes will evaporate.

These changes may force some advertisers to measure the actual online activity or in-store sales driven by influencer posts (currently possible, but not always practiced.) But for the advertisers who rely on enhanced cache or awareness, it's going to be harder to measure.

Expect an Uptick in Instagram Stories

Experts believe that Facebook and Instagram will leverage the changes in ways that push users to Stories, the platform’s short-form videos. Instagram has been working on strategies to increase the consumption of videos, create incentives for Influencers and creators to make more videos, and improve the ROI of advertisers leveraging video.

Facebook and Instagram understand the value of video in social media and are working on ways to create better experiences, going up against Snapchat and even YouTube in the process.

Is There a Bright Side to Hiding Likes?

Of course, removing the visibility of likes will take some pressure off ever-insecure teenagers. And removing a tool for bullies is a positive motivation.

Some experts believe that one of the reasons more users don’t post is because they don’t want to have a post out there with no likes. In the Millennial world, no likes = no love.

If likes are hidden, then it’s possible that more people won’t feel pressured, and they’ll post more. And more time spent on the platform means more engages users, and more responses to the ads served.

We’ll wait and see. In the meantime, if you’re considering Instagram ads for your business, or want to increase your influence on Instagram, contact Cup O Content for more information.

Want to learn more about changes in Instagram? Check out New Ad Format Spotlights Big Issues With Instagram Influencers.

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