A new Instagram policy has raised concern among individuals who have forged careers for themselves as influencers on the platform.
In May, Instagram ran a test in Canada to see how users behaved on the platform when the like count was removed from uploads. The company claimed that this move was made in the hope of encouraging users “to focus on the photos and videos [they] share, not how many likes they get”.
However, this raised concern among individuals who have forged careers for themselves as influencers on the platform. If a brand or company has no idea what kind of engagement an individual’s uploads can garner, it could remove some of the incentive to partner with that individual.
In the early stages of the Canadian test run, Instagram took this into account and told TechCrunch: “We understand that this is important for many creators and, while this test is in exploratory stages, we are thinking through ways for them to communicate value to their brand partners.”
The company has yet to report on whether or not it is seeing the results it had expected, but it plans to extend the experiment further afield.
Instagram is now testing it out in six more countries, including Ireland. The other five regions are Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.
How it works
The feature that is being tested allows the uploader to see how many likes their photograph received and who these likes were from, but it removes the visibility of this feature for everyone else.
In a way, this test extends some of the perceived benefits of Instagram’s story feature to its traditional photo uploads, which are the foundation of the app.
As the system existed up until this point, Instagram posts were seen to be for more remarkable, long-term photographs. Meanwhile, the story feature has commonly been used to share lower-priority, fleeting updates, which disappear after 24 hours.
Without publicly visible likes, photo uploads on Instagram begin to resemble the story uploads, but do not share the short lifespan.
In a statement, Instagram said: “We don’t want Instagram to feel like a competition. We hope to learn whether this change can help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story.”
While some have welcomed the move, others are critical and believe that the visibility of comments – which will not be changed – could be “used as a proxy for popularity”.
An Instagram spokesperson said: “There’s still a lot we want to learn when it comes to how this test impacts the Instagram experience.”