55% of Instagram influencers experience engagement drop with likes hidden

It’s no secret Instagram is experimenting with what happens when it hides likes in hopes of making the platform less of a drain on people’s self-worth.

That data is never going to see the light of day, so we did our own research.  

We surveyed influencers and creators affected by the change to learn what has been going on since Instagram began not showing likes.  

So what happens when you hide likes for 50% of the platform’s users?  

People stop liking.

With likes hidden, 55% of creators noticed a drop in the average number of likes their posts received.  

Another 38% saw no change and 7% saw an increase in likes.  

Here are the full results:

What does fewer likes mean for the future of Instagram?

For influencers and creators this change will be worldshaking.  The good news though — the experiment is having the intended effect: Influencers overall are feeling less pressure to compete.

However, the influencers also reported a host of already felt and impending negative outcomes:

  • Fewer engagements overall
  • Slowed follower growth
  • A need to change their pricing
  • Not knowing what now qualified as a successful post

For brands and the Instagram platform, these changes will require some adaptation.  

Brands will need to adjust their expectations around engagement and invest in more sophisticated tools to measure influencer marketing success.  They’ll also need to find new ways of discovering influencers and creators right for their brand.  

Instagram itself will likely need to tweak its algorithm to ensure creators and influencers are being discovered by relevant audiences.  A major concern of the creators in our study.

The platform will also need to address another (hopefully) unintended consequence of this experiment: Creators and influencers who had their likes hidden were 2.5x more likely to say they had started posting less since the change was implemented.  

Long term though, we still think this change will be for the betterment of all.

How do the creators feel?

Creators are really torn on Instagram hiding likes.  In open ended questions asking about how they felt, the responses ranged from the amazingly positive:

Hiding these kinds of stats is a breath of fresh air. I no longer compare myself to similar influencers and am able to focus more on my own, unique content vs what is trendy”

To the less enthusiastic:

“Instagram, You guys f$#*^% up!”

Beyond just their own experience, there was a ton of insightful comment about what this change means.

Ideas ranged from how best to educate brands and creators about the change, to recommendations on how Instagram could go even further to improve the mental health of its users.  

Across the board though, whether or not this change should go platform wide was incredibly split.  In fact, when asked directly if Instagram should implement the change at the end of the survey, the split was 50/50 or rather 50.259% to 49.741%

Who exactly was in our study?

Our study included influencers and creators in Canada.  They had on average 46,401 followers and the split was 75% female, 25% male, so about what you’d expect for this industry.  

They came from across the IG content landscape, with the largest groups being  Travel (40%), Outdoors & Nature (20%), and Beauty/Makeup tied with Parenting & Family, both at (18%).

Instagram is running a classic A/B test. For half of users it’s business as usual (Control) and for everyone else it’s a brave new world with likes not showing (Experimental).  

Our sample was pretty evenly split, with 48% of respondents being part of Instagram’s Control group and the other 52% being in the Experimental group.  

So what comes next?

Instagram will pore over the data to figure out if hiding likes actually shifted metrics that would indicate a healthier environment.  

Next, they’ll look at overall usage data and revenue data to see if the change negatively impacted either.  Hopefully, they’ll then reach out to power users to get their qualitative feedback — I know many of our creators would love to speak with them.

After that, they’ll make a decision: Roll out or not.  

Whatever Instagram decides to do next, it will upset some and make other people very happy.

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