Instagram began testing a new feature in Canada that would hide public like counts on all photo and video posts. Well, according to a new Tweet, it appears thatInstagram is now expanding the test to several more countries, including Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand!

Keep reading to find out why Instagram is hiding likes, what the new design looks like, how it works, and the impact it could have on influencers and businesses…

How do hidden likes on Instagram work?

Canadian Instagram users have been like-free for over two months now — and it appears that Instagram is now in the process of expanding the test to several more countries.

Here’s what the new hidden likes design looks like when you’re scrolling Instagram:

“As you scroll through your feed, there are no like counts,” explained Mark Zuckerberg at F8. “You can see who liked a photo or video, you can tap through to see [the list], and if you have the time you can add them all up yourself.”

But can you still see how many likes you get on your own Instagram posts? 

Yes, you will still be able to see how many likes you’re getting on posts, even if your followers can’t. But the number won’t automatically appear under your post, instead, you will have to tap “others” under your blog post to go through to the total number of likes:

How to hide your likes on Instagram (or get them back):

Right now, only users in Canada (and now Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand) have access to hidden likes on Instagram.

If you’ve been selected for the test, you’ll see a banner at the top of your home feed letting you know why you don’t see likes on another user’s posts anymore.

How do you get into the test group? 

Unfortunately, there is no way to opt-in to hidden likes, or opt-out if you’re already part of the test group. Instagram hasn’t commented on exactly how big this test is, but it appears that the test is a lot bigger than we thought it would be.

This is, of course, represents a massive change to how Instagram and its users function. The number of likes a post gets, while not the best measure of “success,” has long been a kind of status symbol on the platform. The “hiding” of like counts seems to be purely about helping users share more authentic content without getting caught up in the competition.

Zuckerberg said as much during his keynote, stating “We want people to be less interested in how many likes a post gets, and focus more on connecting with other people.”

How will a like-free Instagram affect influencers and brands?

The big question on everyone’s minds is: how will this affect Instagram influencers and businesses?

Personally, I think this is a really positive change for the platform. Instagram Stories don’t have any public metrics, and that hasn’t stopped it from exploding in popularity with both users, brands, and influencers. The fact that your “like count” is out of sight means that the focus is on your content, rather than a number, and can allow you to post more freely without being limited to your best times to post.

And because your likes are hidden away, it serves as a mental health reminder to check in with yourself: do you really need to know how many people liked your recent selfie?

Obviously, this change does have major implications for influencers. For one, it could make it more difficult for brands to find Instagram influencers to work with. In 2019, brands care more about reach and engagement rate than they do followers, so without the ability to publicly view an influencer’s likes (aka their engagement), it could make it harder to gauge how engaged their community is. Suddenly, a good influencer media kit is now deemed essential.

Lia Haberman, formerly VP Audience Development at Livestrong, notes that hidden likes could result in a spending shift away from influencer marketing and towards paid advertising on Instagram. “This will likely increase the amount of ads as brands look for more exposure and make it difficult for anyone but established influencers to get a foot-hold.”

On the other hand, health and wellness influencer @davecoast is excited about the change, saying that he hopes this will be a “step in a more authentic direction, where brands start looking at other metrics that derive more meaning, like reach or impressions or saves.”

There’s also the creative component to think about, he explains. “I think influencers and users will be more willing to post more artsy/cool/different content if likes are hidden. For example, every third photo on my feed used to be of a subject other than myself, which didn’t perform as well.”

“But I liked that it challenged me to think differently about my posts and show my life in another way. But as ‘engagement rates’ became increasingly important with brands, I decreased these posts and do them every 9 posts instead of 3 now.”

As for businesses on Instagram? Businesses on Instagram will have to be more creative in analysing data and get specific about what content is actually driving the business, and supporting your business goals.

Likes were always a false currency, but an easy number to give when asked how content is performing and an easy way to compare, so I think this shift forces businesses to look at what’s actually working.

But don’t worry yet: this test doesn’t mean that likes are going away for everybody, and it will likely be months before we hear anything more about how it’s performing.