- Instagram started removing "likes" on posts by US users this month.
- With the change, users will be able to see likes on their own posts — but not on posts by others.
- Business Insider asked five Instagram influencers in the travel space what they thought about Instagram hiding likes.
- They told Business Insider that the change will allow them to experiment with new types of content, engage more with followers, and is a step in the right direction when it comes to mental health.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Earlier this month, Instagram announced that it would start removing "likes" on posts by users based in the US.
The experiment comes on the heels of similar tests in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. Users will still be able to see how many likes their posts received; however, their followers will not.
At the Wired tech 25 conference, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri discussed the impetus for the platform tweak.
"It's about young people," he said. "The idea is to try to 'depressurize' Instagram, make it less of a competition and give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them."
The announcement was met with a flurry of responses from influencers and celebrities, ranging from the supportive to the downright enraged. Some even threatened to stop posting on the app altogether.
Business Insider spoke with five Instagram influencers in the travel space about the platform's move to hide likes, and they said that the decision's effects would be felt in a variety of ways.
Room to focus on quality content that engages with followers, not just content that chases numbers
Nath's Instagram page has 85.5k followers and features photos of her long-term, solo travel experiences accompanied by narrative captions. Among her most-liked recent posts is a photo of her "office" in Thimphu, Bhutan. In her caption, she reflects with gratitude on her decision to quit her job and travel the world in 2013.
Lee, who has 49.6k followers, worked in PR and marketing before choosing the influencer path. He noted that, due to brands' valuation of likes, Instagram has become a numbers game. "Not all brands focus on the quality of the content versus the number of likes," he said.
Nath told Business Insider that she hopes Instagram hiding likes will make it more of a space for community and discussion.
"I feel that the obsession with likes often takes away from meaningful stories and conversations, especially in the travel space," she told Business Insider. "Glamorous travel photos might get a lot of likes, but are they really generating conversations on topics that matter, or even real value for a business partner?"
Canadian travel influencer and vlogger Nadine Skyora (@heynadine), who has 96.6k followers, said this change will prompt her to engage more with her followers. "I'll be focusing more on the description. Instagram content will become a cross of micro-blogging and photography now," she said.
In short: "Comments will become the new likes," she said.
Freedom to experiment with other types of content without harming their reach
For Francesa Murray (@onegrloneworld) of One Girl One World, the announcement comes as a relief. Murray, who has 42.2k followers and whose feed features a collection of bright and frequently beachy shots in locations like Barbados and the Cook Islands, told Business Insider that it will be a vast improvement to the Instagram experience for both users and creators.
"For creators, it will alleviate some of the pressure to make each post 'a hit,'" she said. "We'll be able to just focus on creating quality content and engaging with the people it resonates with via comments."
As a result, Murray feels that she will have more liberty to experiment with her content. "I've been yearning to create more content around haircare and beauty because both impact my travels greatly, but have been scared of what that would do to my engagement."
Murray's top posts this year have garnered up to 2.3k likes and around 300 comments. She almost always ends her Instagram captions with a conversational question to her followers, like "What comes to mind when you think of Memphis — and have you ever been?" or "Have you ever been to a black sand beach before? Where at?"
It may take some time for brands to get on board, but they'll get there
Erick Prince (@minoritynomad), who runs the Minority Nomad blog, has visited 93 countries and aims to become the first African American to travel to every country. He told Business Insider that while he's never placed much importance on likes, they're important from a business perspective.
"I could get 0 likes and not care one bit," he said. "Brands care, though."
Lee anticipates that there will be an adjustment period during which brands will renegotiate their key performance indicators.
"I think it's important to educate brands that likes shouldn't be a performance indicator, especially when you can buy them for a few dollars," he said.
Sykora estimates that the change may make it harder for brands to discover influencers, especially those with smaller followings, but that, in the long run, it won't have too much of an impact, she told Business Insider.
"I think at first it'll take a hit, as marketing agencies figure out how to now pick and vet influencers, but realistically you still have comments, you still have followers, and you can still see the like count in your analytics," she said.
A step in the right direction when it comes to mental health, though only time will tell if it's enough
While Instagram's decision to start hiding likes seems to have been made with its users' mental health in mind, the travel influencers Business Insider spoke with have mixed feelings on the effectiveness of this goal.
Nath, for one, believes that Instagram doing away with likes will improve the mental wellbeing of its users. "The peer pressure can be intense!" she said with regard to amassing likes.
For Sykora, the benefits remain to be seen.
"While Instagram says they are doing this for mental health reasons, I'm skeptical of how big of an effect it'll have. Because unless you get rid of public follower numbers, and backend likes, then you really haven't changed anything at all," she told Business Insider. "People will still feel bad about seeing perfect people, living their perfect lives. People will still compare themselves to their friends and strangers."
Are you a travel influencer with a reaction you'd like to share? Email this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or message her on Instagram: @melissatwiley.