Instagram revealed the test run will only operate in Australia — as an extension of a test that began in Canada in May this year — and will “remove the total number of likes on photos and video views in Feed, Permalink pages and Profile”.
“This test is to encourage users and their followers to focus on the photos [and] videos they share, not how many likes they get,” it said.
The reason for doing so is that Instagram “doesn’t want the platform to feel like a competition — and this change will help people focus less on likes and more on the content they are creating”.
Mia Garlick, the director or policy at Facebook Australia and New Zealand (Instagram is owned by Facebook), said the platform wants users to “feel comfortable expressing themselves”.
“We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive so you can focus on sharing the things you love,” she said.
“We are now rolling the test out to Australia so we can learn more about how this can benefit people’s experiences on Instagram, and whether this change can help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story.”
An image of how the feed will look during the test phase is below:
‘Visible comments will reign supreme’
Commenting on the local trial by Instagram, James Gilbert, the APAC director of in-bound marketing firm HubSpot, welcomed the move, suggesting it could be a positive development for brand engagement.
“There’s no denying that likes are critical to the success of an Instagram account. In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the economy of likes, whereby a double tap is used as currency to drive business. But while a bunch of likes are a valuable metric, it’s only a productive marketing strategy if these interactions are genuine,” he said.
“This latest trial by Instagram in Australia promotes a greater value to be placed on followers and comments. It’s never been more important to make use of key engagement tactics.”
According to Mr Gilbert, so-called “hope marketing”, which he explained as “trying random efforts on social media and hoping they’ll work”, is not something that can be relied on in the modern business world, meaning more tangible strategies and metrics are needed.
“As we move into a social media era whereby visible comments will reign supreme, the responsibility is now on brands to ensure they are building an authentic connection with their audience, by re-evaluating their Instagram strategy,” he said.