What do Singapore influencers really think about Instagram hiding likes?

Vector illustration. Isometric style.
Vector illustration. Isometric style.

SINGAPORE – The last few months have seen changes aplenty with the social media platform favoured by influencers around the world. Suddenly the ability for people to see how many likes an Instagram post has had, has disappeared - first in Australia, Brazil and Canada - but now likes have been hidden in America too, and very soon in Singapore.

‘So what?’, I hear you ask. Well, the whole point of hiding likes on posts is supposed to help people feel better about themselves according to Instagram’s management. Apparently too many people are being stressed out by the need to have lots of likes on their Instagram posts, or not having as many likes on their posts compared to their friends or, you know, Kim Kardashian. Yes, really. There were too many people feeling inadequate about their Instagram posts so Facebook (which owns Instagram) decided to assist them by hiding likes. Mind you, it hasn’t hidden the number of followers an account has, so you can still feel inadequate about that.


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Why did Instagram hide Likes?

The real reason this is happening, however, is less to do with people’s mental health issues, and more to do with trying to stop the flow of cash from brands directly to influencers - who aren’t paying anything to Instagram but are gaining all the benefits. It’s basically like having a shop without having to pay rent.

Over the last five years, Influencer Marketing has begun to soak up just about all the advertising dollars available, and brands like Instagram and Facebook having been getting as much of the money as they would like. It’s also totally unfair that these free social media platforms are being used by people to make money on, right?

Hmmm. So while the management behind Facebook and Instagram has apparently stated that it understands why like counts are important for creative people, and that the platforms are trying to come up with ideas on how to help influencers continue to make money, it hasn’t really done anything to stop the hiding of likes. Presumably it is because they want all those influencers to start buying ads so that brands will see them as still being relevant; after all, likes are still visible on their ads. #justsaying

Brands might just decide to do more of their own ‘influencing’ by buying more ads rather than relying on influencers who can’t show that people like their posts anymore.

What do Singapore Influencers think about all this?

When asked to comment, a number of Singapore’s popular influencers actually responded rather positively to the idea that likes would now be hidden. It all comes back to creativity, and feeling less pressure, apparently.

Nicole Wong - @ncwong - started out as a fashion and beauty influencer on Instagram, but over the last few years has transformed into a creative marketing and events organiser via her company NplusC. “Hide it. I don’t care. We don’t need [them] to validate ourselves,” says Wong. Having moved into working with clients and not being the focus for the campaigns, Wong is more interested in making sure that the content that is created works. However, she’s also happy that some of the pressure to perform appears to be gone. “It’s a good change for mental health and we can go back to the fun days where Instagram was a place for us to express ourselves without being judged.”

For another successful Singapore creative - who doesn’t see herself as an influencer, and therefore preferred to be anonymous - hiding likes is a good thing, saying that she hopes people will become less obsessed with their social media standing. “It also removes that idea of what people assume ‘good content’ that garners ‘Likes’ should be. Perhaps people might stop using Instagram likes as a personal validation,” she says. From a brand perspective, however, she sees how “it might affect full time influencers as this is kind of their ‘quality stamp’ on how influential they are. Clients might pick them based on followers to likes ratio”.

For all round entertainer, actress and model, Fiona Fussi, hiding likes is positive. “I think the changes to Instagram regarding the hiding of likes is great! Because instagram has become so obsessed with numbers, that it takes the focus off the validity of likes and onto the content itself and the quality of it. Businesses can still see the hidden likes and reach but actually taking off the pressure of it would be great for many people’s mental health and my creativity too.”

Shifting the focus onto more creative content is also the reason why Singapore luxury fashion and travel influencer Nellie Lim is all for hiding likes too. “I think it’ll definitely help to shift the focus to what Instagram is really for - quality content that’s not governed by the quantity of likes,” she says. “I’m also hopeful that with the hiding of likes, brands will gravitate towards content around storytelling rather than just using a pretty face to sell a product or brand.”

Lim also thinks that the current crop of Influencers need to continually work to improve their own products. “Influencers also need to play a huge role in educating themselves and brands that likes are not a benchmark of whether a piece content resonates with an audience,” she explains.

For Singapore photographer Amanda Wong, also known as @beautifuladieu, the hiding of likes is a good idea even though she sees herself as being more of a ‘side influencer’ since her main work is separate from her Instagram account. “I feel like the culture has been a little too demanding and pressurising. I’m quite happy with the idea [of hiding likes].”

“As I have somewhat retired from the social media scene, I post a lot less, but more personal moments now. [However] the pressure to be seen and liked is still there, especially from previous work and posts, and also when people look at your follower count versus engagement.

“Relieving users like me of the like feature feels liberating, as now I can post freely without feeling I need others to see how much the post has been liked,” explains Wong, showing that some of the hoped for mental health benefits might actually be true for lots of users.

“As for [brand] posts, there is also pressure for the post to perform well, this may be a good thing for the Influencer since the Instagram algorithm isn’t on our side these days, but definitely not a good way for clients and companies to track Engagement and ROI on social media engagement.”

One of Singapore’s favourite beauty gurus, Larry Yeo, says he would love for likes to be hidden. “Rather than [popularity] being based on likes, I would rather see better content than to see people keep posting things that look similar to each other,” says Mr Yeo, who is well known for his honest and opinionated posts. “At the moment I can not differentiate a lot of them online at all, and worse, some [influencers] look very generic even in person.”

Mr Yeo hopes that once likes are hidden, there will be better quality content and more posts that show “better brain work than just posing with a product next to their face”. A bit harsh maybe, but also true.

So, that’s what’s happening in the world of social media influencing. Most of the current crop of talent think that hiding the like function is a good idea - at least for them and other, ordinary users. For brands - and for influencers relying on their accounts to pay their bills - it might be another story. The idea that influencers should be making better creative content should, of course, be better for everyone. More exciting and interesting stuff to scroll through on our Insta feed wouldn’t be a terrible outcome. #like