Industry Insights

Instagram Changes: Private Likes and Checkout

There is no doubt that Instagram is one of the most powerful social media platforms today. Whether you are an influencer, a digital marketing strategist, or just a social user, you’re probably familiar with the platform’s currency: the ‘likes’.

In mid-April this year, code hacker, Jane Manchun Wong, announced her discovery, which suggested that Instagram might remove its ‘like’ count. This significant shift in practice left many users divided. Later, during the Facebook F8 conference, Instagram’s head, Adam Mosseri, confirmed the news announcing that the new feature of hidden ‘likes’ would first be tested in Canada beginning in early May 2019. “We don’t want Instagram to feel like a competition; we want to make it a less pressurized environment.” Mosseri added, “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spent a bit more time connecting with the people they care about.”

Many influencers expressed concern that this new move would affect their livelihood since they depended on the numbers to measure performance and ultimately prove their impact and influence. In addition, brands and marketers felt they could lose an essential metric in measuring the success of their campaigns and advertising. Scouting for new talent would also be hindered given that follower and like counts were the primary way to gauge someone’s authority on the platform.

Surprising Results

After a few weeks into the May ‘no like counts’ rollout, the feedback has been surprisingly positive. Influencers and users seem to be enjoying the number-free experience with many thinking the new approach will help the platform return its focus back to content. Company head, Mosseri, made it very clear this was the direction he wanted to take the platform. Thus far, users seem to be on board with this strategy.

The efforts that Instagram is putting into shifting the focus away from numbers seems to also be a response to the growing problem of ‘click-farming’ or ‘like-farming’. The platform has increased its efforts to discourage users from engaging in the unethical practice of buying followers or likes, and it has routinely conducted raids—deleting fake accounts and monitoring suspicious activity. Jane Manchun Wong recently spotted yet another possible future update in the code that indicates Instagram will take further measures to enforce the rules and penalize users that break them.

Ultimately, these new changes will help increase the authenticity of the app, which is good for everyone—marketers included. With less emphasis placed on the numbers, it is expected that users and influencers will have fewer incentives to try to inflate or manipulate like or follower counts. More authentic content and relationships on the platform can translate into more effective campaigns and with genuine engagement. This new change will not only affect influencer marketing but digital marketing as a whole.

Good for Business

Instagram might be trying to bring user interaction and content into focus, but they have been working hard to support and grow business on the platform. While engagement metrics are still very much available to the user in the back end, the new update will only be hiding the like count publicly. This means brands and marketers can still get access to the metrics that will help them measure ROI. Business will go on as usual in the platform, moving engagement metrics away from the front-end of the app, giving the front user a more authentic customer experience. But, that’s not all that Instagram is doing to support and grow commerce on the platform.


New features will allow influencer and businesses to sell products directly on the platform via the new Instagram Checkout. This new addition is different from the Instagram Shopping, which was implemented a while ago, and only takes you onto the merchant’s website to complete a purchase. Checkout will allow users to make a purchase right then and there without ever leaving the app. Instagram has partnered up with a few select brands, influencers, and e-commerce platforms such as BigCommerce for the closed beta checkout rollout.
According to Instagram, “Checkout enhances the shopping experience by making the purchase simple, convenient and secure.” This is a feature to follow closely as it has the potential to revolutionize online commerce. Instagram is a powerful tool that brands can use in their digital marketing effort, and here are a few reasons why the platform is more than just a photo-sharing app:

  • 25 Million-plus business profiles worldwide

  • 2 Million-plus advertisers worldwide

  • 200 Million-plus users visit at least one business profile daily

  • 60% of people say they discover new products on Instagram

  • 80% increase video watch time on Instagram

  • One-third of the most viewed stories are from businesses


As one of the most powerful platforms out there, it will be interesting to watch how the new changes that Instagram is implementing will affect the digital marketing space. Given the favorable response to the ‘hidden likes’ feature, will other platforms follow suit? Will this ultimately help content creators and businesses alike? Lastly, will Instagram become a major player in the e-commerce space? One thing is for sure, the platform is not slowing down anytime soon, and they seem not to be afraid of change and innovation—even if that means changing the rules of the game entirely.

Ellie Somfelean

Ellie Somfelean

Ellie is a Reporter and Content Marketer with CMSC Media. She is passionate about social media and digital marketing. She has a vast experience with content creation, influencer marketing and brand promotion.

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