Have you ever shared content on Instagram and it soared in engagement? As the likes rolled in, it felt good, didn’t it? Validating the time and energy you spent creating the content, then taking the ideal picture, writing the perfect caption, adding engaging hashtags and responding to comments.
What about when you posted something and it barely got any likes? Did it feel bad? Did it deter you from posting? Did you curse the algorithm or did you take it personally? Did you reload Instagram over and over to see if your likes went up?
Instagram Head Adam Mosseri said it’s precisely this stress they are trying to eradicate with pending “test” changes in the US, hiding visible “likes” for some Instagram users in an effort to minimize the fixation on the numbers.
“We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about,” he said during Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8.
In the pro beauty world, high likes don’t just lead to feelings of validation, they lead to opportunities. High-liked content in this hyper-visual industry serves as a stamp of approval, a gauge of talent. Independent educators are selling out classrooms, brand ambassadors are landing endorsement opportunities for not only being incredibly talented, but also for commanding a following and garnering high likes on Instagram content.
"I am so excited about likes being removed," says Aly Davis, @alydavishair, a South Carolina-based stylist. "As an advocate for mental health, this is a step in the right direction for removing the anxiety so many have from social media. We can post the content that suits who we are as an individual without the stress of trying to follow what is most popular."
So what happens when likes go away? What does it look like, how will it impact our industry’s most-used social media platform? How are our industry’s influencers feeling about the shift?
“I think the culture of Instagram has caused many business owners and stylists to lose sight of the real marketing side of Instagram,” says Alison Valsamis, @braidedandblonde who has landed brand deals and ambassador relationships through her own Instagram platform. “Taking that pressure off the individual will make for more authentic, real content.”
The test started to roll out in other countries earlier this year, Canada, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Australia, for instance had likes hidden and, for some, the change was positive.
“My friend in Australia had likes removed several months ago and it seemed like it was working well,” says Shannon Demont, @daymakerschair, a Massachusetts-based stylist. “I think it will be good for people to not see themselves comparing.”
Although the over-arching sentiment is resonating with many users, there are also anxieties surrounding the change.
“I see both sides depending on what and how you use your account,” says Luis Miller, @lulustylesnyc. “It will be hard for brands to identify our actual influence. On the other hand, I know the pressure to post great content, and sometimes that pressure has me staring at content for an entire day: editing videos, creating captions, getting the best lighting, going through 100 photos, it can be exhausting! I feel we should be given the option to turn it on and off.”
Updo artist Casey Powell, @updoguru, has mixed feelings.
"I use Instagram as more of an artistic outlet and way to showcase work I am proud of," she says. "Likes are cool to see but they don’t influence me very much. I do think that it will have an impact on the job opportunities I have been receiving as a result of popular posts though and that is an unsettling thought."
Not all brand ambassadors and influencers in our space feel concern, in fact, some are excited.
“I really like the idea so long as I keep my Insights,” says Haley Garber, @beautybyhaleygarber, an updo and styling specialist, referring to the customized data Instagram provides Business pages to access related to top-performing content and audiene analysis. “I still want to see my reach and be able to continue to grow that, and push myself to create to further those stats. I think it will help remove the pressure I feel, even though I fight it, to hit the same number of likes as others in my number range.”
Although the impact won’t be known until this begins to roll out on a larger scale, what MODERN SALON is hearing from readers is that the goal of hiding likes will push content strategy in the direction Instagram desires.
“This will definitely change how I post,” says Caralee Pridemore, @caraleestyles. “I will need to start posting more videos and interactive options to get the audience to comment and engage. That said, I’m always excited when change happens! This could be a really great way to have people communicate more.”
For Natalie Thomas, a Philadelphia-based MODERN SALON cover artist who shares her styling work on her @bridal_bynatalie Instagram page, she’s excited for change, too.
“I’ll probably end up posting more of what I love rather than what I think other people want to see,” she says. “I’m excited to see how people’s feeds shift as the pressure dissipates.”
Time will tell.
"Although the user will still see their own likes, followers wont and I think it’ll make it a lot easier for bots and inauthentic followings," says LA-based stylist Jessica Warburton @hairhunter. "But, I also think it might be a good thing for people as Instagram can be toxic and people compare themselves to others a lot. I’m interested in seeing what happens."