Recently, Instagram announced it was testing hiding likes on photos. The Internet outraged. Flash forward to now as Instagram launches another test to make follower and post counts less prominent. Slightly less outrage. But why these changes?

Minimizing Metrics on Instagram

The initial test was meant to put focus on the posts themselves, rather than the number of likes it receives. Essentially, it’s an emphasis on quality content rather than on the popularity of the account. In the hidden like test, the post creator can still view metrics for their post, but anyone scrolling by won’t see numbers.

Now the follower and post counts. It’s a subtle change on profiles and one that many users may have missed – hence the slightly less outrage. Instagram designed the profile layout to focus on who the user is rather than how frequently they post and how many people follow them. Again, it’s a shift to focus on the individual rather than the popularity of said individual. Now, you’ll find the follower number below a user’s written profile description and you won’t find the post count at all.

image comparing the old and new Instagram profilesThe profile on the left is the new version that puts more emphasis on the user’s bio. The one on the right is the previous version which more prominently shows numbers over description.

Why the downplay on these key metrics? During the F8 developer conference, Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, made a very significant move to emphasize community. This approach seems to have trickled down to Insta as well.

Content, Creativity and Freedom

By putting less focus on how many likes a post gets, the platform is attempting to get people to publish content differently. The move is to have users post content that represents them – their interests, their passions, their life – rather than what they think will get them the most engagement. The concept is interesting because it’s a way to allow content creators to more freely create, without the constraint of pandering or pleasing an audience. It’s freeing from the follower side as well – you can consume content without worrying about whether you’re supposed to “like” something.

Couple this with deemphasizing follower counts and removing post counts and the entire platform shifts to be about celebrating individual content creators. It’s no longer about who posts the most and is the most popular. It’s about having a space to share and connect with people. By liberating individuals from a public metric shackle, they’re free to make the content they want to make. In turn, that should allow the broader community to participate differently. The community is also free to explore and consume without necessarily worrying about how what they like reflects on them.

As a user, I’m into the move to focus on creative freedom and more community connections. As someone responsible for handling Instagram for brands, TBD. Metrics help me show ROI, evaluate users for influencer programs and generally help me answer the question of “is this approach working?” But this is also why I love working in social media – because it’s always changing, I get to creative problem solve all the time!

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