Influencers say they're not pressed about Instagram testing hiding likes in the United States starting this week, despite what some headlines would lead you to believe.
Instagram announced last summer it would begin to test hiding likes in seven countries, including Australia and Japan. Last week, Instagram's CEO, Adam Mosseri, tweeted that the time has come for the US.
The company has begun "expanding those tests to include a small portion of people in the US" as of this week, he wrote. Some users have since posted photos that show what the update looks like.
The company has repeatedly said that the update is to encourage users to "focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get."
Most importantly, users will still be able to see their own likes. Instagram confirmed to BuzzFeed News that only their followers will not be able to see the number of likes on each photo, or who specifically has liked the photo.
After Mosseri's announcement, some media outlets warned the change could have a negative impact on the influencer marketing economy. However, BuzzFeed News spoke to several influencers, with followings both large and small, and many of them said they were actually in favor of the change.
In fact, most said they think it's not only a sensible move — it might give them even more leverage for business opportunities.
"I do think that engagement as a whole will go down, but it will be everyone's engagement, not just a few," said lifestyle blogger Grace Atwood, aka the Stripe, whose Instagram has 127,000 followers. "So brands will start to value other metrics, [such as] saves, comments, shares, etc."
She added, "I'm actually looking forward to seeing likes go away and get back to posting what I like."
Emily Schuman, aka Cupcakes and Cashmere, a lifestyle blogger with over half a million followers, feels similarly. She said she does not "see the removal of likes impacting" the success of her account.
"From a personal standpoint, likes mean a great deal more than I'd prefer them to. They're the clearest indicator of how well a specific photo on Instagram has performed, but they don't tell the full story," she told BuzzFeed News in July after reports of the test were first announced.
"At this point, it's one of several analytics I use to determine how well something is performing, in addition to how many people save a photo, impressions, and reach, none of which are currently public-facing," Schuman said.
Jessica Gee, the mother of an account for her traveling family (@TheBucketListFamily), which has nearly 2 million followers, also emphasized the importance of engagement over likes.
"Brands and sponsors don't choose to collaborate with us just because we have millions of followers, but because those followers are a real community of real engaged people who like our content," she said. "Overall, I support it!"
Another top influencer you've probably heard of, Caroline Calloway, told BuzzFeed News she supported the change because of its potential impact on users' mental health.
"I’m the biggest fan of any tweak to social media that prioritizes mental health and authentic sharing. I think it will be a fascinating new chapter of how we all use Instagram," she said.
Lifestyle blogger Elsie Larson said she hopes the change will have a positive impact on the mental health of influencers as a whole.
"I think that getting your brain in a healthy space for IG is first and foremost what all influencers need to do," Larson, who has 420,000 followers on her personal Instagram, told BuzzFeed News earlier this year. "Over the years I've worked on not letting likes be that important to me, but I like the idea of never seeing them again."
Kicki Yang Zhang, a YouTuber who's based in Germany with 243,000 Instagram followers, agreed. She hopes "hiding the likes will take pressure off the people sharing things and create a more mental health positive space for users."
"I think it used to be more important to me — because if a picture gets more likes, you automatically think it’s a better picture," said Zhang. "But at some point I realized just because something has more likes, it doesn’t necessarily say anything about the quality of the content."
You don't have to take their word for it. Australian influencers, who have already been part of the test, told BuzzFeed News they've noted only positive changes so far.
"In my personal experience, it has resulted in more confidence in what I post without being concerned about 'how many likes' a post gets, as I personally do not check the likes often anymore," said Sarah Jane Wardle, whose account has 11,600 followers.
However, some influencers we spoke to did have concerns. Designer and influencer Katie Kime told BuzzFeed News that "as a business who uses these metrics and data to decide what to do more or less of, I’m disappointed to see likes go."
"I do wonder as it relates to shopping if it will impact buyers, who are influenced by how much others like something," she said. "It’s kind of the very basic human psychological and business principle of supply and demand."
For the most part, though, influencers seem to be taking the change in stride. Many told us they are optimistic about the impact on their brand.
"I keep my content 100% me and genuine, and I don’t think my followers even look at how many likes my photos are getting," said lifestyle influencer Emily Ann, who has over 32,000 followers.
She added, "People get so caught up in worrying about little things like that, and it takes away what Instagram was initially made for: sharing what you love."