When Instagram revealed that it was testing pulling “likes” from public view, worry began to ripple through the professional influencer community. Now, according to Instagram, at least some relief may be on the way.
As part of the company’s latest announcements on new tools and updates on Wednesday, the Facebook-owned social network doubled down on its commitment to help branded content creators — and that includes giving them powers to share their private like counts with potential partners, along with other metrics.
In fact, the company considers the feature an important area of investment, Instagram’s Susan Buckner Rose, director of product marketing, told WWD.
“We know that like counts and engagement metrics are important for creators, especially in the spirit of branded content,” she explained. Buckner Rose acknowledged that brands often use likes to help determine who to partner with, as evidence of how engaged a given influencer’s audience is. “We’re going to build an experience and a tool within the Instagram app to give creators the option to share those engagement metrics with partners that they want to work with.”
Through the platform’s tests to remove public likes, it preserved the numbers for private viewing, accessible by the account holder only. As it was, that change could undercut numerous fashion, beauty and other businesses on the platform. Creators typically need to prove engagement to agencies that can broker deals with brands.
But with the tool, anyone would be able to connect with brands directly and share numbers — no agencies or intermediaries required, the company said.
The roll-out would begin when Instagram officially snuffs out public likes, and that timeline’s not clear. Tests began earlier this year to remove public like counts in some markets and then went global on Nov. 14.
As for why Instagram wanted to ax public likes to begin with, Buckner Rose said, “The goal of that test is to make sure that we help people find their authentic voices on Instagram, express themselves in a way that they’re comfortable with and to focus more on the message that they want to get out to their community, and less on competition and how people are responding to that message.”
She wouldn’t divulge any data or results from the test but simply said the team is “really excited” about it. So a full launch doesn’t look like a matter of “if,” but “when.”
Instagram also announced other changes that, in total, look like the network is lining up more with its parent, Facebook.
Starting Wednesday, the platform will begin testing integration into Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager.
The tool is akin to a matchmaking service for brands and influencers. Companies can discover new creators based on past partners, people who like the brand’s page and other factors.
Influencers get to showcase content and audience details in the tool, which could be beneficial for creators who have followings on both platforms. The test starts with some 40 U.S. Instagram creators.
To hear Buckner Rose tell it, Instagram wanted to further connect brands and creators, and Facebook had already been testing Brand Collabs Manager for more than a year. So it made sense to bring them together. Now, Instagram can cast these moves as its efforts to democratize branded content.
“We want to make sure we’re doing more to protect our community and promote transparency across the Facebook family when it comes to branded content,” Buckner Rose said.
Some pundits will undoubtedly see this as Facebook’s latest attempt to pull its various business units further into its fold. And the theme continues with Instagram’s latest policy change to zero in on restricted goods and services.
Facebook and Instagram have already nixed advertisements for things such as guns and e-cigarettes. Now they’re closing gaps that allowed influencers’ branded content to tout them and other risky items — like alcohol for, say, U.S. consumers under 21, or sketchy weight loss products.
The companies also revealed on Monday that Instagram will be using Facebook’s tech to battle fake news. Instagram will label images that Facebook’s image recognition software tags as false or misleading, and then apply links to credible sources beside them, strip off the hashtags and relocate them from the Explore page.