Ultimately, Faucher suspects that without having easily-viewable numbers to assess performance and justify expenditure, the removal of the “like” counter may deprive businesses of some much-needed market intelligence. (Although, this is almost certainly somewhere that Instagram can and probably will step in with a service … for a price). At the same time, there are other measures that can be utilized by brands and influencers. As Ali Grant, the founder of digital communications agency Be Social, stated last month, “There [will] still [be] access to the number of swipe-ups on Instagram Stories, click-throughs from the link in your bio, new followers to a page, and the number of comments,” meaning that “likes” are hardly the the only measurable KPI – or key performance indicator, even if they are more telling than some other figures. Faucher notes, for instance, that Instagram sans counters does “not provide as easy a path to track return on investment” as it does when “likes” are in play. “There may be a follower count,” he states as an example, “but that speaks only to impressions not engagement.” Finally, there is one more entity that stands to be affected by the removal of visible “likes” that cannot be overlooked: Instagram, itself, since much of its revenue stream is derived from advertising and in particular, its ability to match ads to users based on their activity on the app. In order to do so, Instagram “looks at a user’s time spent logged in and his/her engagement (viewing, posts, likes, etc.),” per Faucher, meaning that “some form of metric must remain in place – publicly visible or not – in order for the company to make the case that there is a good return on investment for ad placement.” This, after all, will be essential to Instagram, which generated ad revenue of a whopping $9 billion in 2018. That figure is emptied to grow to as much as $14 billion for 2019, according to fresh estimates from Jefferies, making the identification and measuring of a user’s “activity, including “likes,” a staple element in the operation of the app.Instagram will likely make metrics easily accessible for influencers and businesses in connection with their own accounts in a behind-the-scenes capacity, and it would not be surprising if it provides such a service in exchange for a fee. After all, it would not be the first time that it looked to boost its in-app non-advertising revenues. For instance, the company announced in April that it would introduce a new feature – which lets influential individuals “tag products in their posts, giving [their followers] the ability to buy whatever they may be wearing (from apparel to cosmetics) directly from the app.” More than merely extending its tagging/shopping capabilities to individuals for the first time, the move paved the way for Instagram to take a percentage of all sales that occur on its platform, while cutting out middlemen, such as influencer monetization platforms like rewardStyle’s LIKEtoKNOW.it app, which have built businesses doing that very thing.Even if it does provide intel to brands and influencers, Instagram may still be walking a fine line with influencers and brands, and this is critical, since, as Intelligencer stated this spring, “Social networks need influencers as much as, possibly more than, influencers need them.” Influencers “drive traffic that platforms can sell ads against, and it’s often creators, not the platforms, who show companies the full use and scope of what the product they have built can do, Intelligencer’s Madison Malone Kircher wrote in May, likening the potential problem to the one that Snapchat experienced. “If you were a rising Snapchat star looking to do sponsored content or branded deals, you had to take it upon yourself to prove to those companies that you were worth the investment — it wasn’t immediately apparent who was popular and highly sought-after, unlike on Instagram.” The same could soon be said for Instagram.