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With Commerce at Stake, Instagram Reveals Platform Tweaks

In the fast-moving world of social media, there’s little that stays the same for very long and Instagram is proving that notion to be true.

The visual app with 1 billion monthly users announced some changes at the annual F8 developer conference, run by parent company Facebook, that reveal its seriousness about becoming a bigger player in digital commerce.

People—and brands—might live for likes on every post they share but a newly announced trial could make that a thing of the past. Instagram said it’s running a limited pilot in Canada that renders invisible to everyone but the account holder the number of likes (in the form of hearts) yielded by each photo and video. The shift could help people focus on content they’re truly drawn to rather than simply what’s popular, the social site added, and reward the most engaging and creative posts.

Further flexing its commerce chops, Instagram’s also helping people quickly learn more about the products worn or used by some of the platform’s top influencers. The social app now allows a select group of creators—including publishers like GQ, Vogue and Refinery alongside Kim Kardashian West and Gigi Hadid—to add shopping tags to their posts so that followers don’t have to jump through hoops to get the skinny on product details and how to purchase. For now, creators won’t receive a cut of any revenue, but the update shows how Instagram is refining the platform to become a destination where desire turns into dollars and inspiration becomes action.

Instagram specified that only brands participating in the beta rollout of its new checkout feature can work with influencers to enable shopping tags. On the back end, Instagram gives both brands and influencers analytics on post performance so they can tailor future content accordingly.