The reason Instagram is hiding how many "likes" a post gets is not connected with mental health of users, an expert claims, but rather to boost profit.
The US social media giant, owned by Facebook, last week rolled out the test in New Zealand as well as in Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, and Australia.
"We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love," it said.
"We are rethinking the whole experience of Instagram to address issues around wellbeing and to ensure the Instagram community has a positive experience on our platform."
However, marketing experts claim this is a "bulls***" way to get businesses spending ad dollars. They claim it is also a way to make it easier to compete with "influencers", the Daily Mail reported.
"Let's stop the bulls*** that this recent change is about reducing the incidence of mental health among their users," said Murmur boss Dave Levett said.
Murmur is a creative advertising and marketing agency based in Australia.
"It's about raising ad revenue for the platform, and make Instagram more appealing for small businesses and brands to pump dollars into the growing social behemoth."
Levett said influencers were making millions selling everything from cosmetics to protein shakes, but Instagram missed out on the revenue.
"Instagram wants businesses spending money on its platform instead of with influencers. This is purely a money play," he said.
More than 25 million businesses have Instagram profiles but only two million buy ads, often because their engagement is dwarfed by bikini girls and fitness bloggers.
"Small and medium businesses aren't posting or buying ads because they don't want to have low engagement. If their ads or posts only get a few likes it's a bad look."
Another marketing insider said buying an ad on Instagram was an "industry joke" because they were so ineffective.
"Instagram took so long to implement a viable algorithm that all these 'influencers' took it into their own hands," they said.
"Instagram is a 'likes-first' platform and naturally, ads don't get a lot of likes, which has the effect of making often reputable products appear fake or unpopular."
Levett said by hiding how many likes a post has, Instagram can level the playing field and take away "the barrier of social proof" that gives advertisers pause.
"Those advertisers will now likely see an increase in engagement, an increase in click through rate, an increase in sales, and thereby pump more dollars into the platform," he said.
Levett said if Instagram was serious about mitigating the mental health impacts the platform had on users, it would instead implement the recommendations of a recent report by the British Royal Society for Public Health.
This included heavy usage pop-up warnings and highlighting when photos of people had been digitally manipulated.
Max Markson, who manages dozens of Australia's biggest influencers, agreed that Instagram's feature change was just a cash grab.
"Instagram is conscious that influencers are making money and it is not. Brands don't inspire the same loyalty as influencers," he said.
He said Australia's highest-earning influencers would be unaffected by their fans not being able to see how many likes their posts get.
"A classic example is reality stars coming off Married at First Sight, they are the biggest stars in the country," he said.
"The show was so enormous, it topped the ratings for 40 nights in a row, so they have incredibly high engagement because their followers are fans and want to be like them.
"Their followers are also overwhelmingly women as opposed to bikini models who are mostly men and didn't get as many likes anyway because men are worried their wives or girlfriends will notice and be angry with them."
Influencers based in Australia with 3000-20,000 followers make $75-$300 per post, those with 100,000-250,000 about $550-$800, and half a million charge thousands.
Rates are considerably higher in the US with stars with hundreds of thousands of followers commanding $10,000 a pop and one million-plus getting 10 or 20 times that.