When I first heard the term engagement rate I had no idea what it meant. It sounded like academic jargon for how many weddings you’ll have to attend that summer or how many people actually laughed at your lame joke about horses with broken legs.
But after two years of obsessively checking my Instagram account fifty times a day, I’ve learned a thing or two about the platform. That includes the wildly misunderstood and often dreaded Instagram engagement rate.
I recently wrote a very popular post full of tips on how to increase Instagram engagement, but it turns out many people were still unsure whether their current engagement rate was good or not. I don’t blame them – finding information about what constitutes a good engagement rate is strangely difficult.
That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate a whole blog post to answering this common question. I really hope it helps you tame the slippery chameleon that is Instagram with its ever-changing algorithm.
What is the Instagram engagement rate?
Simply put, your Instagram engagement rate is the number of likes and comments you receive divided by the number of followers you have times one hundred. This is usually calculated for a specific time period such as the past month. Calculating for your account overall would give you skewed results as it will evolve and grow over time. You could do this manually using the formula below but services like Iconosquare will do it for you.
Why is my Instagram engagement rate important?
Your engagement rate matters because it determines how much people like you. No, of course it doesn’t! Don’t cry my little seahorse! But it does reveal how many people are connecting with your content and directly interacting with it.
A high engagement rate is a great sign that your followers listen to what you have to say. This is particularly important to brands that may wish to introduce their products to your audience. Instagram is full of brands – 7 out of 10 hashtags are branded and 65% of top-performing posts feature products [source]. This is the main way people like me make money on the platform and it’s one of the reasons your engagement rate matters.
A low engagement rate, on the other hand, can mean a number of things. If it’s absolutely abysmal – we’ll get to the numbers shortly – it often means that the person in question bought their followers. It can also mean that the content they produce is low quality. It could be a sign they don’t engage with others on the platform.
But it could simply be that they fell prey to an algorithm change through little fault of their own and their content is not reaching many of their followers.
What is a good Instagram engagement rate?
Every Facebook group I’m in (including my own) is full of people asking this question. “I have x followers and get y likes? Is that good enough?” I could say a lot about the way social media has reduced our self-worth to numbers but I’ll save that for another time. What I am going to say is… if your audience isn’t fake you probably have nothing to worry about.
What I mean by that is – did you buy your followers or use bots to grow your numbers? If you didn’t, you should be fine. If you did, what’s done is done but it’s never too late to make your strategy more ethical. Same goes for using the follow-unfollow method. Ok, now let’s get to the good stuff. Here are the numbers you’ve been waiting for so patiently.
As you can see from the diagram the average engagement rates change as your account grows. As for me? At 80,000+ followers my Instagram engagement rate hovers around 2.5%. Yay, I’m average!
How much does my Instagram engagement rate matter?
Your Instagram engagement matters because of all the reasons we discussed earlier. An exceptionally low engagement rate can definitely serve as a red flag as can an uncharacteristically high one. But it’s not the be-all and end-all.
Some people’s reach – the number of unique accounts that see your posts – has tanked without much reason or explanation. In fact, Instagram engagement keeps dropping across the board as the platform makes new changes to its algorithm. Interactions dropped by 33% between 2015 and 2016 [source], and the downward trend is sure to continue.
But it’s not just Instagram’s fault. There are more and more people using it and the quality of the content is rising across the board. While that’s not a bad thing, it does mean there’s a lot more incredible photography competing for people’s attention which makes it harder to stand out.
How can I increase my Instagram engagement?
I could easily write a whole book trying to give you a satisfactory answer to this question. I haven’t quite found the time to do that yet, but here’s a helpful post I’ve written about the 25 best ways to increase Instagram engagement. Open it in a new tab but stay here a little longer because I want to give you the short answer while I have your attention. Or stay here and watch the video below, because I included even more up-to-date information in it!
Your success as an Instagrammer rests on two main pillars – photography and activity. You’re probably bored of people saying this over and over but if your photos aren’t good nothing else really matters. In fact, good photos are barely enough anymore. They need to be great so you should only be posting your very best content. And only after nicely editing it.
The second pillar is activity, by which I mean being a good member of the Instagram community and talking to others. Don’t be that sulky kid in the back row that just sits there scribbling Fallout Boy lyrics onto a piece of paper. Essentially, don’t be my 9th grade self. Be friendly, post thoughtful comments (i.e. not a row of heart-eyed emojis) and form genuine connections with other users.
You should also try to be consistent, which doesn’t necessarily mean posting daily but often enough that people don’t forget about you. Make use of all Instagram features including Stories and live video to keep your followers engaged – yup, there’s that word again.
All of this is not to say that these are the only two things you need. I wish! But without them it will be difficult for you to get very far. So improve your photography, spend more time engaging with people and then move on to the other tips in my article.
I really hope you found this post helpful and that I answered your question. If you have any other questions about Instagram, please leave them in a comment below and I’ll try to address them in one of my future posts. But now I have a few questions of my own…
Do you struggle with your Instagram engagement rate? What are your biggest frustrations with the platform? And what’s your username? I’d love to check out all your profiles!