Why Engagement Matters More Than Influencer Follower Count

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If you consider what defines an influencer, the very first thing you’ll likely imagine is that they have lots of people following them on social networks. This is not necessarily incorrect, but it’s not the only thing that counts anymore either.

Today, social media influencers must maintain an impressive engagement rate, in addition to a sizable audience. Let’s take a look at what the engagement rate is, why it’s crucial in influencer marketing campaigns, and how you can analyze it.

What is engagement rate?

Engagement rate shows us the degree of interaction between an influencer and their audience. The more involved the audience is in an influencer’s content, the more frequently they’ll engage with it.

To calculate engagement rate, simply add up the interactions on a post, then divide the total by the number of followers that the influencer has, and finally multiply the result by 100. That’s the rate of engagement of that particular post. To get a better understanding of the overall engagement of an influencer, do this for a variety of posts and take the average.

If you don’t wish to determine engagement rate manually, you can sign up for an influencer marketing platform. This tool calculates an average engagement rate for you, and analyzes an influencer’s profile against the benchmark of their counterparts.

Engagement rate benchmarks can differ depending on the amount of followers an influencer has as well as the social media platform they’re using. For instance, don’t compare TikTok influencers with YouTubers or Instagrammers. These networks provide different types of interaction, and consequently differ in their average rates.

Why is engagement important?

Imagine speaking in front of a huge number of people, with only a handful that are truly interested in the message you’re delivering. Next, imagine speaking to a small group who are laser-focused on your message. Which one of them is more likely to believe in you, absorb your message, and possibly let others know about it?

This is the way engagement works. In the previous example we can say that the person who spoke to a large group is a macro influencer and the person who spoke to a smaller audience was a micro influencer. Although that micro influencer has a smaller number of followers, they are more interested in what they hear from the influencer.

This is crucial for your business to understand, as you can leverage this engagement to your advantage. If followers trust an influencer, they’re more likely to believe in the brands the influencer is promoting.

When is engagement rate too low or high?

In both instances, yes. Watch out for extreme engagement on either end.

If engagement is low, it tells us 1 of 3 things, all of which are negative. First, it could be that people simply don’t like the influencer’s content. Second, it is also possible that the influencer might have many old followers that are no longer active. Finally, a low level of engagement may be an indication of fake followers.

When the engagement of an influencer is very high in comparison to the average for their peers, it might simply be because they work really hard at staying close with their audience! Or, it could also indicate that they purchased fake comments, likes, or other engagements. If you notice this, you need to investigate the authenticity of the audience to confirm that the followers who are engaged with their content are genuine.

How do I find the engagement rate average for a certain segment?

To determine engagement benchmarks, you can utilize an influencer marketing platform, which calculates these for you. Or, you can do research into the averages.

If you research them yourself, take these three elements in mind as they could affect engagement averages:

  • Category of content (e.g. beauty, fashion, sports, etc.)
  • Social network (TikTok, Instagram, etc.)
  • Type of influencer (micro influencer, mega influencer, KOL*, etc.)

A KOL, or key opinion leader, is an individual who has a great reputation in their industry both on and outside of social media. Oprah is an example of one. Since the influence of a KOL extends beyond social media, don’t let engagement alone determine whether or not you collaborate with them. For example, Oprah has a low engagement rate on Instagram, however, she also has a lot of influence outside of that platform.


Engagement rate is a crucial measurement to incorporate into your analysis of influencers. It can help you identify influencers that have a strong connection with their fans. And in collaborations it is possible for the influencer to make use of that connection to help your brand create an excellent first impression on their fans.