When you think of how to describe an influencer, one of the first things you’d say would probably be that they have a large number of followers on social media. This isn’t wrong, although what it means to be an influencer isn’t just limited to high follower counts anymore.


In 2021, the tendency among many brands is to find influencers who may not have huge followings, but who have high engagement rates. Let’s examine what engagement rate is, why it’s important, and what to look out for when analyzing it.

What is engagement rate?

Engagement rate is a metric that measures the level of interaction between an influencer and their audience. Interactions vary depending on the social network, but they generally include likes, comments, shares, etc. 

To calculate engagement rate, add up all the interactions on a single post, and divide that sum by the number of followers. Then, multiply the result by 100. This is the engagement rate for that post. To get a better sense of the influencer’s general engagement, take the average on a sample of posts.

Or, if you don’t want to calculate engagement rate manually, you could use an influencer marketing platform to analyze influencer profiles. The platform will calculate an engagement rate average for you. 

Finally, engagement rates vary depending on the number of followers an influencer has and the social network they’re on. It’s not the same to compare Youtube influencers with TikTok influencers. 

@valeskaschneider is a German surfing influencer who has 27.9K followers on Instagram. She has a 6.9% engagement rate, which is high compared to the average for Instagram influencers with 15-50K followers.

Likewise, you can’t compare an influencer with 50K followers with one with 5M. It’s a well-known fact that nano and micro-influencers (who have under 50K followers) have the highest engagement rates in the industry.

Why does it matter?

Imagine speaking to a large crowd of people, few of who are genuinely interested in what you have to say. Now imagine speaking to a much smaller group, who’s intensely focused on your message. Which group would be more likely to trust what you’re saying, and potentially share your information with others?

This is how the engagement rate works. In the above example, we could say that the person speaking to a large crowd was a macro influencer, while the one speaking to a small group was a micro-influencer. Even though the micro-influencer has fewer followers, those followers are more closely engaged with what the influencer says.

This is important for your brand because you can leverage this engagement in your favor. When followers trust an influencer’s opinion, they’re more likely to place trust in brands that the influencer promotes. And when they enjoy an influencer’s content, your brand can make a good impression through it. 

Can engagement be too low or too high?

The answer to both is yes. Be on the lookout for extreme engagement on either end of the spectrum. 

If engagement is very low, it could show us various things. First, it could be that followers simply aren’t interested in the influencer’s content. Or, the influencer could have a lot of old followers who are no longer active on social media. Finally, it could be a sign of fake, bought followers.

When engagement is extremely high compared to the average for their peers, it could be a sign that the influencer bought fake engagements. In addition to followers, influencers can buy fake likes and fake comments. If you see this, dig a bit deeper into the audience’s authenticity before choosing that influencer for your collaboration.

An influencer marketing platform will suggest when an influencer’s engagement rate looks suspiciously high.


Engagement rate is an important metric to include in your influencer analysis. It helps you prioritize influencers who are well-connected with their followers. And in collaborations, the influencer can use that connection to help your brand make a great first impression on their followers.

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