When it comes to influencers, most people tend to think of their number of followers as the most important quality of their profiles. However, there are many other factors that come into play when deciding if an influencer is right for your brand’s marketing campaign.
More recently, engagement rate has become a star metric to evaluate when choosing influencers. But what is it exactly, and why is it so important? Let’s take a look.
What is engagement rate?
Engagement rate is the level of interaction between an influencer and their followers. It shows the interest and trust that the audience has in the influencer’s content. The way followers can interact with content depends on the social network; for example, on Instagram, interactions are measured in likes and comments.
To calculate engagement, add up the total interactions on a post and divide that sum by the number of followers. Then, multiply by 100 to get the engagement rate for that specific post. It’s best to calculate an average on a sample of posts in order to get a clearer view of the influencer’s general performance.
This metric varies depending on the social network and number of followers. You can’t compare Instagram influencers with Youtube influencers, nor can you compare an influencer with 10K followers and one with 100K. Therefore, it’s important to know the industry averages for the network and peers of the specific influencer you’re looking at.
Where can I find an influencer’s engagement rate?
You can calculate engagement rate manually with the formula we mentioned above. But if you don’t want to go that route, how you get engagement info depends on how you find and analyze influencers.
There are three principle ways to search for and evaluate influencers:
- Searching directly on social media
- Subscribing to an influencer marketing search and analytics platform
- Hiring an agency, who will find influencers for you
If you’re working on social media, you can also ask influencers for their engagement metrics, which is made available privately to them by the social network. With an influencer marketing platform, you’ll simply see the engagement rate analysis as part of the influencer’s analytics report. Finally, an agency will gather all influencer information for you and present you with the data you need in a proposal.
Why does engagement matter?
So why is engagement rate so important? To illustrate, let’s use an example. Imagine speaking to a large group of people at a conference. Some of the audience may be interested in what you’re talking about, but others aren’t. You also don’t have the time or energy to communicate one-to-one with most of the participants, who end up with an impersonal impression of the event.
Now contrast that with speaking to a small group of people who are intensely interested in what you have to say. They’re fans of your topic, and knowledgeable about it. As the group is much smaller, you can answer their questions and speak to them individually. This infuses the conversation with a personal touch.
That metaphor essentially shows the differences between a high follower count with low engagement and a low follower count with high engagement. In influencer marketing, high engagement shows a connection between the influencer and their audience.
The influencers who have the highest engagement rates, nano and micro influencers, have small audiences when compared to top influencers. But, their followers come from the same niches and are laser-focused on the influencer’s content. For companies, this means a better chance that those followers will actually be interested in your brand or its products.
What else can it show us?
By analyzing engagement rate, we can also spot fake influencers. Influencer fraud cost marketers $1.3 billion in 2019, and continues to be an issue today, so it’s important to know how to notice it. When it comes to engagement, extreme rates on either end of the spectrum are suspicious.
If engagement is very low, that’s always bad, but for one of two reasons. It could be that, unfortunately, the influencer’s content just isn’t interesting to followers. Or, it could be that the influencer bought fake followers. Bot followers increase the overall follower count, but if they don’t interact with content, they end up driving down engagement rate.
On the other, if engagement is extremely high, this could show that influencers bought fake interactions. High engagement is good, but when the number looks too good to be true compared to the average for that segment, it’s worth digging into a bit more. Take a look at the likes and comments on the influencer’s content, and see if they appear to come from real people, or from bots.
Engagement rate is one of the most talked-about metrics in influencer marketing today. So it’s important to understand what it is, why it’s important and how it can help us spot fake influencers.
To conclude, remember that evaluating metrics isn’t enough when choosing influencers to work with. In order to achieve an authentic collaboration, you also have to choose someone who aligns with your brand and upholds its values.
Kate Santoro works on the marketing team at Heepsy, an influencer marketing platform that lets you search for over 11 million influencers on Instagram, Youtube and soon up, TikTok. When Kate isn’t producing content, she loves traveling or trying out a new recipe.