Calculating your Instagram engagement rate can be surprisingly difficult to do.
Should “engagement” include the number of times your post was saved?
And what about the followers vs. impressions debate? Which gives you a better overall understanding of your account’s health?
To help you navigate the (very) murky Instagram engagement rate waters, we put together this handy guide that compares the 3 most popular methods for calculating your Instagram engagement rate, and which makes the most sense for you:
How is Instagram Engagement Rate Calculated?
It’s a simple question with a complicated answer: how is Instagram engagement rate calculated?
To find your Instagram engagement rate, you’ll need to divide your engagement by either your followers or impressions.
So why the debate?
Well, the problem is that there are actually several ways of calculating engagement rate. And when it comes to the “best” method… well, it really depends on who you ask!
Let’s start with the engagement part.
While most people calculate engagement by adding likes and comments, others believe that it should also include the number of times a post was saved.
There’s also the ever-present question of whether comments and likes should be treated equally. As in, does one comment equal one like in terms of engagement?
The reason this comes up is because some accounts get tons and tons of comments and only a hundred or so likes, while other accounts get thousands of likes and only a handful of comments. If comments and likes are considered equal, then the account that gets lots of comments but fewer likes would be at disadvantage engagement rate-wise.
And the complication doesn’t stop there!
By far the biggest disagreement when it comes to calculating Instagram engagement rate is whether it should be a function of your total number of followers or total impressions.
Seriously… Opinions are almost evenly split on this! Just check out the poll that Later’s Taylor Loren posted on Twitter:
So where does that leave us? Is there a tried-and-true method for calculating Instagram engagement rate? Is one version better than the rest?
Below, we compare the 3 most popular methods of calculating engagement rate on Instagram, looking at their strengths and weaknesses, and why some methods are better in certain situations:
Option #1: Engagement / Followers
The first option for calculating your Instagram engagement rate is to divide your total number of likes and comments by your follower count, and then multiply by 100 to give you a percentage.
What’s great about this method is that because the data used in the calculation is publicly available, it’s easy to benchmark against other accounts.
That’s exactly why Breanne Thomas, a social and content strategist, prefers to use followers.
“I know impressions would give a more accurate percent for my own brand, but I’m often comparing where we’re at among the competitive set and it wouldn’t be fair to use a different formula for the calculations,” she says.
This is a pretty common argument for using followers over impressions. If you’re trying to compare your engagement rate to your competitors, using followers is really your best and only option.
The same is true if you’re evaluating the engagement rate of a potential influencer partner.
When you use Later’s Instagram Analytics, you can see a snapshot of your best-performing posts over the last 7 days or the past 3 months. Your five top-performing posts can be found in the Overview tab at the bottom of the page.
You’ll quickly to be able to gauge just how many likes and comments your posts received. And the best part about Later’s Instagram Analytics is that your engagement rate (likes + comments/followers) is calculated for you!
If you’d like to take a deep-dive into your content’s performance over the last 3 months, just click on the Post Performance tab. Here you’ll find the engagement rates and analytics behind every post you’ve published over the last 3 months, or you can narrow the focus to just a week or month.
If you want to keep track of your account’s engagement rate, see how it’s differing across different types of content, or just monitor its growth week after week, Later’s Instagram Analytics can save you heaps of time and energy!
Option #2: Engagement / Impressions
The second option is to divide your total likes and comments by your impressions, and then multiply by 100 to get a percentage.
This method is slightly more accurate because it takes into account the total number of people who actually saw your posts rather than your total number of followers (many of whom probably didn’t see your posts!).
Basically, by using impressions instead of followers you get a better overall understanding of the number of people who saw and chose to either engage or not engage with your posts, which is essentially the definition of engagement rate.
Of course, since only you can see your account’s impressions (and you have to switch to an Instagram business profile to see it), it’s pretty much impossible to compare your engagement rate to others using this method.
Option #3: True Engagement / Impressions
A third option is to use “true engagement” when calculating your engagement rate, which includes not just likes and comments but also the number of times your posts were saved.
If you’re on a business account, you can find this data in your content Insights, but Instagram actually includes saved posts in their engagement metric, so all you have to do is divide engagement by impressions and multiply by 100.
Because people are more likely to like and comment on a post than save it, the results shouldn’t be too different, but there’s really no harm in including saved posts in your calculation!
The Winner? It Depends!
Unfortunately, there’s no clear winner when it comes to calculating engagement rate! It really depends on your goal and whether it’s your own account or others.
For example, if you’re simply analyzing your own Instagram engagement rate, using impressions is your best option because it gives you a more accurate representation of how your content resonated with people who saw it.
On the other hand, if your goal is to benchmark your engagement rate against your competitors, or you’re evaluating the engagement rate of a potential influencer partner, using followers is better because the data is publicly available.
When evaluating my brand engagements/impressions. When evaluating influencers/others, engagements/followers— Katrina Steffensen Ricke (@katrinaricke) August 29, 2018
And as we mentioned, there’s really no harm in using Instagram’s version of engagement, which includes saved posts along with likes and comments! Just keep in mind that the data for saved posts is private, so it’s only helpful when calculating your own Instagram engagement rate.
Hopefully this breakdown sheds some light on the ongoing clash about what constitutes engagement rate on Instagram!
At the end of the day, your engagement rate is one of the best Instagram metrics to track if you want to find out how your content resonates with your audience because it tells you how much your audience relates to the content you’re creating and if they want to share and engage with it.
And remember, if you’re ever looking for a tool to do the heavy lifting for you, Later’s pro Instagram analytics automatically calculates your Instagram engagement rate. All you have to do is sign up for a paid plan and you can immediately start tracking your engagement rate!
Sign up for a Later paid plan to get access to our Instagram Analytics!