How to Calculate Engagement Rate in Social Media: The Definitive Guide

How to Calculate Engagement Rate in Social Media: The Definitive Guide

If you’re involved in social media marketing, you might have wondered if there is more than one way how to calculate engagement rate. In fact, you might be wondering what engagement rate really means and what value it has in the greater scope of your marketing.

Engagement is that overused word you’re tired of hearing from your marketing team. Everyone’s using – and demanding it – so it’s become such a cliché.

But like with all the clichés around us, the engagement rate in social media has a very significant kernel of wisdom. You just need to know how to use it wisely.

So, read the article below to find out what engagement rate is, why it matters, and how to calculate it. We’ll also take you through practical examples and discuss how several social media compare to each other.

Further Reading: How Much Should I Pay an Influencer? Testing Out 9 Instagram Influencer Calculators

What Is Engagement Rate?

@amoreuxdumonde instagram engagement analytics

Although it seems like an unsubstantial, hard-to-grasp concept, engagement rate is a precise formula you can calculate like this:

Amount of interaction with an influencer’s social content divided by the total audience.

If math is not your thing, you can use a free engagement rate calculator for Instagram. Moreover, computing your engagement rate manually has several disadvantages. First, you have to do all the math, which can bring some daunting memories from high school unless you were class valedictorian. Secondly, it takes a lot of time.

So, use our free engagement rate calculator for Instagram to track your engagement rate automatically.

If you still would like to dig deeper – read on. In this post, we’ll discuss the meaning of these two concepts – interaction and total audience, and you’ll see there are several ways to refer to them. 

But for now, you can see why engagement is so crucial. It’s one thing to have a passive audience ignoring you and something completely different to have an active audience.

This metric will help you compare influencers and channels better so that you can target your audience better. That brings us to this question:

Why Does Engagement Rate Matter?

A few decades ago, advertising was all about praising your products and having more people hear those praises. But customers hate spam, so they’ve honed the skill of ignoring stuff they don’t want to hear about.

That’s when advertising changed course towards solving customers’ needs.

Show your audience your products are just a tool to solve their needs and wants.  That’s how you’ll get more people to resonate with your vision and engage meaningfully with your brand.

Thus, the engagement rate shows how strong your relationship with your customers is and how much you can rely on them.

Take Nike, for instance.

nike instagram profile

When you open an Instagram account, you get a couple of suggestions on who to follow based on your interests. Let’s say you’re passionate about sports, so Nike appears as a suggestion. You may click on it just because you know the company exists – after all, who doesn’t – but that doesn’t mean anything.

If an anon local sports equipment producer shows more interest in you, you will buy from them and not Nike. So you’re basically an NPC in Nike’s game but an active player in your anonymous local producer’s game.

Use this reasoning to choose your influencers better.

For example:

WebpageInfluencer 1Influencer 2Influencer 3
Total likes (past week)5407465
Total comments (past week)1529
Total shares(past week)10511694
Total followers51,00010,4006,300
  • Influencer 1 = (540 + 15 + 105)/ 51,000 x 100 = 1.29%
  • Influencer 2 = (74 + 2 + 116)/ 10,400 x 100 = 1.84%
  • Influencer 3 = (65 + 9 + 94)/ 6,300 x 100 = 2.66%

Of course, you can apply the same calculations – and others we’ll discuss below – for your websites compared to your competitors’ websites. The point is that the influencer or company with the lowest total followers can still have the highest engagement rate. That means their pages are more appealing to people and can, therefore, generate better results.

So using this technique helps you:

  • Evaluate influencers’ performance accurately
  • Gauge your audience’s interaction with different content
  • Receive more insight regarding what your audience considers quality content
  • Compare yourself with your competitors

Here’s a well-guarded industry secret that your marketing agency may not disclose:

Using the engagement rate as an unfailing factor in determining your audience’s loyalty or as the primary conversion metric can be incorrect. You should always take into account all possible indicators that outline the bigger picture because:

  • Specific engagement rate formulas consider all interactions equal. So a share, like, or comment has the same value when doing these calculations.
  • Some influencers can buy fake followers, likes, and comments.

This perspective on engagement rates can seem a little bleak, but of course, there’s a solution.

Choose an expert agency that will help you calculate an objective engagement rate that works for your business:

  • Discuss your business history and goals to rank the metrics below in terms of their importance:
    • Calls
    • Clicks
    • Click-throughs
    • Comments
    • Direct messages
    • Emails
    • Get directions (Instagram)
    • Likes
    • Link clicks
    • Mentions, which can also be untagged
    • Profile visits
    • Quote tweets
    • Reactions
    • Regrams
    • Replies
    • Retweets
    • Saves
    • Shares
    • Sticker taps (stories)
    • Texts
    • Use of branded hashtags
  • Customize different metrics using the weighted average formula instead of the simple average. So each of the terms to be averaged is assigned a specific value according to its importance.
  • Make sure the agency uses judgment calls instead of relying purely on math. For example, not all comments are created equal. Let’s say two influencers post similar updates. One has 100 comments, and the other has 25. You want your agency to see further than these numbers and analyze the quality of these interactions. If the first influencer receives just shallow remarks or, even worse, derogatory ones, while the other one receives praises and promises, it’s obvious who you’re better off with.

Further Reading: The 5 Best Ways How to Find Instagram Influencers for Your Business

Calculation Methods

We already discussed one engagement rate calculation method above, but there are others to consider and compare. Each of these methods gives you a different perspective on the content you’re evaluating, so remember to choose the metric(s) that best fit your campaign goals.

Here’s how you can do that:

1. Engagement Rate by Reach (ERR)

ERR = number of engagements/ reach x 100

The average reach on more posts is [ERR (Post1) + ERR (Post2) + … + ERR (PostN)] / N x 100

If math isn’t your strong suit, the ERR formula determines how many people interact with your brand out of the total who see that content.

PROS:

  • This formula is exact because:
    • Some of your followers don’t see your content.
    • Some of your non-followers will see your content because people in their lists have shared it.
  • You have a better insight into how real content viewers interact with your brand.
  • You can understand and evaluate the quality of your content accurately.

CONS:

  • Reach isn’t a fixed variable, which means it’s hard to control it.
  • Influencers with lower reaches can have huge engagement rates that don’t reflect the reality of their interactions accurately.

2. Engagement Rate by Posts (ER Post)

engagement rate by post instagram example

The ER post metric is practical when you want to find out the rate at which your audience interacts with your posts. Its formula is:

ER Post = Total interactions per post/ Number of followers x 100

Average ER by post = (ER Post 1 + ER Post 2 + …. + ER Post N) / N

PROS:

  • The number of followers is more stable than the reach metric, so this formula is best for web pages with fluctuating reaches.
  • You can gauge the level of your audience’s engagement.
  • This metric provides the easiest way to compare a brand’s or influencer’s performance to the industry average.

CONS:

  • This formula doesn’t consider viral reach.
  • The rate of engagement can lower slightly each time you gain more followers.
  • This metric by itself can’t help you understand your audience’s needs and how to solve them.
  • You should always use this formula in combination with other growth metrics. For example, public interactions like comments on your Instagram may be worth less than probate interactions like saves or shares, depending on your advertising goals.

3. Engagement Rate by Impressions (ER Impressions)

ER Impressions = Total engagements on a post / Total impressions x 100

Average ER impressions = (ER impressions 1 + ER impressions 2 + … + ER impressions N) / N

What are these impressions and how do they compare to reach?

Your reach represents the number of people who’ve viewed your post. If 100 people saw it, then your reach is 100. But if each of those people saw your ad twice, your impressions are 200.

Pro tips:

  • These two metrics (reach and impressions) don’t mean that people actually clicked on specific content.
  • Social media platforms relate distinctly to these metrics, for example:
    • Facebook differentiates between served and viewed impressions. Served ads don’t even have to show on people’s screens or be watched completely to count, compared to viewed impressions.
    • Twitter doesn’t even have the reach metric – it has only the impressions metric. However, you have to learn how to use Twitter appropriately for more impressions. Here’s one hint: you can spend lots of time replying to them, but that doesn’t guarantee a high impressions rating. Instead, you should publish into people’s newsfeeds directly for better results.

PROS:

  • This metric is best for assessing your paid content’s effectiveness.

CONS:

  • ER impressions will likely show less engagement than ER or ERR.
  • We recommend using ER impressions metric along with reach for more accurate results.

4. Daily Engagement Rate (Daily ER)

Daily ER = Total engagements per day/ Number of followers x 100

Average daily ER = (Daily ER 1 + Daily ER 2 + … + Daily ER N) / N

The daily engagement rate assesses how many times in a day people interact with your posts. Here’s how this metric is different from engagement by reach or engagement by the number of followers:

It takes into account different posts from your timeline that your audience engages with during a day.

PROS:

  • This metric shows you how often people engage with your brand during a day rather than how they engage with particular posts.
  • You can customize the metric for specific variables, like comments per day.

CONS:

  • For example, due to social or economic changes, one of your posts from 2005 can suddenly become a hit. So noticing that trend is far more critical than the total engagements per day across all posts.
  • The metric doesn’t consider that someone can write ten comments on one of your posts during a day, which counts differently from ten people writing one comment each.
  • Your number of posts during a day will affect this indicator. Someone who posts more often will get a higher Daily ER than someone who posts less frequently, though the quality of interactions can show different measurements.

5. Engagement Rate by Views (ER Views)

ER view = Total engagements on video post / Total views x 100

Average ER view = (ER view 1 + ER view 2 + … + ER view N) / N

ER view is a metric that gauges video engagement for your audience after people watch those videos. For YouTube, you can use a free plugin like Keywords Everywhere that helps you estimate the engagement of the channel: 

engagement rate by views youtube example

PROS:

  • It helps you to track how many interactions your videos generate.

CONS:

  • It doesn’t account for non-unique views.
  • If a person watches your videos more times but doesn’t interact with them each time (through comments, likes, shares), your ER view will decrease.

6. Factored Engagement Rate

In a previous section, we said that each variable has a different weight depending on your company’s profile and business goals. That’s why we advised you to choose an agency that can use weighted averages instead of the simple average.

Well, here’s how you do that:

Weighted average = (Variable 1 x Weight 1 + Variable 2 x Weight 2 + …. + Variable N x Weight N) / (Weight 1 + Weight 2 + … + Weight N)

Factored ER = Weighted average / Reach per post x 100

So, let’s say that one comment is twice as valuable as one like, and a share is twice as significant as a comment:

Weighted Average

Data PointTotal receivedAssigned WeightData Point Weighted Value
Likes30130
Comments502100
Share20480
TOTAL1007210
Weighted Average30

If your post’s been seen by 1000 people:

Factored ER = 30 / 1000 x 100 = 3%

PROS:

  • You get a specific engagement rate for particular variables.

CONS:

  • The resulting engagement rate can seem inflated, so it’s best to use this metric in conjunction with other indicators of your performance.

How to Calculate Cost per Engagement

Finding out your engagement rate isn’t a purpose in itself. You want to know this indicator to establish the quality of content, compare your brand with your competitors, and choose exemplary ambassadors for your business.

More importantly, you want to learn if you’re using your money wisely.

As luck has it, the formula to gauge that good use is simple:

Cost per engagement = The sum of money you spent / Total number of engagements

In Conclusion

The consensus is that 1-5% engagement is a good result, although brands/ influencers with more followers will have more challenges achieving that rate.

Also, remember that you should use different engagement rate formulas to get the best picture of your business or a potential brand ambassador’s success. For example:

Type of Engagement Rate FormulaER by postER by reachER by impressions
Best to gauge someone’s influence among their active audience and, consequently, how well they connect with their followersBased on the total number of followers and therefore measures how easily a brand or an influencer can connect with their followers Best for measuring post-performance between different postsYou’ll know each post’s quality, but also the quality of your followers’ base. Obviously, more active followers are better than more passive ones.Besides, you can assess how a platform influences the strength of your post according to hashtags, keywords, time, etc.Best for sponsored/ paid ads

Another thing is tweaking your expectations according to the different platforms you’re on. For example, Twitter’s average engagement rate is about 0.5%, Facebook’s is around 0.9%, and Instagram’s is 1.6%. Those numbers vary somewhat by source, but the reports are similar.

Take those numbers with a grain of salt, though.

Instagram’s audience is usually younger, and younger people will engage more quickly than people over 30 or over 35. Conversely, mature people have more money so they’ll buy more things. So, click-through rate or pay-per-click are equally essential metrics.

Bottom line: Never use engagement rate as the best and sole indicator of your brand’s success. Partner with an agency that understands all of these subterfuges and can devise tailored programs for your brand.

Author Bio

David Morneau is managing partner at inBeat Agency, a micro-influencer marketing company that helps brands create UGC and manage micro-influencers at scale.

Hero Photo by Amol Tyagi on Unsplash

This is a post contributed from one of my marketing partners.

There is not just one way how to calculate engagement rate. Learn about the 6 different ways you can calculate it in social media here.
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