May 21, 2019

If you’re a regular or even occasional reader of social media, there’s one fact that you probably know: Instagram gets lots of engagement.

This is something that we talk about regularly on our blog and in our courses, reminding our students and readers that Instagram is so exceptionally valuable because of these high engagement rates, which are consistently above what you’ll find on other platforms.

While data varies based on the actual case study, most research indicates that the average engagement rate on Instagram hovers around 3%. That may not seem like a big number, but it’s significantly above competing platforms. This includes Facebook and Twitter, whose average engagement rates vary between .25% to 1% depending on what study you’re reading.

Overall numbers are great, of course, but in this post we’re going to go over how you can find, interpret, and improve your individual Instagram engagement rate and explain why this is so important for businesses to do.



What Is My Instagram Engagement Rate?  

Your Instagram engagement rate is essentially telling you how many people in your audience engaged with your post. It’s found by dividing your engagement by your total audience.

If you check around online, however, you may notice that there’s some debate around this very simple definition.

What exactly counts as engagement? Should likes and comments be added up? Should saves be added to the mix?

And who exactly counts as the audience? Should it be your overall follower count or just the number of people who saw the actual post?


This answer may change over time considering that the platform changes regularly, but for now, here’s how we recommend calculating your engagement rate:

  • Add up all engagement, including comments, likes, and saves. Saves aren’t conventional, visual engagements, but they absolutely are a form of users engaging with your content, and that’s what you’re measuring. They’re also a strong indication of value.
  • Divide the total engagement by the number of impressions, or people who have seen your post.

The reason why we choose to calculate using impressions and not follower count is because when you want to assess how effective your content is, you want to know how many people who saw it interacted, not how many could have.

There are so many factors you can’t get data into with using followers, including the fact that some may only check in once a month and definitely miss a ton of content from everyone, or that the algorithm sometimes shuffles around what users see. When you want to assess the quality and relevance of your post, using impressions for the calculations is the way to go.

There is an exception here, however, and that’s when you’re evaluating the effectiveness of influencers, not branded content. In this case, because visibility is so exceptionally crucial in consideration, you can use follower count in place of impressions.  


Why Instagram Engagement Rate is The Metric to Watch

Your Instagram engagement rate is one of the most important metrics you should be watching on this platform.

It’s actually much more important and more informative than looking at just the sheer number of engagement OR the number impressions alone when you’re looking at the effectiveness of your content.

The number of engagement might look impressive, after all, but out of the context of not being paired up with impressions, it’s not so helpful. 100 likes and comments is outstanding for a brand where 500 people saw the post, but not so much when 25,000 saw the content.

This doesn’t mean that impressions or other metrics shouldn’t be monitored; it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your impression-to-follower-count ratio to make sure that enough of your audience is seeing your content, and you also want to see if users are actually interested enough in what you have to say that they’re clicking to your site or want to get directions. Watching your overall data is still important; we just believe that the engagement rate should be the number one factor to prioritise.


What About Instagram Stories?

For a long time, we didn’t have Instagram Stories. And once we did, it took a little while to actually get reliable reporting on them, especially once they started coming out with more interactive features.


Instagram Stories example

Expect your engagement rate on Stories overall to be much lower than your in-feed posts. This is normal. Some of your Stories won’t have interactive abilities like poll stickers or hashtags to click, so the only way users can get in touch is by messaging you. They’ll do this is they have a question, but for users who would just hit a casual like otherwise, they’ll just keep watching and move on without interacting. 

To calculate your engagement rate, divide up engagement by the number of people who watched each Story. Engagement may include people who message you or those who interact with stickers like the polling sticker. 


How to Access Your Instagram Engagement Data

In order to accurately calculate your engagement rate, it’s a solid choice to use analytics programs instead of manually going through each post and trying to add up the number of likes or comments manually.

Analytics tools will help you speed up the process significantly, giving you overall data and information about the engagement of each post. They’ll also tell you info that you can’t observe from just looking at a post on its own, including the number of impressions it received or how many people clicked to your profile after seeing it.

Instagram has a native analytics tool called Insights, which is available for all business profiles. To access them, click on the three lines in the top right hand corner of the Instagram app, and then select “Insights.”


How to access Instagram Insights

Once you do this, you’ll be able to see the full insights for your profile, including the performance in both engagement and impressions on each individual post. 


How to use Insights to calculate Instagram engagement rate

You can see which posts have the higher engagement rates to look for clues like the best times of day to post or the types of content your audience wants to see, along with tracking how your posts are performing overall. 

If you want to use third-party analytics, that’s also a solid choice. Many analytics tools will offer much of the same information, if not more, and may even generate downloadable reports for you to save you some time.


Some of the best social media analytics tools to check out include:


How to Improve Your Engagement Rate

You know we couldn’t have a post all about Instagram engagement rates without giving you some actionable advice for how to improve yours! No matter where you stand now, after all, there’s always room for improvement.

While overall engagement rate while rely heavily on creating content with your audience in mind, offering value and maintaining high quality are going to be important. If people want to read, watch, and scroll through your content, they will– and this is what will most likely lead them to engage in some way.

In addition to reliably creating high quality content that’s relevant to your target audience, use the four following tactics to drive more comments and likes so you can boost up your engagement rate.


Respond & Reply Graciously

Respond to your posts, leaving a comment yourself even if anyone hasn’t yet. Even if you’re tagging an influencer or a loyal customer with a “@JenPeters We thought you’d love this” or following up with a “Let us know what you think,” this can inflate your comment ratio, giving you more social proof and encouraging others to engage with you.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 11.10.46 PM

As you respond to comments and questions people are leaving on your post, this will also help to facilitate conversation. Replying will keep a conversation going instead of letting a single comment fade into lost engagement potential, and can even draw in other users, too.

It also shows that your brand is enthusiastic about interacting with their followers, which can help boost likes and comments on future posts as you nurture relationships one at a time.


Opt for Niche Hashtags That Get You Attention, Not Just Reach

There are going to be some hashtags that are used entirely for the purpose of getting your content in front of as many people as humanly possible. It’s a solid strategy to include plenty of those hashtags into your overall mix regularly for obvious reasons, but they aren’t the only hashtags you should be focused on.

Some niche hashtags are going to be more effective at helping you drive engagement. There will be less competition, and the audience searching for them will be more invested with content that they’re looking for.


#Veganrecipes niche hashtag usage on Instagram

An example of this might be “vegan recipes,” which is a hyper-niche but still-popular hashtag. People searching for this phrase are looking for specific types of content to save, and are likely to leave comments on the ones that strike their fancy.


Ask Users Questions

If you want to boost your engagement rate quickly, this is an almost guaranteed strategy that can work in the blink of an eye: Ask users questions.

When you ask someone a question, their natural response is to share their opinion, which is something that everyone on the internet is more than happy to do. Whether you’re asking them to share what they’re doing for the upcoming New Year or asking what they look for in a hiking backpack, people will respond.


How to spark conversation on Instagram

You can take this strategy to Stories by using the polling sticker, or by turning it around and letting users ask you questions that you answer. Another option is to host an Instagram live and ask users to share their thoughts and questions with you, boosting immediate engagement that can build relationships now and act as social proof later.


Write Conversation-Starting Captions

A stunning, way-zoomed-in picture of a honey bee might garner a hefty share of likes, but when you attach an emotional caption about how bees are so important to the ecosystem and they’re slowly dying out, you’ve got a conversation starter on your hands.



Use captions to:

  • Create more questions that users might want to ask.
  • Establish an emotional appeal that will tell people why they should care, and maybe even get their friends to chime in.
  • Somehow encourage people to tell their own stories, which many are excited to do at the first chance.

Captions are typically going to be most effective when they’re brief, with 155 characters being the max count for most posts. This makes the captions easy to scan and easy to read, increasing the likelihood that users will do so and then engage. 



Your Instagram engagement rate is an important metric both for analytics and performance purposes. A high rate tells you that your audience is seeing your content, that they’re engaged with it, and give you hope that some of that messaging will stick. The social proof is nothing to shake a hat at, either, as it can directly impact how other people perceive your brand and content when discovering it for the first time.

Keep an eye on your engagement rate, and you’ll be able to assess the health and potential success of your marketing campaigns on the platform. It’s not the only metric you need, but it’s one of the most important ones to watch, especially since it can tell you so much about your progress on the platform.

Looking to expand your social media marketing knowledge? We can teach you everything you need to know! Take our quiz to see which of our programs is the right fit for you. 

About the author 

Ana Gotter

Ana is a strategic content marketer specialising in business, finance, and marketing writing, though she's worked across a range of industries. She works from her home in Orlando with her three dogs.

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