Social media is a numbers game. But do you know what are the exact numbers to play with? If you're focused solely on your follower count for your Instagram, then you're putting your efforts in the wrong place. Nowadays, follower count is secondary to the importance of quality engagement, and that does not include the engagement you're getting from boost groups to accelerate your content's engagement within the first 15 minutes it went live. Focusing on those little "hacks" don't do much at all to create good and authentic engagement. Brands are looking for content creators with healthy (and 110% real) engagement that don't rely on having tons of likes and 100 emoji or "amazing pic" comments. They're paying attention to how you can harness your influence with your audience and create discussions and conversations on the content that you're posting. Instead of focusing on how you can scrape the surface on your content's engagement and beating the algorithm, focus on what you can control and create quality content that dives even deeper to connecting with your audience.
How Do You Calculate Your Engagement?
So let us jog your memory a bit from the days you were in math class. We won't be grading you, but with this formula, you'll be able to grade yourself and see where your content stands regarding engagement. Here's the formula to get you started to find the engagement percentage:
Individual Post Formula
- [(Total likes + Total comments) / Total followers] x 100 = Engagement Percentage Rate
Profile Average Formula
- Add the total engagement (comments and likes) of your first nine posts on your feed and divide them by 9 to get your average comments and likes = X
- Use the same formula using x as your average comments and likes for your nine posts: [(X)/ Total followers] x 100 = Engagement Percentage Rate
Here's a simple example:
Likes = 2,001 Comments = 69 Total followers: 27,783 Formula: [(1991+69)/27783]100 = 7.41% Our engagement for this single post was 7.41%, well above the 2% average that is an indicator that your content is meeting decent engagement standards, numbers wise. While 2% is average, anything over 4% is a good indicator that your audience is consistently engaged and you're creating great content that is staying on their radar. In a perfect world, we would love to have 100% engagement, but you have to keep in mind that with this algorithm, not all of your followers see your content, and sometimes they will scroll through your content without liking or commenting. However, even with a high engagement rate, that does not automatically constitute that you have healthy engagement.
Good Engagement v.s. Fake Engagement
Good engagement is dissected into two parts. One, a good engagement rate above 4% based on the above formula, and two, who is liking the photos and what's being commented on the content. People will always try to find shortcuts to get likes (i.e. buy followers) and make engaging with content easier (i.e. using engagement bots), and brands are not oblivious to this. Fohr's very own Founder, James Nord, has put it in his weekly emails to brands and influencers to keep an eye open to spot fake engagement because while this may make numbers look good, it doesn't do much for brands who invest in influencers with fake engagement. Thus, not allowing them to have a good ROI on the partnerships they build. When looking for good engagement, brands will not only look at your engagement rate but dive even deeper into making sure the people who are liking your content are not bots or accounts who are following a suspiciously large amount of profiles (here are some examples given from Fohr 1, 2, 3). When creating a partnership, they want to make sure that the people engaging with your content fit their target market. They also want to make sure that the type of response to the content created is authentic engagement. This means the kind of reactions you might get from boost groups like "Love this pic!", "Beautiful photo!", or "love those shoes" from the same people in every post will hinder you here. (To learn more about boost groups, watch our IG Live session here.) They want to see that your audience shares their stories, gives their feedback on the partnership, leave responses that go beyond "nice pic!", ensure that the partnership they've invested resonates with the audience and can give a promising ROI.
How Can You Ensure That Your Content Encourages Quality Engagement Consistently?
Engagement is a two-way street. Before you get the interaction you want from your followers, you have to ensure that you invest time in engaging a conversation with them (interacting and responding to them), but as our friend Julie Solomon has also noted, it's also about keeping your content and brand consistent. First, when planning and creating content strategy and outlook, look back at your best performing content and see what some of the patterns that helped get a significant response from your audience were. Try repeating that and building it back into your content strategy, but also continue to ensure that your captions and content allow the audience to connect with you rather than just giving you a like. Are you asking questions? Are you asking your audience to share their stories that are similar to the post you're sharing? Are you letting them give you feedback about your content or products that you're using in your content? Keep your content open for your audience to always have a conversation with you, and establish a connection with your followers where it's evident it's not just a follower count, but a community.
Not only that but make sure that your content taps into shareability and encourages your followers to share with their followers and people they follow as well. We can all learn a lesson from meme pages like @beigecardigan and @mytherapistsays that thrive off of memes that are bound to be shared all across the internet, and even Gucci followed suit with its #TFWGucci campaign last year. The post itself doesn't have to be a meme or be scandalous to raise some attention, but is there something that makes your followers think "I have to share this with my friends!"? If so, try it out. Also, keeping your content and brand consistent is critical to your engagement. If your followers are genuine followers, they will pay attention to the things you post, and that goes down to the things that are not on brand for you. Your followers know you, so their ears will perk up when there's something off about a post, and most definitely will be turned off if they see a collaboration with a brand that is not in line with your brand. Followers are attentive, and if you're doing something that's not authentic to you and your brand standards, they will have no problem tuning out, or worse, calling you out for it.
What Are Some of the Things You Should Not Do to Cheat Your Way to High Engagement?
If you've gotten this far in reading this, you already have a hint of what not to do. Let's recap:
- Do not use engagement bots
- Do not buy fake followers
- Avoid using boost groups. The effect they have is minimal, and if brands see the same people commenting the same generic comments on your post, they will notice that you're obviously using boost groups to get your engagement up.
- Like-sharing with other accounts (you can see "LB" flood the comments of celebrities like Kylie Jenner with users liking back each other's content without really following each other)
If you steer clear from these simple no-nos, you will be able to focus more on creating quality content that won't be contingent on all these factors that end up devaluing your content and you'll be able to attract more brands. (To learn more about what not to do on Instagram, read more here.) The best way to dive into harnessing quality engagement is first getting rid of the bad habits that have accustomed us to think we're "hacking" our way through the Instagram algorithm. The algorithm itself is continually changing, and although Instagram recently altered the feedback to a semi-chronological feed again, it doesn't mean the algorithm itself is completely out the door. We still have to make sure we're on top of keeping our content consistent, creating a conversation with our communities, and creating authentic engagement that will leave the brands and partners that you work with 100 times happier. Let us know your thoughts by tweeting at us @Planoly on Twitter, and DMing us on Instagram @Planoly!