How to Quickly Assess Instagram Engagement

There are a handful of considerations you’ll have to make when considering whether or not to work with a beauty or fashion influencer. Do you like their aesthetic? Do they fit your brand persona? Do they have the ability to deliver the content you’re looking for? Do they have solid engagement? Today we wanted to quickly focus on that last question.

Here’s the simple way to quickly assess Instagram engagement:

·       Look at an account’s last 9 posts

·       Add up the number of likes, comments and video views (engagement) on those posts

·       Divide by 9 to get average post engagement

·       Divide average post engagement by their follower count

·       Multiply by 100 to get engagement rate as a percentage

Here it is written out if you’re more of a visual person. We’ve included a real-world example using @Instagram below as well.

Average Engagement Rate = (Average Post Engagement / Follower Count) x 100

Instagram Profile 2.19.2019

Instagram’s Engagement

Follower Count: 281,000,000

Number of Likes, Comments & Video Views on last 9 posts: 28,165,381

Average Post Engagement = 28,165,381 / 9 or 3,129,487

Average Engagement Rate = (3,129,487 / 281,000,000) x 100 or 1.11%

We pulled this image and the numbers the afternoon of 2/19/2019.

Is it really that Simple? No, not in the Slightest!

Like everything in the wild west of marketing, measuring engagement is never as straightforward as it seems. Unfortunately, if you search Google for “How to Measure Instagram Engagement” you’ll find that most of the top search results provide you the equation we broke down above. Here are a handful of the reasons why measuring engagement is MUCH more complicated than it appears to be.

Automated Services

There is a plethora of automated tools out there that will provide a quick high-level engagement assessment for free. The drawback to them is that many only assess likes and comments of recent posts, completely ignoring video engagement. There are also services that provide lifetime engagement, but we don’t find that to be a valuable metric. When working with influencers, we care that they’re doing the right things to engage their audience today. They’ve likely learned a thing or two since starting their account and there is no reason to penalize them for poor engagement years ago.

Pro-Tip: Don’t use these services for anything other than a quick litmus test at most.

Post Age

Some accounts post once every few days, others post 2-3 times a day or more. Assessing an account based on posts that are less than 48 hours old means you’re likely including posts that haven’t reached their full potential yet. Assessing recent posts gives us a good idea of the engagement we would see if we started working with an influencer tomorrow, but if they post quite frequently, we tend to look at a selection of posts that are at least a few days old.

Pro-Tip: If accounts post 2-3 times daily, expand your assessment to include 18 recent posts. Make sure all of them are at least 48 hours old.

Static Posts vs. Video Posts

One of the greatest issues with the simplified engagement formula found above is that it doesn’t assess static posts and video posts separately. This is definitely something that should be done as content type is a key portion of the discussion when it comes to working with Instagram influencers. We regularly see beauty influencers with spectacular engagement on static posts but poor video engagement and vice versa.

Pro-Tip: Assess the type of content that an influencer has posted in the past that aligns with your ask of them. If they focus on flat lays and lifestyle shots, don’t ask them to do video tutorials.


When hovering over a post on an Instagram feed the number of comments displayed is just that, every comment and reply. For larger accounts, this likely means the number of comments is a fairly accurate representation of engagement. For smaller, highly-managed accounts, where the poster replies to every comment, this means the number is inflated.

Pro-Tip: Give the comments a quick once over to see if the poster typically responds to every comment or not. If they do, you might want to consider cutting a percentage of the comments you give them credit for when doing your calculations.

Fake Engagement

For $25 anyone can purchase fake followers and fake engagement online. Social media is big business after all, so “fake it ‘til you make it” is how some people choose to play the game. Engagement drastically lower than expected based on follower count can indicate that they purchased followers at some point. Though, it’s now more common to see spammy comments and likes from shady accounts that have little to no history. This helps give the appearance of authenticity without raising the red flag that purchased followers typically does.

Pro-Tip: You’ll have to play this one by ear because there is no right way to decipher real from fake. What does your gut tell you? If the comments seem spammy and the profiles leaving them just don’t look right, they’re probably phony.

Hidden Engagement

Stories have taken over Instagram but their metrics remain a mystery to everyone except those with access to account analytics. The only way to see how much engagement Stories are receiving is within the Insights available to Business accounts. Similarly, post saves are a great example of true engagement that doesn’t get tracked publicly. This is a huge area of potential value to brands that an outside assessment isn’t able to address.

Pro-Tip: Thankfully, solid public engagement metrics generally equate to solid private metrics, so hidden engagement isn’t likely to tell you much you haven’t already figured out. This is an area you’ll have to address with influencers directly if you decide to work with them.

So…What’s the Right Way to Measure Engagement?

We must acknowledge that public metrics can’t tell us everything about an influencer, but they can definitely provide a good idea of whether or not they’re the real deal. It’s fairly easy to assess whether or not their following is authentic as well as whether or not the content they’re posting is high-quality.

Our suggestion when working with influencers on a one-off basis is to ask them to provide a media kit so you can see what metrics of their own they’re tracking as well as what type of content they typically produce. If you like what you see, you can then do a high-level assessment keeping our pro-tips in mind to validate their numbers before taking the conversation further.

If you’re looking to quickly get campaigns off of the ground for upcoming product launches or to breath life into your social presence, our suggestion would be to get in touch. Our network of vetted, US-based beauty influencers is ready to help you achieve your marketing goals.