Calculating your instagram engagement rate may sound pretty straightforward, but did you know that there are various ways of measuring it? 

In this article I’ll go over the main formulas to calculate your engagement rate, the pros and cons of each and how to improve your overall engagement over on the ‘gram. 

Ew I can’t believe I just called it the ‘gram… 

What counts as engagement on instagram?

Not all engagement is created equal… 

Later makes a nice distinction between engagement and what they call ‘true engagement’ which I like. 

But in that explanation they only count shares and saves on top of likes and comments as a definition of true engagement.

I’d go even further because for me the best type of engagement is the kind that actually motivates people OFF the app and further into something like your sales funnel. 

So on top of saves and shares I’d include website clicks as another valuable metric to track as part of your engagement calculations. 

That’s why in this free exceI spreadsheet I include all these metrics for measuring your engagement. 

I’ve included likes in this excel but I consider these the least valuable of all the metrics because it doesn’t tell us if people have actually read the caption or followed through on a Call to Action that we’ve made. 

PS your call to action should never be “like this post if you agree” that’s worthless to you. 

Benefits of Tracking your Engagement

Tracking your engagement on instagram can help you make smarter decisions with your content marketing over on the platform. When you start seeing trends of the types of posts that are doing well you start to get a better feel for what your audience is looking for and you can build upon that demand. 

Likewise, if some posts aren’t performing quite so well you can start to take a look at them to see what common theme might be falling flat with your audience. Stuff like… 

  • The visuals (maybe it’s not eye-catching enough to stop the scroll)
  • The content (you might produce a specific type of content that people aren’t interested in) 
  • The caption (like non-formatted text that makes your caption hard to read or you’ve failed to include a hook) 

Then you can rework whatever it is that’s not working, take the lead from your posts that do well and voila! More engagement. 

If it helps I’ve found that carousel posts that include my photo on the cover image tend to perform better than any other types of post I produce. If you haven’t made a carousel yet – try it out!

But before we can fix what’s wrong or build upon what’s going well, we need to know how to measure our engagement rate. 

Let’s take a look at the different options.

Instagram Engagement Rate Formula #1: by followers

So the most common way to calculate your instagram engagement rate is by dividing all your engagement metrics (likes, comments, shares, saves, website clicks) by your total number of followers and multiplying by 100.

This formula tends to be used by the likes of influencers or by social media metric sites like Social Blade and Later and in that context it kinda makes sense. 

If a brand is trying to decide what influencer to invest in they need a baseline metric that helps them decide just how engaged their audience is so they’ll know they’re getting a good return on investment. 

(How do I get me one of those gigs by the way? Do I need to post more selfies on the beach?! On it…) 

Okay I’m not on a beach here – but a hammock is close enough, right?

If you’re looking to secure brand deals then you’d best use this formula to calculate your engagement rate, simply because it’s standard industry practice. If you used another formula (see below) it would be deceptive and make it look like you’ve got way higher engagement rates than other influencers in your space.

If you do decide that this formula is the one for you then here’s how you can boost your engagement rate – actually do this no matter which type of formula you choose. 

  • Ditch follow4follow tactics 
    • Followers for followers’ sake is a vanity metric that will get you nowhere – don’t target people or swap favours for the sake of inflating your numbers
  • Scrub your followers 
    • Recently I removed a whole host of ghost followers from my follower list. These include accounts that usually don’t have a profile picture, have weird names, follow lots of people but rarely have any followers themselves. These are bots – delete them 
  • Stop hashtag bombing 
    • Don’t go after the biggest hashtags out there – especially if your account is on the small side. Using massive hashtags won’t increase your reach in a significant way and it’s a great method to attract an army of bot followers who will never engage with your content

Here’s why I don’t like this formula…

Most of your followers probably won’t even see your posts let alone engage with them. Just think of people in different time zones and varying levels of activity on the app – it’s likely that only a small percentage will actually see your content. 

As a result I don’t find it very valuable to calculate my engagement rate taking into consideration a bunch of people who haven’t seen the post because it tells me nothing about how truly engaging it was. 

I’d much rather know how many people SAW the post and decided to interact with it as this gives me a better indication of what people like/dislike. 

Which brings us on to formula numero 2… 

Instagram Engagement Rate Formula #2: by impressions

So since we’re awesome at maths now we know that this is worked out by adding up all our engagement metrics, divide it by our total number of impressions and multiplying by 100. 

But what actually ARE impressions on instagram? The good people over at Hootsuite (my preferred social media scheduling tool) have a handy definition for us: 

“Another base audience metric you could choose to measure engagements by is impressions…impressions track how often that content appears on a screen.”


This will give you a better indication of your actual engagement but it’s a better metric to follow if you’re using paid advertising (or boosting a post in instagram) but obviously impressions will fluctuate a lot. 

How can you increase the amount of impressions you get?

Impressions will go up and down like a fiddler’s elbow and there isn’t a huge amount you can do to help that. But here are a couple of ideas:

Having a solid hashtag strategy 

Make sure you’re choosing hashtags that are specific to your post, niche and would actually be the type of hashtags where your followers hang out. 

For instance my buddy Brittani over at Intrinsic account does a great job of choosing hashtags that are community based to help her reach her ideal audience of small business owners. Check out how they’ve used hashtags here in this post.

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Boosting a post via paid advertising 

I’m no ads expert and I’ve only experimented with this once about a year ago but I found that I got a great amount of impressions and reach by boosting a post. I didn’t really have a strategy here and just wanted to see how it worked – I literally only spent €40. 

I also found that this seemed to help me in the algorithm afterwards because even when my ad spend had ended my impressions and reach were much higher than they were pre-post-boost. 

Give it a try! You will have to have an instagram business account and set up an advertising account over on Facebook but it’s quite simple. 

Find out more over here.

Experiment with instagram reels 

I know I know… do we really need ANOTHER feature or new cool thing on the block to learn? But here’s the thing… 

When instagram rolls out a new feature it boosts it hard. I know people with quite small accounts, using only one hashtag in their reels and they’re getting a lot of impressions and a much higher reach than average. 

You don’t have to dance I promise… 

But bear in mind that there seems to be a “scroll and move on” trend with reels. I’ve had much higher than average reach and impressions with my reels but the actual level of engagement hasn’t improved really – in fact it’s probably lower than my average. 

It doesn’t matter if something goes viral if that virality doesn’t do anything to bring new leads into your business. 

Now that we’ve seen how to calculate our instagram engagement with impressions let’s look at the last formula using reach

Instagram Engagement Rate Formula #3: by reach

And now we hit the motherload! 

This is my favourite way to calculate my instagram engagement rate because reach is a metric that tells us how many people actually saw our posts. 

This tells us much more about how engaging they really were because it shows us if people wanted to engage with it after seeing it. 

The formulas are getting too easy now, right? 

Total number of engagement metrics divided by total reach multiplied by 100. 

As a copywriter my job is to get people to act after they see my words so that’s why this formula is particularly interesting to me and it should be interesting to you. 

When you use this formula to measure your engagement you’ll find that your engagement rate is much higher than when using the others (particularly the follower method which will, generally speaking, give you a lower engagement rate). 

For me this is the best way to measure my actual engagement and get a feel for how much I’m motivating my audience to act with my posts – but it should only be used for personal insights. 

What’s the best way to calculate your instagram engagement rate?

Annoying it depends. Here’s a handy breakdown. 

infographic outlining the different ways to calculate your engagement on instagram.
Share the love (and this infographic!) if you think it’ll help someone.

Then check out my free excel spreadsheet to help you do just that. I’ve even included a little explainer video below so you know exactly how to use it. 

Was this article useful for you? One way to say thanks is simply to share it on whichever social media platform you’re using – this really helps me out and I’d appreciate it a lot.

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