How do you calculate Instagram engagement rate?

There is no official way to calculate your engagement rate on Instagram. Engagement Rate is a metric that dominates social media but is mysteriously absent from one of its biggest players.

As Instagram is owned by Facebook you can assume that they work in roughly the same way. I, for one, can’t imagine a world in which Instagram executives don’t at least internally know what the Instagram Engagement Rate is, nor one in which they can’t directly compare their performance to their Facebook peers.

This makes it safe to assume that Instagram is using the same engagement rate as Facebook. Therein lies the rub, however – the way Facebook calculates engagement rate differs from how pretty much everyone else calculates it. They also use a metric that Instagram doesn’t provide in order to calculate theirs – engaged users.



This leaves us (and everyone) a bit stuck, as we can’t copy what Instagram itself is doing. Due to this if you Google “How do you calculate Instagram engagement rate” you’ll get lots of different answers. We’ve gone through every one we can find, and there are three which stand out as being especially useful and practical.

Follow us below as we take a look at each of the three main ways to calculate Instagram engagement rate, and help you choose which one you should use (and why).



How do I calculate Instagram engagement rate per post?

These are the three most useful ways to work out engagement rate for your Instagram posts that we found:

  1. To compare different accounts: ((Likes + Comments) / Total Followers) x 100
  2. To compare against other social media: ((Likes + Comments) / Impressions) x 100
  3. To perform better within Instagram: ((Likes + Comments + Saves) / Reach) x 100

Note: In all three of the above x100 is added simply to turn them into a percentage.

The reason why all three of these exist, is that they all serve different purposes. There are many other variations of these three, but these cover the main reasons you would want to calculate engagement in the first place.


Calculator IconWork out the ER of accounts or posts with our Instagram Engagement Rate Calculator >


Method 1: To compare different accounts

Instagram Engagement Rate = ((Likes + Comments) / Total Followers) x 100

The people who mainly care about engagement rate on Instagram are influencers and digital agencies. In order for them to have a standardised metric that can be used to compare multiple accounts, it needs to be made using publicly available data. How else would they work out (quickly) how much to pay people for advertising products?

As anyone can see the likes and comments on any post of any account, as well as check the total followers, it makes perfect sense to use all of these. This makes this version of Instagram Engagement Rate useful for agencies who want to find the next big thing. It can also help influencers to check on their engagement rate relative to their peers (and thereby give them a way to negotiate for more money on sponsored posts).

This version of engagement rate does fall down, however, in that no other platform would use Total Followers as a metric as it’s not very reliable. This is because some people use hashtags to browse social networks instead of following accounts. Some people don’t log in at all when they browse social networks for fear of tracking. And of course, some accounts have hugely inflated follower accounts due to aggressively following other accounts and hoping for follow backs (and on top of this some followers accounts are fake). All of this adds up to the idea of Total Followers being a poor metric.

Overall this version of Engagement Rate is convenient and useful for agencies and influencers on Instagram but doesn’t really mean too much to anyone else.


Method 2: To compare against other social media

Instagram Engagement Rate = ((Likes + Comments) / Impressions) x 100

For people and companies posting on many social networks (which is most people and companies), it makes sense to be able to compare performance across platforms. Liking and commenting are pretty universal types of social media engagement making them perfect for this task.

Impressions are also pretty standard, and simply count each time a post is seen. By using this form of engagement rate for Instagram posts, you can directly performance compare against other social networks. For a social media manager, this can be a real time-saver.

No social network actually uses this version of engagement rate, unfortunately. Every other social network includes some other type of engagement than just likes and comments in their engagement rate calculations. This means that if you are using this type of engagement rate then you will have to calculate it yourself for every platform you use.

In a lot of ways, however, this is the fairest comparison you can make between social networks. It’s only real downside is the amount of work involved (although this needn’t be too much). You’ll just need to use a spreadsheet to keep track of performance and put formulas in to calculate your engagement rate.



Method 3: To perform better within Instagram

Instagram Engagement Rate = ((Likes + Comments + Saves) / Reach) x 100

If you want Instagram to show your posts to more people, you’re going to want to play by their rules. While Instagram does not publicly define engagement rate, it does define engagement as including Likes, Comments, AND saves. You can only assume there must be a reason for this.

On top of that Facebook defines Engagement Rate differently to every other social media platform (and they of course own Instagram). The difference in Facebook Engagement Rate to the ‘standard’ engagement rate metric is that Facebook uses Engaged Users instead of Engagements, and Reach instead of Impressions. While Instagram doesn’t have Engaged Users as a metric (publicly anyway), they do have Reach, which measures users instead of views.

Therefore my best guess would be that internally Instagram is using this version of engagement rate to measure success. They may publicly not embrace engagement rate, but privately Instagram will know that they can’t afford to have any metric look bad. On top of that, the universal nature of office politics will mean that Facebook and Instagram employees will always be competing, and engagement rate is the natural battleground for any social network.

This is why The Online Advertising Guide recommends using this method to calculate your Instagram Engagement Rate.

It also means that to increase your Insta Engagement Rate, you need to be encouraging people to take multiple actions on your post. In a practical sense this means replying to comments so that you can get a second comment from the same person. It also means creating posts that people will not only like, but save to look at again in the future.

Note: For this third method, some websites recommend using impressions instead of reach. While that would be a more true representation of engagement compared to other social networks, it wouldn’t be a better one for any of the above purposes.


Instagram Engagement RatesClick to enlarge


How to calculate engagement for an Instagram account

To calculate the overall engagement rate for an account you “simply” have to add up all the metrics listed above for every post. For methods 2 & 3 above you could also just add up the impressions/reach of every post and it would average out.

For method 1 above (using Total Followers), you would then divide the likes & comments by the number of posts. This would be somewhat ridiculous however as the total number of followers increases over time. Having more followers increases the chance of engagements, so judging your early posts (with few followers) by the number of followers you have later means those early posts will really drag your engagement rate down.

As doing any of these long-term calculations on the fly would be annoying, there are basically two solutions:

  1. Work out engagement rate over the last month. This means gathering stats for all your posts in the last 30 days and adding them all. In the case of method 1, it again would mean dividing those stats by the number of posts. While this is a pretty good measure of your current level of engagement rate, it is also still a pretty annoying task to do repeatedly.
  2. Have a spreadsheet which records your stats. This means that you keep track of the stats of each of your posts, and you can thereby quickly work out engagement rate of your whole account. You could also work out your engagement rate over the last 30 days, or your engagement rate for when you use different combos of hashtags – anything really. Keeping a spreadsheet like this is highly recommended.

Note: If you are recording stats you should leave at least a week after each post before you write it down. This is to ensure that all the stats that a post is going to get are pretty much finalised. It also means that if you wait more than a week for whatever reason, then that is OK too, as almost all posts won’t get significant extra engagement after a week.


Instagram Definition


Let’s go back a step… what is an engagement on Instagram anyway?

Instagram itself defines an engagement as a like, comment, or save. You can see your engagements per post if you are on a business account. To do this you press the hamburger menu in the top right, then Insights. After this go to Content (the middle tab) and press “See all >” under posts. What you’ll get is a view of all your posts (from newest to oldest), each with a number superimposed over the top. This number is the number of engagements for each post, and by clicking on a post you will quickly be able to see that they only include like, comments, and saves.

Note: You can change what stats this page shows by clicking on the small sentence at the top of the screen.

The other types of engagement that people can take with a post are excluded from this engagement metric, and are instead mostly referred to as “interactions”. Interactions include profile visits, link clicks, and emails. Follows which result from a post are also excluded from this engagement metric.

This is especially confusing, as traditionally any interaction with a post is considered an engagement. More than that, the things which are not included as engagements, are generally more valuable than the engagements themselves. A comment can be negative, a Like has become a thoughtless button press, and although a ‘save’ may be a good sign that a post was very interesting, it’s not nearly as good a sign as an email.

This may be why Instagram doesn’t include engagement rate stats – simply because they are trying to reduce its importance as a metric. Every social network talks about engagement rate in one way or another. By not talking about it publicly, and by defining engagement differently, Instagram can act like it is different from its competitors (and therefore cooler).



So why is engagement rate important again?

It’s much easier to say why engagement rate isn’t important than why it is, especially for businesses. A high engagement rate may imply you are posting very interesting things, but it won’t necessarily drive site traffic, nor does it equate to sales. Basically, a high engagement rate simply won’t pay the bills. Think of it this way – you may laugh at the class clowns jokes, but you won’t necessarily recommend them for a job.

On the other hand, though – a low engagement rate means you are doing something wrong. If you post and post and very few people (or no-one) engage with what you are doing, then you are definitely missing your mark. For your posts to be valuable at all to anyone, people have to care that you are posting.

The absolute lowest bar for someone to show that they care about something on the internet is to engage with it in some way. This is why engagement rate has become such a common metric on the internet (and especially on social media). With so much content being thrown as us every single day, any post which cuts through the noise and gathers any attention can be considered a winner (to some extent).

And engagement rate (as opposed to just engagements) measures the level of that type of ‘winning’. If someone gets 100 engagements with their posts every day, but posts 200 times a day, then they probably aren’t as interesting as someone who posts once per day and gets 100 engagements. Being able to work out how engaging someone’s posts are on average makes life easier for influencers and agencies trying to rent space on their social media feeds, and that’s why it’s a number that keeps coming up.

On top of that, businesses now use Instagram regularly, and for businesses, it’s not for fun. They have to be able to work out whether or not they are succeeding, and as it can take a while to generate revenue from an Insta account, the metric they will look at in the early days will be engagement rate.