Follower numbers are nice to look at, but a metric much more valuable for influencer marketing campaigns is the engagement rate. In the end, you want followers to engage with the postings, not only admire the content from a distance. We already talked about likes and comments on Instagram in comparison to Facebook. Additionally, we introduced you to the Like Follower Ratio and its significance for brands collaborating with influencers. But which factors impact the Like Follower Ratio? Does a high follower number equal a high engagement rate or do micro-influencers take the engagement throne?

We see a shift of importance from pure follower numbers towards the audience quality. More companies recognize that a cooperation with influencers who offer many but unengaged and uninterested followers is not worth the investment. But what does an influencer need to bring into play to achieve sky-high engagement rates?

The star influencer

Does a celebrity status guarantee high engagement? Usually, the Like Follower Ratio declines when the number of followers is increasing. We will analyze influencers with different follower numbers to see if the follower number really affects the Like Follower Ratio. Additionally, we will take a look at influencers from different backgrounds to compare celebrities to regular influencers.

We will start off with the larger accounts on Instagram. Because of the assumption that the number of followers and the Like Follower Ratio correlate, you would expect larger accounts to have a poor Like Follower Ratio as pointed out in a previous blog post. Still, this does not necessarily have to be the case. There are a lot of other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

Taking a look at the Instagram accounts of well-known influencers, there are several accounts with an over-performing Like Follower Ratio as well as channels with a poor Like Follower Ratio. American actor and ladies’ man Ian Somerhalder has more than 11 million followers on Instagram and a like follower ratio of 9.6% within the last four weeks. Looking at his content, it is noticeable that it is not of high quality compared to the content of other successful influencers on Instagram. The pictures are partly journalistic shots, partly selfies. All in all, colors and perspectives do not match and the channel does not look professional from an artistic point of view.

Content Ian Somerhalder

Instagram channel of Ian Somerhalder

Nonetheless, Somerhalder’s LFR is not impacted by his mediocre content quality. In fact, his pictures provide fans with insights into his daily life in an authentic manner. His celebrity status and a strong followership of hardcore fans add to his high engagement rates on Instagram. Being a public figure makes him a target of every tabloid that will republish and further spread his content.

Of course, this is not a given factor. There are several other accounts of celebrities without this kind of engagement.

Kim Kardashian West, for example, has more than 98 Million followers and a Like Follower Ratio of only 1.2%. With follower numbers this high, it is extremely hard to keep up a high Like Follower Ratio. In her case, her popularity might also play a role: We suspect that of her 98 Million followers, there might be a certain amount of people who do not follow her because they are fans but because they do not want to miss the latest gossip about her. These followers will most likely not engage with the content on a regular basis. So “being liked or sneered at” could be a factor that impacts engagement rates.

I just like this pic

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

The Social Media Star – Engagement across all Social Media Networks

Unlike actors like Ian Somerhalder or reality television personalities like Kim Kardashian West, social media stars became well-known for their content in the first place. They “grew up” in social networks and gained their followings by sharing content on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Vine or Instagram. It is basically impossible to become an influencer from scratch with low content quality. Users expect social media personalities to create high-quality content because that is their field of expertise.

Furthermore, social media stars share content very frequently. In general, these influencers share at least one posting per day. Germany’s leading influencer and YouTuber Bianca Heineke (@bibisbeautypalace) has more than 5 million followers and still manages to keep her Like Follower Ratio up to 5.2%. It is noticeable that a lot of social media stars reach high Like Follower Ratios when they are active on several social media platforms. The list below displays the top five German-speaking YouTubers on Instagram. They all have a good Like Follower Ratio despite their very high follower numbers.

Rank Influencer Follower Number Like Follower Ratio
1 Bibisbeautypalace 5.124.994 5.6%
2 Dagibee 4.643.079 4.4%
3 Julienco_ 3.766.832 5.5%
4 Shirindavid 3.550.622 4.6%
5 Melinasophie 3.218.633 3.0%

Top five German-speaking YouTubers on Instagram

Since these influencers started their careers on YouTube, they were able to transfer their followings to Instagram and did not have to start their follower base from scratch there.

The In-Betweener – Challenged to keep up Engagement

In contrast to celebrity channels and YouTube stars, most smaller influencers on Instagram have to build their channels from the beginning without having a follower base they can rely on from other social media platforms. They do not have devoted fans like stars have nor any celebrity status themselves. Thus, all influencers who have too many followers to be counted as micro-influencers but are still too small to achieve any celebrity status, do necessarily have to create stunning content to assure a good engagement. Kristin Addis (@bemytravelmuse), a travel influencer from South California, has almost 95k followers – not a super large account but large enough for not being considered a micro-influencer. She posts high-quality content and focuses on traveling as the main subject of her channel. Still, her Like Follower Ratio of 2.3% is fair but seems too low considering the effort she puts into the quality of her content.

content bemytravelmuse

Instagram channel of @bemytravelmuse

So even though bemytravelmuse has a reasonable amount of followers and despite her high-quality content, her engagement is mediocre. Her metrics show no signs of fake followers who do not interact with the content. These would at least explain bemytravelmuse’s low engagement rates. She is a good example to show how challenging it is to keep up a good Like Follower Ratio with an increasing number of followers and without having the advantage of a celebrity status.


Micro-Influencers – Kings and Queens of Engagement?

It is a common notion in the influencer marketing scene that micro-influencers show a much higher engagement than channels with millions of followers. In fact, when analyzing smaller channels, we notice that a lot of these influencers boast excellent engagement rates.

The posts of German influencer ja_liine mainly center on travel and food. With almost 17k followers, she is considered a micro-influencer and her average Like Follower Ratio is 6.4%. To make sure that her Like Follower Ratio is established through an honest and authentic followership, we first analyzed her channel from a qualitative perspective by looking at the comments on her pictures.

Ja_liine comments

Comments on a posting from influencer ja_liine

The comments are not related to the LFR, but when analyzing an account regarding its authenticity, it is always advisable to check the communication between an influencer and his or her followers. (How comments can be boosted artificially will be further discussed in an upcoming blog post.) In the case of ja_liine, it is noticeable that she is engaging with her followers in her comments. The comments are often quite long and refer to the content.

ja_liine post performance

Example of post-performances of influencer Ja_liine

Secondly, the post-performance can be another indicator to consider when analyzing the LFR. The post-performance shows the relative performance of a particular post compared to the average post-performance of the channel’s posts within the last four weeks. The channel of ja_liine shows a good and constant performance with small ups and downs which are normal for this metric. This underlines that her LFR emerged through an honest and authentic audience.

Of course, this channel is only one example for a micro-influencer with good engagement rates. Nonetheless, we want to make three assumptions that might explain the success of micro-influencers regarding engagement on Instagram:

1. Niche topics pull interest:

A lot of micro-influencer channels specialize in a specific niche regarding the topic of their channel, for example, a certain kind of sports or a leisure activity like cooking. These are topics that are too specific to be appealing to everyone. Thus, only people with a real interest in the topic follow those channels. Automatically, the followers are more engaged towards the channel since they do not only observe the content from afar but engage themselves actively to the channel. The Instagram channels below are niche channels. The channel to the left below centers on the topic of cross fit sports and has a Like Follower Ratio of 7.5%. The channel to the right displays picutres of a hedgedog and has a Like Follower Ratio of 6.3% within the last four weeks.

2. Instagram’s new algorithm:

Instagram wants its users to “see the moments [they] care about first”. This includes posts of friends and family as well as other users that Instagram classifies as closely connected to you. So if Instagram notices that you engage with a channel a lot, it might put the content of that channel into your feed more prominently and, thus, encourages you to engage with the content even more. By implication, Instagram will probably not classify Kim Kardashian’s channel as related to you in any way and will place her content further down in your feed. Along the lines of “out of sight, out mind”, you will not be encouraged to engage with the content if you do not see it as often.

3. Micro-influencers convey authenticity – Kylie Jenner does not:

Stars like the Kardashians or Jenners promote a huge amount of products on Instagram on a regular basis. Let us be honest: Do we really believe that they use (and love) all those products (especially when one influencer promotes two different products that are competitors, obviously…)?

Treat Yourself @hismileteeth #hismileteeth #hismile #teethwhitening #teethwhiteningkit #ad

A post shared by Kylie (@kyliejenner) on

Personally, I do not believe that these celebrities use all the products they promote, so I will not engage with this content. Micro-influencers, on the other hand, are able to convey their love for products much more authentically, especially if they are known for using the respective products beyond the bounds of a brand cooperation.

Our research shows a similar result. We analyzed channels of different sizes and their performance regarding paid and unpaid posts, from micro-influencers with less than 50K followers to very large channels of more than 1 million followers. The micro-influencers’ paid post performance drops to 92% of their usual performance, while for very large influencers the performance drops to 61% of their usual performance.

Performance Micro vs Star

Performance of paid posts compared to unpaid posts

The Takeaway

We see that the Like Follower Ratio is a sensitive number that is impacted by several factors. The popularity of an influencer affects his or her engagement rate and a celebrity status oftentimes ensures good engagement. Niche-channels have an advantage because their followers are especially interested in the niche-content and are more willing to engage with the channel.

Despite the fact that these assumptions are not true for every single channel and there can be exceptions to the rule, the Like Follower Ratio is a good indicator for the engagement of Instagram users towards the content of an influencer. The metric is more valuable than the follower number: Stars might be able to boost conversions, but smaller influencers are able to authentically convey a bond between them and the brand and can transfer this bond to their followers. If your brand is looking for the right fit for a collaboration, the Like Follower Ratio is always a metric to pay attention to. But keep in mind that it is always advisable to analyze an account and the Like Follower Ratio from a qualitative and quantitative point of view. A high engagement is great, but should not be seen as a valid benchmark for an influencer’s performance without taking other metrics into account. In general, one of the most distinct advantages of micro-influencers is their ability to turn into brand ambassadors who promote a brand out of interest and not because they are paid to do so.

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