Instagram micro and nano influencers have higher engagement rates than celebs. But on TikTok it's the opposite.

  • Instagram and TikTok are opposites when it comes to trends in followers engaging with creators.
  • On Instagram, the smaller the creator’s following, the higher the engagement. On TikTok, the reverse is true.
  • Two recent reports outlined the average engagement rates for influencers. Here are the takeaways.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

TikTok’s biggest stars are skilled at engaging their audiences, but fans could be losing interest in Instagram’s top influencers.

That’s the main takeaway suggested by two new reports — one from Later and Fohr and the other from HypeAuditor — that analyze “engagement” across social-media platforms and creators with different following sizes. Engagement as a metric is used to quantify what percentage of an influencer’s audience interacts with their content.

Later and Fohr analyzed data from 3.5 million Instagram posts between December 2020 and March 2021. HypeAuditor studied over 12 million Instagram accounts, 4.5 million YouTube channels, and 5.2 million TikTok accounts throughout 2020.

In general, these reports found that for Instagram influencers, a smaller following meant a higher engagement rate. But on TikTok, it was the opposite, as influencers with millions of followers tended to have the highest engagement rates.

Engagement rates are one of the many ways that brands and marketers determine if influencers do, in fact, have influence.

The two reports found that on Instagram, “nano” influencers had the highest engagement rates compared to other following size brackets. “Micro” influencers came second. The average engagement rate for all Instagram influencers was between 1.9% and 2.2%.

Both reports calculated Instagram engagement by taking the total likes and comments and dividing by an influencer’s total number of followers, which is a common way to measure it. (Instagram creators also sometimes take into account other interactions in engagement calculations like saves or DMs, or calculate engagement for specific features, like Stories and Reels.)

Here’s a breakdown of average engagement rate by following size on Instagram, according to the data from the reports:

  • 1,000 to 10,000 followers: 4% to 5%
  • 10,000 to 100,000 followers: 1.4% to 2%
  • 100,000 to 1 million followers: 1.3% to 1.6% 
  • Over 1 million followers: 0.8% to 1.6%

Some brands and marketers have recognized this gap in engagement on Instagram and adapted their strategies by working with more nano and micro influencers. Smaller creators also often offer a niche audience and may be more tuned in with their followers.

“These are people who are actual consumers. They’re actual shoppers; they’re everyday people,” Brian Freeman, the CEO of Heartbeat, told Insider last year. Heartbeat is an influencer-marketing platform that specializes in connecting brands with smaller creators.

But the idea of a smaller audience being more engaged goes out the window when looking at TikTok.

While the majority (about 70%) of TikTok creators have between 1,000 and 20,000 followers, it’s actually the celebrity TikTokers with millions of followers who have the highest engagement rates, according to HypeAuditor’s report. HypeAuditor calculated engagement on TikTok by looking at likes, comments, and shares, divided by total views. 

Creators with over 1 million followers on TikTok had an average engagement rate of 18.6%, HypeAudtior’s data showed. In comparison, creators with under 20,000 followers have an engagement rate of about 14% to 15%. 

Overall, the engagement rate was higher on TikTok than on Instagram. In part, that is because TikTok users interact with content differently than they do on Instagram — and it’s all video.

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