Mid-year report: Influencer engagement rates
Last year was an anomaly for eCommerce growth, screen time, and social media engagement. In 2020, U.S. eCommerce sales grew by 31.7%—the largest increase in ten years and almost double the second-highest growth rate of 17.8% in 2011.
With higher revenue potential comes a different set of expectations. Now that eComm brands are synonymous with influencer marketing, that left us wondering:
What should brands expect from influencer campaigns in 2021?
First, we should explain the difference between an influencer and a creator.
Influencers tend to have very high follower counts—think Kim Kardashian—but low engagement rates. They put zero thought into their posts and delete them as soon as they can. Brands will have to do all the work to create the content (images, videos, copy, etc.) that the influencer then copies and pastes to their social feed.
A Creator is known for creating exceptional, original content. They work alongside brands as an extension of their teams. They earn their social influence and followers—anywhere from 5,000-5,000,000—and that makes their engagement much higher than an influencer. Content creators work with brands by crafting assets from ideation to delivery.
For the rest of this report, we will be using the term "Creator" and "Creator marketing".
Engagement rates: How to put them in context
Engagement rates, while not the be-all-end-all of creator marketing, are a great place to start if you want to understand how people will interact with your campaigns.
So we dove deep into this metric within our own dataset of hundreds of Creators across every size bracket, industry, and format. We compare engagement rates from Q1 and Q2 of 2021, then we look back and compare those to their counterparts in 2020.
Video view rates: All we can say is, Wow!
Video view rates in 2021 blew our minds. We can’t even wait until the end of the report to tell you: Video view rates in 2021 YTD increased by an average of 147% compared to the first half of 2020.
Creators of all kinds have followed suit with Instagram’s prioritization of video to compete with TikTok. If you haven’t been working with Creators who have mastered the art of the Instagram Reel, the time to get in is now.
How to digest this report
Consider this industry update your personal starting line for:
Choosing the right Creator > within your industry > who can communicate your offer > in the correct format > to the right amount of people.
You’ll be able to assess the results in two ways:
- Quick insights without the nuance
- The details within each slice of data
Creator engagement rates and creator pricing aren’t twins, but they are siblings—find out how much creators are charging in 2021.
What you’ll learn from this industry update*
We’ve kept this industry update simple: You’ll learn how engagement rates are trending between quarters in 2021, and you’ll learn how those compare to Q1 and Q2 in 2020.
*Don’t worry, you won’t just learn the numbers! We’ll also interpret the data and let you know how you can take action.
Quick insights without the nuance
- Q1 2021 saw the highest campaign engagement rates we’ve ever seen—but we also saw a decrease in Q2
- More people are watching video content—a lot more
- Macro Creators (>100k followers) continue to drive brand awareness with more reach, but their campaigns come with lower engagement rates
- Micro (<25k followers) and Mid-tier Creators (25k–100k followers) are generating higher engagement rates than Macro Creators
- Two industries see the highest engagement with video content: food & beverage and pets
- The finance, entertainment, fashion, and alcohol industries see higher overall engagement rates on static photo content compared to the average engagement on video content
Average creator engagement rates
First, what is an engagement rate?
Engagement rate is a simple formula used to calculate the percentage of people who have interacted with any one piece of content. “Interactions” include likes, comments, and shares.
For example, if someone has 25,000 followers on Instagram, and one of their posts gets a combined total of 750 interactions, their engagement rate on that post is 3%.
When Creators share their overall engagement rate on a platform like #paid, they’re averaging out their engagement rates on several posts over time.
Average creator engagement rates
Observations: Average engagement rates are up in 2021 YTD by a whopping 33% compared to the same period last year.
Action to consider: If you haven’t tested creator marketing for your brand, now is the time. Review our 2021 Creator rates report to give you an idea of how much to spend.
Average engagement rates by creator size
For the purposes of this report we looked at creators in three caterogies: Micro, Mid, and Macro level based on followers.
Observations: While engagement rates across size decreased in Q2 2021, they’re still much higher compared to 2020—22% higher on average, to be exact.
The Micro-Creator space is the most interesting segment to watch. Micro-Creators generate consistently high engagement rates, while celebrity Creators are better for reach and brand awareness.
Actions to consider: Micro- and Mid-size Creators have closer relationships with their followers, which explains the higher engagement rates. If you’re running a campaign that depends on engagement rate for success, use Micro-and/or Mid-size Creators.
Larger brands with larger budgets should use celebrity Creators to increase and reinforce brand awareness.
Average engagement rates by content type
Observations: Video engagement is seeing an uptick in 2021 between quarters, and it’s no surprise. With Instagram’s new focus on video, particularly Reels, more people are engaging with video content than ever before. TikTok’s influence on video as the most effective communication medium is only going to continue dominating the Creator space.
Actions to consider: Understand your campaign objectives as they relate to your product. Are your key messages easy to convey in a static image, or can you punch up your features/benefits in a video instead?
As you’ll see in the next section if you’re in the Food & Bev or pets industries, video is a must: Seeing recipes come to life is the best kind of food porn, and a pet’s reaction to a product is, well, the palate cleanser we all need forever.
Average engagement rates by industry
Observations: Entertainment, fashion, alcoholic beverages, and finance are seeing higher campaign engagement rates, even compared to video content. Content in these industries tends to be posed and aesthetically appealing, with higher production effort.
Actions to consider: If you’re in a high-performing industry and you’re relying on static photo content, focus on telling a compelling story through captions. Captions in these industries are informative and can tie back to the Creator’s ethos, which creates trust and relatability.
Creator video views
Here’s what we’re noticing: As Instagram continues to prioritize video content, we could see more decreases in engagement rate. The explanation is simple: People may watch an entire Reel or video overspending that same time and energy on engaging with it.
But people are watching more videos. Videos force scrolling users to stop and pay attention to the post, which is great for brands who want to remain top of mind.
We're also seeing higher quality and more engaging video content, as TikTok and Instagram Reels make it easier to shoot professional content on a smartphone.
So strap in, do your research, and prioritize working with Creators who have mastered the art of the Insta Reel.
Average video views
Observations: Wow! Video view rate in 2021 increased by an average of 147% compared to the first half of 2020.
TikTok and Instagram Reels have surged in popularity—they’ve both fundamentally changed the way we consume content. With a new form of self-expression and creativity, younger people flock to short-form videos to express themselves.
Actions to consider: Add criteria to your Creator research by prioritizing those who use Reels or TikTok in innovative ways. You may need to adjust your expectations about engagement rate, but if you add a top layer to your strategy to allow for experimentation with video view rate as a primary metric, you could be opening doors for engagement campaigns later with that same Creator.
Average video views by creator size
Observations: Similar to overall engagement rates, Mid and Micro Creators shine with video. As relatable characters on our feeds, Mid Creators are gaining ground on Macro who produce video content that looks more polished and aspirational.
Actions to consider: Smaller brands shouldn’t sleep on Creators with a smaller following. When you’re looking for Creators to partner with, focus on creativity with Reels over engagement rate, at least for a test subset of your Creator marketing strategy. Just as any casting agent would be able to spot a star in the making, you should fine-tune your eye to identify a potential smash hit with a short-form video.
Don’t miss it—now that you know what to expect for engagement rates and video view rates, find out how much Creators are charging in 2021.