Posting and browsing the feeds on social media is fun, but if you’re working to build a professional platform for your author career, you need to do more. For that, you want to keep an eye on your analytics. And when it comes to analytics, no matter what social networks or other digital channels you pursue, nothing is more important than your engagement rate.
So, let’s take a closer look at what an engagement rate is, why it matters, and how to use it to manage your platform.
What is an engagement rate?
Your engagement rate is your most important metric! Shown as a percentage, it measures the rate at which others within your social media network like, comment, share, click, or otherwise interact with your posts.
It can be measured a few different ways, so check network to network to understand how your metrics are being measured. Typically, it’s the percentage of accounts that viewed your post in their feed and took action to engage with it. Another way it might be measured would be as a percentage of your followers (who may not all have seen it in their feeds, depending on timing and algorithms).
Why is engagement rate so important?
It can be satisfying to rack up a high number of followers or subscribers, but on its own, it doesn’t necessarily mean much! If your followers opt in on impulse for a giveaway or other incentive, for example, but then forget who you are when they see you in their feed, those followers might not help you grow a readership.
Engagement rate is the best way to measure the quality of your relationships with your followers, and how strong your content is for connecting with them. At the end of the day, those reader relationships are what social media platforming is all about!
With this in mind, let’s look at a few important things to know about engagement rates.
1. Your targets change by channel
There is no universal rule of thumb I can give you to know whether your engagement rate is “good.” Because each social network and digital channel has different demographics, dynamics, and algorithms, average engagement rates vary.
Fortunately, these averages can also be easy to find with Googling, and while they’re rough estimates running a wide gamut of account types, it’s a decent reference point. Twitter, for example, has an average engagement rate of 0.2-0.9%, while for Facebook pages the average is 0.09%. Instagram is a relatively high 5.6% for accounts with 5,000 followers or fewer, and TicTok’s is as high as 17.5%. For newsletters, the average click-through rate is 2.5%.
You can find your engagement rates on the analytics or insights pages for most networks. (Instagram’s more finicky with its data, but this IG engagement rate calculator is a handy tool).
2. Your engagement rate will evolve with your audience
The qualifiers on that Instagram average above might have been a hint—your engagement rate will mature as your audience grows.
Consider: when you’re starting out, those first 10, 20, 100 followers are your biggest fans, the ones following your journey from the start: your critique group, your buddies, and, yeah, probably your mom. Those biggest early fans are the ones most likely to engage with your content at the highest rates.
But as you grow, your engagement rates will level out and stabilize at lower numbers. That’s normal and totally okay!
3. As you grow, your engagement rate can serve as a sign of your list’s health
Once your engagement rate stabilizes, you can watch it for signs of how healthy your list is and troubleshoot if things take a turn.
For example, many authors use cross-promotion or giveaway swaps to build their lists. This can be a great tactic, but in some cases, it can lead to dead weight on your list from followers who only come for the giveaway and never engage again. For something like a newsletter, this can be especially problematic because it can lead to getting filed as spam. But an issue like this is easy to spot with your engagement rate.
If you start to see the engagement rate drop too low, take it as a sign to switch up your tactics (and on your newsletter, consider removing subscribers who haven’t opened an email for six months).
For Author Platforms, Engagement Rate Is The Metric to Watch
When platforming with professional goals in mind, keep an eye on your analytics—after all, what gets measured gets managed!
While many networks make it easiest to watch your follower numbers and tuck everything else away in often complex dashboards, the one metric you really want to keep your eye on is the engagement rate.
Remember, platform isn’t just about the numbers! Ultimately, it’s about building relationships with an audience that loves your creative work. Engagement rate is the metric that helps you measure those relationships best, and keep them healthy so your readership can grow.
By day, E. J. Wenstrom is a digital strategy pro with over 10 years at communications firms. By early-early morning, she’s an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author of the Chronicles of the Third Realm War novels, starting with Mud. She believes in complicated characters, terrifying monsters, and purple hair dye.