Exclusive: Instagram's nano-influencers outperform—as do TikTok’s upper echelon of creators

The news: Instagram's nano-influencers outperform in engagement, while top TikTok influencers maintain robust interaction levels, according to data shared exclusively with EMARKETER by KPI partner Captiv8.

  • The study analyzed over 5,000 organic posts from social media campaigns across Instagram and TikTok, collectively garnering over 14 million engagements. The engagement rate, calculated as the ratio of engagements to impressions for Instagram and video views for TikTok, provides a holistic assessment of user interaction.

Head to head: There’s a fascinating contrast in engagement rates by influencer tier between Instagram and TikTok.


  • On Instagram, a consistent inverse relationship emerges: As an influencer's follower count increases, the engagement rate tends to decrease.
  • Nano-influencers, with under 10,000 followers, boast the platform's highest engagement rate at 6.23%. This trend highlights the significance of niche, engaged audiences on Instagram, where smaller followings often yield higher interaction levels.
  • Brands can leverage this insight by partnering with micro- and nano-influencers to tap into their highly engaged communities and foster authentic connections.


  • By contrast, TikTok's engagement dynamics paint a different picture. The report reveals that All Star influencers (Captiv8’s term for those with over 1.5 million followers) enjoy a heightened level of organic reach, with an average engagement rate of 4.95%. This suggests that larger followings on TikTok do not necessarily dilute engagement, a counterintuitive finding compared with Instagram.
  • One potential explanation lies in the consistent content delivery schedules maintained by All Star influencers, which keep their audiences engaged and eager for new posts.
  • Brands can capitalize on this phenomenon by collaborating with All Star influencers to amplify organic visibility and tap into the platform's inherent virality.

What works where: The report also delves into industry-specific benchmarks, offering valuable insights for tailoring strategies.

  • Industries like QSR, Automotive, and Consumer, Shopper, and Retail thrive on TikTok by capitalizing on visually appealing and creative content that resonates with the platform's youthful user base.
  • Conversely, Instagram's grid layout and emphasis on high-quality visuals make it an ideal platform for industries such as Consumer, Shopper, and Retail, as well as Beauty and Fashion, which benefit from a visually cohesive feed. Finance, on the other hand, ranks higher on Instagram due to the platform's ability to deliver educational content effectively with carousel posts and detailed infographics.
  • Affiliate links also perform better on TikTok, per Captiv8 data we covered recently.

Our take: Engagement rates alone don't paint the full picture, yet they serve as a valuable barometer for gauging how effectively brands are connecting with their followers. Beyond assessing the traction of your content, scrutinizing these metrics enables data-driven adjustments to sustain meaningful audience engagement and ensure a robust social media presence.

  • Brands can’t afford to fall asleep at the wheel, as algorithm tweaks and user behavior shifts both have the ability to dramatically shift engagement data.

Go further: Interested in assessing more social engagement metrics? Industry KPI subscribers can immediately measure both paid and organic engagement rates and other social media metrics across various social platforms and industries, as well as measure their performance against more than 400 other industry benchmarks. See more here.

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