A million followers on Instagram means a million people have hit 'follow' on that profile. The variable brands pay for is the engagement those followers have with the influencer. They look for trust, community, consistency, dedication between the influencer and their fans.

A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation works out the percentage of those followers that are liking the content posted. That one tool is often referred to as 'engagement' - it's quick, easy, comparable, but it's only a small piece of the puzzle that makes up how engaged an influencer's community really is. Expert agencies and marketers employ a number of tactics to build a picture of an influencer's community, and therefore, influence. I asked these experts: "What's one way you determine if an influencer has an engaged community around them?"

Rosanne from 3sixtyfive - Advertising agency

Besides looking at their regular engagement (likes, comments, clicks, shares, reposts, swipe-ups, etc.), we’re also looking at the content of the comments on all social channels. An influencer who posts a lot of sponsored content is also a letdown. We’re using tools to detect fake followers and to determine the value of their fanbase and check if the influencer has some influential followers too. In the end, a perfect match ensures the best results.

Nevon from ACTIVATE - Influencer marketplace

When it comes to selecting the right influencers for brand partnerships, it's important to see that influencers are engaged in their own communities and with their own audiences. We really want to see that the creator is active in replying to comments and answering questions from followers. This is how influencers build closer relationships with their own communities. Additionally, we love to hear that influencers receive DMs about specific posts and stories. We encourage influencers to share this information with us so that we can route it back to the respective brands. It's super valuable for them to see how their own consumers are engaging with their influencer content, whether it's in comments or private DMs.

Nick from The Goat Agency - Influencer agency

People on social live in communities just like they do in real life. We focus on those communities and saturate them with the right content. We identify what those communities are within the eco-system, create a whole range of niche content for that audience and then distribute the relevant content.

Philip from Intermate - Influencer agency

We track engagement with regards to things like Likes, Comments, etc. but also factors like saved or shared and relate this not only to followers but rather to the real organic distribution of content. What is more - we then benchmark engagement by screening all influencer postings from different verticals and hence provide industry benchmarks or organic vs. paid benchmarks.

Marit from Boomerang Agency - Creative agency

The first step I would take is to look at the engagement rate (percentage of followers liking their recent posts) which should be at least 3%. However, I wouldn't rely just on the quantity of the engagement, but even more on the quality; especially taking in mind the risk of fake engagements. There's a big difference between 'nice' or 'cute' or a more extensive, personal comment that, if applicable, also responds to the caption. The latter shows that the influencer hasn't just gained a following, but has built a strong, loyal community that follows his/her every move.

Becca from Influencer - Influencer marketing platform

We are super lucky to have the power of our platform to help us determine a creator's engagement. Our platform technology allows us to delve deep into each creator’s metrics, particularly their quantitative and qualitative engagement data, in order to understand just how effective they are. Authenticity plays a big part in this too! If a creator offers authentic content, rather than generic, growth hacking content, they will undoubtedly have a highly engaged community. Both of these factors are considered when we determine whether a creator has an engaged community or not.

Aaron from Vamp - Influencer marketing platform

Firstly, you look at the metrics. Vamp gets it's Instagram data from Facebook directly, so we can calculate the average engagement from an influencer's likes and comments. But I'd also recommend taking a closer look, 'below the line'. Assess the types of comments the influencer receives and - crucially - how they respond back to their followers. This will give you a good idea of the closeness of the connection between the two and how engaged that community is.