We all know the feeling, you open up Instagram for a little scroll time, a little peek into the Instagram universe and it's back to back #ad or #sponsored. It seems that social media has now been dominated by influencers and their brand partnerships.

This isn’t to say that this is an entirely negative thing. We all know the power of influencer marketing and we also know that their audiences like seeing sponsored content from them. But when is too much, too much?

We’ve been asking ourselves the same question. Which is why we’ve been championing the Saturation Rate. It’s a new concept that we’ve recently introduced to our benchmarking and reporting for clients’ influencer marketing campaigns.

This new way of measurement, looks into the ratio of sponsored vs organic content of an influencers over a period of 30 days or posts. In layman’s terms: if you were to look at a grid of 9 instagram posts and 5 of them ended with a #ad or #sponsored, then that influencer would have a saturation rate of 56%. Pretty interesting stuff.

Here’s where it gets more interesting. Saturation Rate is dependant on nuances such as the channel, industry, country and size of following of the influencer, but in best practice an influencer’s saturation rate should be somewhere between 10 and 30%.

As with most measurement tools there are always exceptions, for example micro influencers. Higher rates of saturation within this segment is on a par with the growing trend for brands working with micro, or even nano, influencers. Usually these influencers are trying to grow their following, meaning that typically they’ll take on more paid partnerships. The question to ask here, is whether micro influencers loved for their higher engagement rates, can maintain their authenticity with saturation rates running up to 50%.

Another anomaly to keep in mind when determining saturation rates is high fashion. The alluring and exclusive content that influencers create for this target audience act as a status symbol—a prestigious collaboration between content creator and fashion house. Audiences follow these influencers for this, so a higher saturation rate is seen as power within the community.

In order to hit that saturation sweet spot, influencers need to have had experience with sponsorship but not have feeds that are inundated with #sponsored #ad. Determining this rate means that we’re able to work with true digital storytellers vs content creators that tarnish the industry by using it as a transactional marketplace. And this is a place that we feel pretty happy about.

Determining influencers saturation rates can help us protect the industry by ensuring influencers stay authentic and true to their audiences. This is why we believe that balancing owned and partnered content is the next step forward for influencer marketing.