Reach vs Impressions — What should you focus on?
If you do social media marketing, chances are you’ve encountered this dilemma before.
After all, both are critical for the success of your overall social media marketing campaign.
But at times, you may need to give preference to one over the other.
Given that they are closely linked, it can be difficult to make a choice.
While they are often grouped together, both of these metrics have their own definitions. And both make a significant impact on your overall engagement and brand awareness.
Curious to find out how they differ?
Keep reading to find out the difference between reach vs impressions.
Disclosure: This content has a few affiliate links, which means if you click on them, I will get a commission (without any extra cost to you).
Table of Contents
Reach vs Impressions: What’s the Difference?
To understand the main difference between reach vs impressions, think about how you scroll through your social media feed every day.
Your feed displays hundreds of articles, photos, and videos. But you only click on a few of them that you find interesting.
That’s where reach vs impression comes in.
The content that you look at counts as reach. In simple terms, reach is the number of users who choose to see a brand’s content.
Reach focuses on getting people to click on your content.
On the other hand, impressions refers to the total number of times when users were exposed to your content on social media.
Impressions do not measure whether or not people actually clicked on a link. And they do not measure whether or not a viewer engaged with a post.
For example, if your ad was displayed 400 times on social media, your impressions would be 400.
Out of that, if 150 people clicked on your ad, your reach would be 150.
That’s a basic scenario that makes it easy to understand the difference between reach vs impressions.
Image via Dilly Marketing
In an ideal scenario, all of your followers would see and click on each of your posts.
But that’s not the case.
Both metrics are similar, but there is a difference when it comes to engagement. In general, your impressions will always be higher than your reach.
Additionally, your impressions can sometimes be close to the number of followers you have — especially if your content has been posted for a while.
What happens if you post the same content twice?
Some of your followers might choose to see it twice.
If a large number of followers see it again, the number of impressions you get might be close to or may even be higher than your follower count.
That sums up the basic idea of reach and impressions.
However, each social media platform has its own unique approach for looking at both of these metrics.
Reach vs Impression: Which One is More Important?
Now that we’ve covered the definitions and examples for reach vs impressions, you’ve got a grip of the basic concepts.
Let’s dig in deeper now.
When it comes to reach vs impressions, which metric is more important for your social media marketing strategy?
It’s an important question.
But there is no straight answer to it. It all boils down to what your marketing goals are.
You should focus on impressions if you want to continually track your ads.
Impressions provide you with a moment-to-moment update. This metric can help you gauge how users are responding to your ad.
If the response you receive is cold, you should consider repurposing your content or changing the target audience.
Similarly, reach shows the number of people who engage with your content.
If they aren’t converting into customers or going to the next stage of the sales funnel, you need to reconsider your strategy.
Do you notice a similar pattern there?
Reach and impressions are both necessary to figure out if you’re on the right path. Both metrics are closely linked to engagement.
Both are closely linked to engagement metrics.
That makes it obvious.
If you want to boost your engagement rates, you need to monitor reach as well as impressions.
You can’t improve your engagement strategy without tweaking them.
That’s where the line between reach vs impression blurs. They’re complex concepts but both are extremely important to improve your engagement.
Now that we have established that both are important, it is also important to mention that you should regularly track these and other metrics for your accounts and campaigns.
Wondering how to track them?
Use specialized social media management tools like Crowdfire.
It has advanced analytics that lets you track impressions, reach, and other important metrics for multiple social media accounts easily.
How to Find Effective Frequency
For any social media marketer, reach vs impressions is tricky to compare.
In all scenarios, your impressions will be equal to or higher than your reach.
Each user who has been counted in “reach” will have been exposed to your content once. Or sometimes even more than once.
So, how can you find the exact number of times your content has been seen?
To get this number, you can divide your total reach by the average number of impressions you get for each user.
This is called ad frequency or average impressions per user.
Most marketers believe that the ad frequency should be more than one before you get a conversion.
A user needs to see an ad several times before they become aware of the brand and the product.
In marketing terms, it’s called effective frequency.
It refers to the total number of times people see an ad before responding to it. While there is no magic number, the effective frequency differs largely in different industries.
To get a fair estimate of what’s a good number, you should try to find what your competitors’ effective frequency is.
Pro Tip: Use SocialOomph’s scheduling feature to schedule your social media posts in advance. This way, you can publish your posts at optimal times.
Frequency and Ad Fatigue
Yes, it’s usually necessary to display your ad more than once to consumers to get them to convert.
But there is a downside to it…
If you show your ad too many times, you risk making your potential customers annoyed.
It’s easy for them to get overwhelmed by too many ads. That’s why it’s crucial to figure out the effective frequency in your niche.
The average impressions per user that you should be aiming for also depends on your social media goals.
Do you want to promote a specific event quickly?
Or are you trying to build awareness for your brand slowly?
If you’re on a tight deadline, you need to go in, guns blazing.
You need to reach a broad audience in a short time period. So, getting a high impression per user should be your ultimate goal.
But if you’re not constrained by time, you can take it slow.
You can run a few different campaigns that focus more on reach rather than impressions.
Another tip that you should consider is to lay emphasis on building a community for your social media platform.
Create shareable content.
As your followers share your content, your reach and impressions will grow too.
Till now, we discussed reach vs impressions from a general perspective.
Let’s take a closer look at reach vs impressions on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
Reach vs Impressions on Facebook
According to Facebook Business, reach means “the number of people who saw your adverts at least once.”
Keep in mind that Facebook calculates reach using sampled data.
Want to know more?
Here you go.
Reach on Facebook is divided into three categories:
- Organic: Organic reach shows the number of unique people who came across your content in their News Feed without advertising.
- Paid: Paid reach refers to the number of unique users who came across paid content. It includes Facebook ads. Paid reach is affected by factors like your budget, audience targeting, and the total bid.
- Viral: Viral reach refers to the number of unique users who came across your content through their friends’ activity. This includes liking, sharing, or commenting on the post.
Facebook also makes a clear distinction between reach and impressions.
Facebook defines impressions as “the number of times an instance of an ad is on screen for the first time.”
If a user scrolls down when an ad is displayed, and then scrolls up again, that counts as just one impression.
Image via Klipfolio
The only way Facebook counts two impressions for the same ad is if the ad is displayed twice on a user’s screen.
It may or may not be on the same day, but it’s necessary for the ad to be displayed twice.
However, Facebook also mentions that a video does not need to start playing for it to count it as an impression.
If you want to be sure that users have viewed your content, you need to look at “viewed impressions.”
Facebook doesn’t count viewed impressions until the user sees the ad on their screen. If they scroll away, it doesn’t count as a viewed impression.
To understand Facebook impressions completely, you also need to be familiar with “served impressions.”
This refers to the paid ads that have been displayed in a News Feed or an ad box.
Served impressions don’t necessarily appear on the screen. They could also be placed below the fold.
Reach vs Impressions on Twitter
On Twitter, the reach vs impression dilemma doesn’t really exist.
That’s because reach isn’t a trackable metric on Twitter. So, there is no scope for confusion.
Twitter creates an impression whenever a user sees a tweet that you posted — either in their search results, feed, or any other conversation.
Image via Twitter Blog
Say, you have 100 Twitter followers.
If all of your followers see your tweets, you will get 100 impressions. Now let’s say you want to take the conversation forward.
So, you reply to the original tweet with another tweet to keep the thread going. This will give you an additional 200 impressions out of a total of 300 impressions.
Twitter’s impression count is peculiar.
If you want to make the most out of your Twitter marketing strategy, it’s important to understand how they count impressions.
Ultimately, the way you use Twitter will have a major impact on the number of impressions that you get.
For example, replies that you post in response to your follower’s tweets will yield fewer impressions.
On the other hand, tweets published on followers’ feeds give more impressions. If you’re spending a lot of time replying to people on Twitter, your impression count may be low.
Reach vs Impressions on Other Platforms
Facebook and Twitter are the main platforms where the reach vs impression debate is hot.
If you understand how these social media metrics are calculated, you’re almost done.
On other platforms, it’s easier to understand how reach and impressions work.
In this section, let’s take a look at how different platforms measure reach and impressions.
Instagram works almost in the same way as Facebook.
Reach and impressions are defined separately.
Impressions refer to the number of times a user may have seen your story or post. Reach measures the number of unique users that see your content.
You can use Instagram analytics tools to make the process of tracking easier.
For Snapchat marketing, the reach vs impression dilemma takes a new name.
That’s because it calls impressions “story views.” Other than that, reach and story views are measured in the same way.
Google Analytics is another platform that has given these terms new identities. For that reason, reach vs impressions can be called “users vs page views.”
“Users” tracks the total number of people who visit your website at least one time during a specific time frame.
Google AdWords focuses mainly on measuring reach. It divides it into two main categories: unique reach and cookie-based reach.
As the name suggests, cookie-based reach calculates the reach using cookies.
Unique reach tracks down the number of unique views by a user. It does not count duplicate views.
Q1. Which is better—reach or impressions?
A. Both reach and impressions are important metrics that you should track to assess your performance on social media.
Reach is the number of users who actually did see your content or engaged with it.
Impressions, on the other hand, show how many times people were exposed to your content, regardless of whether they engaged with it or not.
Both of these are important for any business.
That’s why they are often used together as a reach-to-impressions ratio to get more performance insights.
Q2. Why are impressions higher than reach?
A. Impressions can count the same user multiple times, every time they were exposed to your content.
Reach, on the other hand, counts each user once and includes only those impressions where a user engaged with your content.
Therefore, reach is always a subset of impressions and will always be lower.
Q3. Can impressions be lower than reach?
A. No, all impressions that turn into engagement are counted as reach, but even if they don’t those will still be impressions. So, reach is a subset of impressions and cannot be higher.
Q4. Are impressions important?
A. Yes, impressions are important in analyzing how many times your content was shown to a relevant audience.
The higher your impressions, the more timely and relevant your content is.
It is basically comparable to video views on YouTube and we all know how important those are for boosting brand awareness and driving sales.
If you want to improve your content marketing strategy, you need to keep a close eye on impressions.
Q5. What is a good reach to impression ratio?
A. There is no hard and fast rule on what an ideal reach-to-impression ratio should be. However, the higher the ratio, the better it is for you.
Anything less than 0.2 is not good.
Q6. How do you calculate reach and impressions?
A. There are automated social media analytics tools that can track these metrics for you, so you don’t have to track them yourself.
As mentioned above, reach is counted as the number of users who clicked on your content or engaged with it. The number of impressions is the sum total of every time your content was shown to someone.
Q7. What is the most important Instagram metric?
A. While reach and impressions are both important, engagement rate is perhaps the most important metric on Instagram.
The more people engage with your content, the more likely Instagram is to show it to other users.
Q8. How can I increase my impressions on Instagram?
A. Using relevant keywords and hashtags is the best way to increase your impressions on Instagram. These will help your content reach more people who might be interested in it.
Which One Matters More is Up to You!
Reach vs impressions has been a dilemma that most marketers have come across.
Both the terms are grouped together, so it’s difficult to put them in separate boxes. But if you look at them closely, you’ll see that reach and impressions measure different things in analytics.
That said, both reach and impressions are crucial components of your social media strategy. Which one you want to give importance to will depend on your overall marketing goals.
I hope the explanations above helped give you some clarity about reach vs impressions and which one your business should focus on.
Do you have any questions about reach and impressions? Please share your thoughts and insights in the comments section.
Disclosure: This content has a few affiliate links, which means if you click on them, I will get a commission (without any extra cost to you).