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Are you trying to increase your visibility and influence on social media? You’re sure to have come across these two metrics on your analytics dashboard: reach and impressions. They are both critical for the success of your overall social media strategy.
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 visibility.
Before you start planning your social media strategy, let’s take a look at the difference between reach vs impressions.
Reach vs Impressions: What’s the Difference?
To understand 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 refers to the total 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.
Image via Dilly Marketing
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.
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.
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.” Facebook calculates reach using sampled data.
Reach on Facebook is divided into three categories:
- Organic: Organic reach shows the number of unique users 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.
Reach is different from 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 it 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.
Image via Twitter Blog
Twitter creates an impression whenever a user sees a tweet that you posted — either in their search results, feed, or any other conversation.
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 they work, you’re almost done. On other platforms, it’s easier to understand how reach and impressions work
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.
On Snapchat, reach vs impression dilemma takes a new name. That’s because it calls impressions as story views. Other than that, reach and story views are measured in the same way.
Google Analytics is another platform which 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. Page views track the number of pages that have been viewed by all of your site’s visitors.
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.
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. 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.
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.
How to Find Effective Frequency
Reach vs impressions is tricky to compare. In all scenarios, your impressions will be equal 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 to the average number of impressions you get for each user. This is often referred to as ad frequency or average impressions per user.
Most marketers believe that the average impression per user 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.
Frequency and Ad Fatigue
Yes, it’s usually necessary to display your ad more than once to consumers to get them to convert. But if you show it 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 what your social media goals are. 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 our followers share your content, your reach and impressions will grow too.
Reach vs impression 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 actually measure different elements in analytics.
Of course, both reach and impressions are crucial for your social media strategy. Which one you want to give importance to will depend on your overall marketing goals.
I hope the explanations mentioned above helped give you some clarity about reach vs impressions and which one you should focus on.