Reach Vs. Impressions: What’s The Difference and Which Matters More?

by Tracy Jackson

reach vs impressions

So, you’ve recently launched a new social media campaign for your company to increase your brand awareness. You understand your target audience, and you want to know how well your social media campaigns are performing.

But, how do you do this?

How do you gauge which of your campaigns are getting you the results you want? And how do you know which campaigns are just burning a hole in your pocket?

Two words – Reach and Impressions.

Reach and Impressions are two social media metrics that are highly crucial yet often misunderstood by marketers.

In today’s post, we’ll answer the all-important question in the Reach vs. Impressions war – which one should marketers focus on when studying analytics from their social media campaigns?

Let’s dive right in!

Disclaimer: If you buy something using the links in this article, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Know that I only promote stuff that I use and trust for the sake of my readers and the reputation of this site.

Reach vs Impressions

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Reach Vs. Impressions: What Do They Mean For Different Social Media?

Social media metrics do not work the same for all social media platforms. For example, although the main idea of Reach and Impressions is more or less the same, each platform calculates these metrics differently.

For example, your Facebook impressions include all the news feed views from social media users.

If you want to make sure your social media strategy is effective, you need first to understand what reach and impressions mean for each social platform.

Let’s take a look at them one by one:

Facebook Reach Vs. Facebook Impressions

According to the Facebook Business Help Center, Facebook Reach is an estimated metric defined as the number of unique users who saw your Facebook Ads at least once. Facebook calls this an estimated metric because it uses sampled data to give you this information.

Further, the Facebook Business Help Center says that Impressions measure the number of times people view your Facebook ads. Impressions may include multiple ad views of the same ad from the same people, so Impressions are always higher than Reach.

However, neither Reach nor Impressions give you a clear picture of engagement. This means that you can never be sure whether the people who saw your Facebook ads actually read and interacted with them or just scrolled past them.

Facebook Reach is divided into three categories to make it easier to analyze and optimize your social media marketing campaigns:

Organic Reach/ Impressions: This is the number of times your content was displayed in front of unique users for free.

Paid Reach/ Impressions: This is the number of times your paid content (such as Facebook Ads) was displayed in front of users.

Viral Reach/ Impressions: Viral impressions or reach expands beyond your friends and followers. When a person interacts with your content, only a fraction of their friends and followers will view this action and the related post in their news feed.

This is why you need to create shareable content so that it has a significant impact on your reach and impressions.

Facebook divides Impressions into two types:

Served Impressions: If an Ad is ‘served’, it means that it is a paid ad and the ad has been served to an audience either at the top of a highly visible news feed or in the sidebar. Served Impressions are counted even if the ad has appeared below the fold or has not yet loaded or rendered on the viewer’s screen.

Viewed Impressions: Viewed Impressions, on the other hand, are counted only if the user sees the ad on the screen. A viewed Impression is not counted if the viewer has not scrolled down to view the ad or has navigated to a different page before the ad has completely rendered.

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Twitter Reach vs. Twitter Impressions

Twitter Analytics shows you two metrics:

Impressions: This is the number of times a Twitter user sees your Tweets in their feed, search results, or conversations.

Total Engagements: Twitter shows you the total number of engagements that Twitter users had with your Tweet. This includes retweets, link clicks, likes, and media engagements.

However, social media analytics do not show you Twitter Reach. This is because Twitter does track Impressions but not Reach.

If you want to track Reach on Twitter, you will need to use a third-party tool to do it.

If your follower count is 1,000, and all of them see your latest Tweet, that counts as 1,000 impressions.

If you reply to your original Tweet with another Tweet, your followers see your original Tweet again, as well as the new Tweet. This counts as a total of 1,000 + 2,000 impressions = 3,000 viewed impressions.

Replies to other people’s Tweets, however, give you much fewer impressions than Tweets that you publish directly into your follower’s news feeds. So you may want to tweak your Twitter strategy if you find that you are spending too much time replying to other people’s Tweets.

Instagram Reach Vs. Instagram Impressions

Instagram Reach vs Instagram Impressions

Like Facebook, Instagram shows you metrics such as Reach and Impressions if you have an Instagram Business Profile or Creator Account. This helps you study the performance of your social media campaign and tweak your marketing strategy when needed.

You can view these metrics by clicking on ‘View Insights’ under your Instagram post or by swiping up on one of your Instagram Stories.

However, a Business Profile does not give you in-depth analytics of Reach vs. Impressions as a Creator Account does.

Instagram Reach: The unique number of Instagram accounts that have seen your Instagram post or story.

Instagram Impressions: This is defined as the total number of times your Instagram post or story has been displayed to users. This may include multiple views from the same user. That is because the user may have seen the same post in multiple places such as in search results and in users’ feeds.

Using Instagram Analytics, you will be able to see what percentage of users have seen your post without following you. You will also be shown the number of impressions for each source (ex: home, profile, hashtags, explore, etc.)

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Reach vs. Impressions on Other Platforms

YouTube

YouTube Reach vs YouTube Impressions

YouTube Analytics shows you the following influencer marketing metrics:

  • Impressions: YouTube Impressions refer to the number of times your YouTube video thumbnails were seen by viewers on YouTube.
  • Impressions Click-Through-Rate: This is how many viewers clicked and watched your YouTube video after seeing your thumbnail.
  • Unique Viewers: This metric is the same as ‘Reach’, and tells you how many viewers watched your video content in a selected date range.
  • Views: These are the number of views your videos have gotten.
  • Views From Impressions: The number of views that have come from impressions in a selected date range.
  • Watch Time: This is the total time viewers have spent watching your videos.
  • Watch Time From Impressions: This is the total watch time that came from impressions during a selected date range.
Impressions and watch time

Snapchat

Snapchat Reach vs Snapchat Impressions

For Snapchat, the two metrics Reach and Impressions have the same meaning and calculations, except that Snapchat calls Impressions ‘Story Views‘.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

Google Analytics shows you important metrics like ‘Users’ and ‘Page Views’.

Users: The number of visitors to your site in a given time frame.

Page Views: The total number of pages your visitors have viewed in a particular time frame.

Both these metrics help you determine your organic reach and overall digital marketing campaign success.

Google Ads

Google Ads

Google Ads mainly gives you information on Reach. There are two types of Reach that are measured:

  • Unique Reach: Google Ads Helps defines Unique Reach as the total number of people who saw your Google Ads across different devices, formats, and networks. Unique Reach is calculated using two metrics – unique users and average impression frequency per user.
  • Cookie-Based Reach: This metric is based on cookies, and is calculated by counting the number of cookies that have been shown an ad or that have recorded a click on an ad. Most users browse on different devices or browsers. Therefore cookie-based reach is just an estimate and may include multiple impressions from the same user.

The Importance Of Reach and Impressions In Your Social Media Strategy

Now that you have understood how Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms count Impressions and Reach, you need to understand the role they play in your social media strategy.

When you truly understand this, you will be able to create a solid marketing strategy for your social media platforms that bring in results.

1. How To Use Reach To Improve Your Social Media Campaigns

Use Reach to optimize your paid campaigns. This is because Reach measures the total number of unique users that are able to view your content.

When your Reach is high, it means that your content is being shown to your target audience, and there is a higher chance of them engaging with it.

Focus on increasing your Reach instead of your Impressions. This will make sure that your content is being shown to new users in your target audience, and not the same people over and over again.

2. How To Use Impressions To Check The Immediate Performance Of Your Social Media Campaigns

Impressions count exposure of your content and can be tracked immediately. This comes in very handy when you want to check the performance of your social marketing campaigns as soon as they are published.

If your newly published ad does not get many impressions, you can avoid wasting time and advertising spend by immediately changing the content of your ad and republishing it.

3. How To Use Both Reach And Impressions To Optimize Your Campaigns

There are two main ways you can use both Reach and Impressions to track the effectiveness of your social media campaigns and optimize them:

1. Use Reach and Impressions to calculate your Effective Frequency.

Your Impressions should always be higher than your Reach. This is because many marketers agree that a person needs to see your ad many times before they start to show an interest in your product and buy it.

In marketing terms, this is known as the ‘Effective Frequency’. It is the number of times your content must be displayed in front of your target audience before they feel compelled to interact with it in some way.

Study your competitors and try to determine your Effective Frequency. Remember, your Effective Frequency might not be the same as another company or product. So keep trying out different frequencies till your find something that works best for you.

To calculate Effective Frequency, divide the total Impressions for a particular post by its Reach.

2. Use Reach and Impressions to avoid ad fatigue among your target audience.

Although there is no particular frequency at which you can be sure that your audience is fed up with seeing your ad, you need to exercise caution when it comes to bombarding your audience with your ads.

The right frequency of ads (or average impressions per user) for you will depend upon the goals and the time duration of your ad campaigns. If you are running an ad campaign for only a limited time, a high frequency is essential.

If, on the other hand, you are trying to steadily grow your audience and increase brand exposure, then consistency is key.

Reach vs impressions is a vital balance you need to maintain to achieve the best results from your ad campaigns and increase your brand awareness.

Other Social Media Metrics to Track Apart From Reach And Impressions

Reach vs Impressions: are these the only two vital social media metrics you need to track?

Although Reach and Impressions give you key insights into the engagement and conversion of your content and ads, you will need to keep an eye out for other metrics as well to get a holistic view of the performance of your campaigns.

Apart from your Reach and Impressions, you need to see if people engage with your content in the form of likes, comments, and shares. If not, then either your messaging is off or you are not targeting the right audience.

You will also need to measure your ROI and conversions in tandem with your Reach and Impressions to see if your campaigns are truly helping your brand grow and increase sales.

FAQs

1. Which is better—reach or impressions?

Both reach and impressions give you important insights into the overall performance of your social media campaigns.

‘Reach’ refers to how many people saw and engaged with your content, whereas ‘impressions’ are the number of times people saw your content even if they didn’t engage with it.

Both social media metrics are crucial to help you understand the effectiveness of your campaigns. They are usually used to calculate something called the reach-to-impression ratio.

2. How do you calculate reach and impressions?

These days there are many social media analytics tools that calculate reach vs impressions for you, so you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself.

3. Why are impressions higher than reach?

Impressions are the number of times a user has seen your content on the social media platform. If a single user has viewed your content multiple times, the number of impressions would be higher even though it’s from the same user.

Reach, however, only counts user engagement with your content. That means your reach includes only the impressions where someone has engaged with your content.

When you compare reach vs impressions, your impressions will always be higher than your reach.

4. Can impressions be lower than reach?

No, your impressions will always be higher than your reach. That is because when you compare reach vs impressions, only the number of impressions where people engaged with your content will be counted as your reach.

5. What is a good reach-to-impression ratio?

Although there is no set rule as to what a good reach-to-impression ratio should look like, the higher it is, the better your social media campaign is working.

When it comes to comparing reach vs impressions, you should always aim for the highest reach possible – that means more people are engaging with your content.

Conclusion

Both reach and impressions play an important role in determining the success of your social media campaigns. The crucial part is keeping an eye on these social media metrics and making decisions that will improve your reach-to-impression ratio.

It’s not enough to create great content and sit back. You need to constantly tweak your social media campaigns so that your content is visible to more of your target audience.

You must also constantly ensure that your target audience finds your content relevant and engaging. A high reach means your social media campaigns are working and your content resonates well with your audience.

How often do you check reach vs impressions for your social media campaigns?

Do you make changes in your campaigns to get the maximum reach?

What other methods do you use to calculate the effectiveness of your social media campaigns?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

And as always, if you found this Reach vs Impressions post useful, please share it with your friends! 🙂

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