Which is more important: Reach vs. Impressions
Which is more important: Reach vs. Impressions

Every team analyzes the effectiveness of social media promotion through the lens of key metrics. Such a process requires a deep understanding of each indicator and its context. Although the list varies from company to company, in general reach and impression rates are standard metrics that every team pays attention to. 

In the social media world, there are two critical metrics 99% of teams track but often misunderstand: reach and impressions. Usually, the metrics are grouped together, but each has its own definition and makes a significant impact on your social media strategy

Let’s figure out what is more important: Reach or Impressions! 

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What is the difference?

To understand the difference between reach and impression rates, let’s first figure out their meaning. 

Today we are surrounded by a huge amount of information and content. When scrolling social media feed we see tons of photos, videos, texts, etc. But only specific content catches your interest. Here comes the difference between reach and impressions. 

The total number of times social media users look at content and click on it counts as reach, while the total number of times content is exposed to users counts as impressions.

For example, if your ad post was displayed 300 times on social media, your impressions are 300. If 200 users chose to click on it, your reach is 200.

In other words, Reach is the total number of people who have seen your content. It can be a post, story, or an ad. Reach counts only unique users. Impressions are the total number of views for a post. If the reach counts the sum of users who saw the post, impressions are the sum of all views. One user can view the same content several times.

These two metrics are similar, but there is a difference when it comes to engagement. In most cases, your impressions will be higher than your reach because impressions count exposure and reach counts interaction.

Different social media platforms have their own approach to counting reach and impressions. However, in general, the main concept stays the same. Different social media simply take different inputs such as shares, replies, profile clicks, etc unique to its platform engagement options. 

If you want to understand which one is more important, then let’s have a closer look at Reach vs. Impressions on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook: Reach vs. Impressions 

Reach is the number of people who saw your ads at least once” according to Facebook for business and “Impressions measure how often your ads were on screen for your target audience”. Sounds quite clear.

Speaking of reach, on Facebook, it’s divided into three categories:

  1. Organic. Organic reach represents the number of unique users who saw your content in their News Feed for free without advertising. 
  2. Paid. Paid reach shows the number of unique users who came across your paid content, such as Facebook ads.
  3. Viral. Viral reach is the number of unique users who saw your content via their friend’s activity, like sharing, liking, or commenting.

Related article: What is social media viral marketing?

Facebook impressions are also divided into the same three categories:

  1. Organic. Organic impressions show the number of times your content was displayed in their News Feed without advertising. 
  2. Paid. Paid impressions show the number of times your paid content, such as Facebook ads, was shown.
  3. Viral. Viral impressions are the number of times your content was shared through a user’s friend’s activity, like sharing, liking, or commenting.

If a user scrolls down the screen when an ad is on the screen, but then decides to scroll back up to the same ad, that counts as 1 impression. If a user logs in again during the same day and sees the same ad again on the screen, that counts as 2 impressions. 

It should be noted that Facebook counts impressions the same way for image and video ads. What does it mean? A video ad doesn’t need to start playing in order to be counted as an impression.

Facebook served & Viewed impressions

In Facebook Ads, there are two additional types of impressions: served impressions and viewed impressions. What is the difference? 

Served impression means that a publisher told its system to deliver an ad. It’s counted as a success if the system registers the delivery of the ad. But the served impression doesn’t necessarily appear on the screen. The ad could appear at the bottom of the page below the fold or a user may have left the page before the ad has fully rendered.

Viewed impression is more accurate. It counts from the moment an ad enters the screen. If an ad doesn’t enter the screen, it doesn’t count. Viewed impressions help ensure users have seen the paid content they are supposed to see.

To make the process of tracking all of these metrics easier consider using our Social Media Reporting tool.

Instagram: Reach vs. Impressions 

Instagram works almost in the same way as Facebook. Reach is the number of unique users who saw your Instagram post, story, or IGTV video. Impressions are the number of times your content was shown to users.

Instagram Post Insights

Here is the example of Instagram post insights where we can see that the amount of reach is less than impressions. In this case, 4010 users have seen this post 4212 times in total.

Most of the time impressions are higher than reach since impressions is the number of times your content has been viewed. The same post can be viewed several times, the profile can be visited several times and the story can also be viewed several times. When impressions are higher than reach, it means your audience is viewing your content multiple times. Сontent with high impression rates can help you to understand what type of content is performing well. 

Reach is also important, especially if you want to increase your brand awareness. It’s pretty hard to make every single one of your followers see and engage with your content. You need to use promoted content to maximize this metric. Here is our guide to help you with launching ads.

Which is more important: Reach vs. Impressions?

Both reach and impressions are important metrics you should track to measure your performance on social media. We can’t choose one over another. Both reach and impressions essentially measure social media engagement. 

The reach metric is useful for evaluating the quality of a targeted ad. If the reach is high, but there are no conversions, this is a sign to check the structure and quality of the ad. On the other hand, impressions can give you a hint on how users are responding to your ad. If the response is cold, maybe you should change the target audience or purpose of the ad.

Both metrics are important to keep increasing your engagement. So there is no right answer. Both reach and impressions are crucial for your social media strategy. The more people engage with your content, the more likely social media platforms themselves are to show your content to more people.

Meerim Ruslanbekova

Meerim is a devoted digital marketing ninja who runs her own creative agency to provide solutions for customers 👩‍💻 She describes herself as flexible, quick to pick up new skills, and eager to learn from others.