Ultimate Guide To Reach Vs Impressions

Measuring brand awareness is a key part of running successful marketing campaigns. Businesses are constantly looking to boost the number of people that know about their brand and products. They want to expand and strengthen the power of their influence.

To do this accurately on social media, you have to understand the distinction between reach vs impressions.

Often, social media managers and marketers confuse these metrics. But there is a difference between them. They measure two entirely completely separate ideas and have different effects on your social media marketing strategy.

This article will guide you on reach vs impressions. It will explore which matters more and which you should be tracking.

Reach Vs Impressions: What’s The Difference?

The confusion between reach and impressions doesn’t just come from the actual definitions of each term. As a matter of fact, different social media platforms view each phrase differently (which doesn’t help the confusion, we might add).

Facebook impressions refer to the same thing that Twitter used to call reach, for example.

We’ll take a look at how various platforms use the terms in the next section. First, here are the general descriptions for each concept:


Reach is the total sum of people who have seen your content or ad.

So, if 200 people have seen your ad in total, its reach is 200.


Impressions refer to the times your content has been shown, even if nobody has clicked on it. It’s about the number of times your content was displayed on unique users’ screens.

Media impressions are the delivery of the content to user feeds. If it shows up on a screen 100 times, then that is the number of impressions that piece of content has.

Plus, your content can have multiple impressions. For example, if someone shares one of your posts, it can appear on the same screen twice. The first impression is from your original post and the second is from the shared post.

So, your content and ad can appear on a screen 100 times but only be seen by 50 users. The content is delivered to 100 feeds but only 50 may have actually engaged with it.

Two women analyzing their social media posts

The Difference Between Reach & Impressions On Social Media Channels

Now that you understand the general distinction between these concepts, we’ll explore how they differ on social media.

Understanding each social media platform’s definition helps you get to your target audience and create effective plans for each platform.

Facebook, in particular, has a very detailed way of describing the two terms that should influence your strategy. Other apps, on the other hand, have more general ways of describing them.

Facebook & Instagram Reach Vs Impressions

Facebook (and Instagram as its sibling) divides reach into three types:

  • Paid reach: This represents the number of individuals that have seen your paid content, like a Story or Facebook Ad.
  • Organic reach: This is the number of individuals who have seen your unpaid, free posts on their News Feed.
  • Viral reach: The number of individuals who have seen your Facebook Page or post engaged with by somebody else. This includes engagements such as commenting, sharing, liking, and posting to Stories.

Facebook defines impressions similarly to how it does reach. Impressions on Facebook include:

  • Paid impressions: This represents the number of times that your paid ads, like a Story or Facebook Ad, were displayed on screens. It is “the number of times your ads were on screen.
  • Organic impressions: The number of times Facebook displays your free posts on unique users’ News Feed.
  • Viral impressions: The number of times your Facebook Page or post got displayed as a result of engagements. This social media engagement includes commenting, sharing, liking, and posting to Stories.

Facebook login on phone

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads takes reach and impressions a little deeper. It adds two extra categories of impressions.

Served impressions mean that you, as the publisher, have paid and given the go-ahead for ad delivery. This includes delivery to news feeds, stories, an ad display box, etc.

However, served doesn’t mean actually delivered. It doesn’t mean your ad appears on users’ screens, which is a tricky detail since it will count as successful and served regardless.

Viewed impressions are not seen as successful unless they appear on users’ screens. This impression only counts if the user sees the ad.

If they don’t scroll all the way and see it, it won’t count. It also won’t be considered a viewed impression if they move to a different page before it loads completely.

Twitter Reach Vs Impressions

Twitter is a lot less complicated!

The platform doesn’t define or track reach, which makes things much easier.

So, there’s no reach vs impressions debate. Just impressions, which Twitter describes as the number of times that individuals see your Tweets. This includes when your Tweets appear on their Timeline, in mentions and threads, and as part of their search results.

If you really want to get information on your Twitter reach, you can opt to use a social media analytics platform.

Post insights on phone

Which Is More Important? And Which Should You Be Tracking?

Now that we’ve eliminated the confusion around these two metrics, you can decide which you want to prioritize for your social media strategy.

There is value in keeping an eye on both. They both have the potential to help you gauge the success or progress of a social media campaign, plan, or ad.

If you want to target one of the two, your strategy, campaign, or ad goals are what will guide you on which to focus on.

When To Track Reach

Reach helps you improve your content or ad quality. You can see if your content has any problems by contrasting reach to clicks or engagement.

If social media users aren’t engaging with your content or ads, why is that? This insight can drive you to revise content strategies or ad details to increase engagement, clicks, conversions, and other social media metrics.

Reach is also the better option if you want to see how many people actually see your content. It tells you more about how many users come into contact with your content, so may be a better telling of brand awareness.

When To Track Impressions

A good reason to focus on impressions is to evaluate an ad’s quality and how well your advertising campaign is doing.

If you deliver an ad and it gets a low number of impressions, it could tell you that you need to evaluate it. You may have to reconsider editing it and adjusting your strategy so you don’t lose money with a poor performing ad campaign.

Impressions give you the blow-by-blow, real-time updates. This can help you understand how various users on platforms respond to the content.

Tracking social media analytics

How To Use Reach & Impressions For Your Marketing Plan

Keeping an eye on both of these social media metrics can be useful for fine-tuning your social media marketing. So, here are a few ways that you can use reach and impressions for your marketing strategy.

Track Them Regularly

Impressions and reach are a reflection of your content and how intended users view it. Analyzing them regularly can give you useful information about how to change your approach to each platform.

The metrics could be high on Twitter and not so great on Instagram for the exact same ad or post. This can tell you several things about your platform strategy.

First, it can tell you that you may need to change how you share the content. Perhaps, your IG Stories perform better than your feed posts, so you should share your content there instead.

When is also a consideration. Poor performance can be a reflection of the time you share posts. Learn when the best posting times are so you can share content when you’ll experience the highest reach and impressions.

As you make these changes, it’s important to keep an eye on the metrics. The numbers will tell you if your improvements are having a positive effect or not.

As you continue monitoring, you can shift and adjust your strategy where necessary to get the best results.

Team working on social media strategy on a laptop

Understand Your Target Audience

Although reach and impressions give you valuable insights, they don’t tell you all you need to know. You could have thousands of both, but only hundreds who actually take it a step further and engage and show interest in your brand.

It’s not just about the number of people you reach but the quality of the numbers. In other words, are the people you reach your targeted viewers?

Are the numbers you see in your reach and impressions reflected in your conversions, website traffic, or sales?

You need to understand your desired users and create content that they will enjoy. Content quality will determine what you gain from your reach.

Create Shareable Content

Another characteristic of the content you create is shareability.

Reach and impressions are all about expansiveness and awareness. If you want your content to be seen, you need to create the kind of stuff that people want to share.

Make sure your content is exciting and provides value. You need to give users the desire to share and engage with your content.

Don’t Look At Them In Isolation

It’s important to understand that reach and impressions won’t tell you everything about your brand awareness. They also won’t share all you need to know about your strategy’s success or effect.

You have to reflect on your reach and impressions together with other metrics. This includes both social media metrics as well as external data like website numbers, sales, etc.

For example, if you want to use social media to boost website traffic, you must analyze the click-through and referred sources rates. These will tell you how much of your traffic comes from your social media pages.

Contrasting these with reach and impressions gives you clarity on how many people see your posts vs those who visit your site.

Three women looking at smartphone


Reach vs impressions? Which should you focus on? And do they matter?

Both reach and impressions are essential to any good social media marketing strategy. They can be a bit confusing but once you nail them, they can really make a difference.

Track these regularly and thoughtfully to improve content quality and sharing completely.

And the better quality content and optimized sharing lead to the goal of most brands and businesses: increased engagement.

Focusing on reach and impressions can transform your engagement. They play central roles in growing awareness and you can’t get engagement if users aren’t aware of you.

So, yes, reach and impressions matter!

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