• Riley Draper

Reach vs Impressions: What’s the Difference? 

Using social media is one of the most effective marketing strategies available at your disposal. Whether you’re trying to increase your own personal visibility, gain awareness of your brand, or drive up sales for your business, connecting with consumers through social media is a vital aspect of success. Many companies and individuals carefully track the effectiveness of their social media campaigns through analytics, and we’re going to explain two of the most important metrics today. 

Reach and impressions are two figures which are instrumental in reaching your target audience. These two numbers tell you exactly how good of a job you’re doing at getting through to consumers, and can provide insight on how to improve. In this article, we’re going to explain the intricacies of both your social media reach and the number of impressions you receive. By better understanding these analytics, you can improve your strategy and work towards an even larger audience. 

Gaining followers on Instagram, or likes on Facebook, tell you the surface level of interactions with your social media posts. However, the analytics you have available for your content are much more complex than just likes. Using a professional analytics dashboard will offer you much more detailed information about exactly how much your content is viewed, and in what way. This valuable information can help you streamline your advertising campaigns and improve the capacity of every single online post you make. 

What is Reach?

The reach of a particular post on social media is the total number of people who have seen your content. Reach is a figure based on unique individuals, so no matter how many times a single person views your post, they only count towards a reach of one. If you have 100 followers, then your reach is 100 people. If 100 total individual people viewed your ad or content, the reach is 100. 

What are Impressions?

Reach and impressions are easy to confuse, but it’s important not to mix up these two figures. The metrics for impressions are often much higher than your reach because they are the total number of times your content was displayed anywhere. It doesn’t matter if a person has interacted or just scrolled past, every showing counts as an impression. If your post was delivered to one person’s feed three times, for example firstly if they see it on your account, and then again if a friend shares it, it counts as three impressions, but only a reach of one. 

What’s the Difference Between Reach and Impressions? 

Consider your own social media feed, no matter the platform. Every day you see hundreds of photos, videos, posts, and ads, and each one of these is an impression. However, not everything on your feed will interest you, and you’ll probably only interact or click through on a handful of posts. The real interaction counts as a reach, which is why your reach metric will almost always be lower than your impressions metric. If you post the same content twice, you won’t double your reach, but you could double your impressions. 

Reach vs Impressions on Different Platforms 

We’ve covered a basic explanation of the difference between reach and impressions, and now we’re going to explain how this impacts different platforms. We all know that every form of social media operates in a different way, so how you interpret your reach and impression metrics need to match the platform you’re using. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other networks all define their own reach and impressions in a slightly different way, so you need to know how to use the information to your advantage on all platforms. 

Facebook reach vs impressions graph

Copyright @ Klipfolio

Facebook Reach vs Impressions

Facebook organizes your reach into three different categories, and officially defines the metric as, “The number of people who saw your ads at least once.” Here are the three different kinds of reach on Facebook you need to know:

  1. Organic Reach: This is the number of unique users who saw your content organically on Facebook, meaning you didn’t pay for additional exposure. These could be people following your Facebook page or are visiting it to browse. It does not include people who saw your post through shares or links. 

  1. Paid Reach: This metric is simple, it’s the number of people who saw your post because you paid for it. These users don’t have to be following you for your content to appear on their news feed. The number of people who see a piece of paid content is affected by many factors including ad bids, budgets, and specific audience targeting. 

  1. Viral Reach: The thing we’re all truly aiming for is a large viral reach. A large metric in this area is fantastic for increasing brand awareness and getting through to potential consumers. Your viral reach figure is the number of people who see your content because one of their friends shared or otherwise interacted with it. 

Facebook defines impressions as “the number of times your ad was displayed on a screen”. Throughout an ad campaign, a single unique user may see your post several times. Each time counts as another impression. This doesn’t mean that the user has clicked on your ad, or even seen it; they may have just scrolled past. Facebook doesn’t require videos to play to be counted as an impression, so be wary of this metric. While it does mean that your content has made it to someone’s feed, it has no relevance in terms of engagement. 

To help with this confusing aspect, Facebook impressions are also divided into further categories as the platform does with reach. Here are the two types of impression your content could receive:

  1. Served impressions: If your ad is “served” that means it has been paid for and delivered somewhere on the page. This could be at the top of a feed, in an ad sidebar, or even somewhere off-screen. An ad doesn’t even need to fully load to count as served. 

  1. Viewed impressions: Viewed impressions are easy to understand, they mean the ad or content was actually seen. Again, this doesn’t mean there was interaction, but your post was at least fully loaded and appeared on the page. If a user doesn’t scroll down to where your ad is placed or leaves the webpage before it fully loads, it counts as a served impression rather than a viewed impression. 

When working to improve your brand awareness, all forms of reach are valuable. It is the hope of most online marketing campaigns to generate organic reach as a priority, and both paid and viral reach can help to generate more organic reach. The more times your content is viewed by new unique persons, the more likely you are to gain followers and increase your organic reach. 

Regarding impressions, the goal is of course to achieve more viewed impressions than served. While served is a valuable metric in telling you how many people your ad had the potential to reach, viewed impressions are a more accurate reading of how many people actually saw it. 

Twitter Reach vs Impressions

Twitter doesn’t track any form of reach metric, but you can assume that your follower count is your general reach. Twitter impressions work slightly differently to that of Facebook and can be carefully followed and easily increased. Any time a tweet is seen by a user, whether they’re unique or otherwise, it counts as an impression. It doesn’t matter if the tweet appears in a person’s feed, as a part of search results, or in the replies as part of a conversation. 

The interesting thing about Twitter impressions is that it’s easy to create duplicate views. For example, if you tweet a single time to your 500 followers and each of them sees it, that’s 500 impressions. Then, if you reply to your own tweet, all of your followers will see your reply under your original tweet and view the first one again. This counts as an additional 1000 impressions, bringing your total to 1500. 

Tweets in response to another user’s post will receive far fewer impressions than a tweet of your own onto your followers’ feed. That means the way in which you interact with your audience has a huge impact on your impressions metric. If you spend a lot of time replying to other people’s tweets instead of producing your own content, you could see a decrease in impressions. The hottest Twitter models focus on putting out their own unique content, which is the best way to improve both reach and impressions. 

Instagram Reach vs Impressions

Instagram defines reach as the number of unique users who view your post or story on any given day. While your potential reach is your entire follower count, you’re unlikely to make it on the feed of every single person. You can increase your reach by paying money to make your content more likely to appear, but you’re still unlikely to reach every follower. The reach metric tells you how many unique users your content has been served to, and improving this figure will help to increase your brand awareness. Be aware that some people view Instagram stories anonymously, and this could affect your metrics. 

Impressions on Instagram are measured in the same way as on Facebook. This is the number of times that your content, whether a post or a story, has been shown to users. When your impressions are higher than your reach, it’s a sign that your content is performing well because users are choosing to view it multiple times. Posts or content with a high reach-to-impressions ratio are considered successful, so compare these metrics to see what you’re doing right. 

Youtube on a computer.

YouTube Reach vs Impressions: Google Analytics 

Google analytics offers engagement metrics for your YouTube page. Their reach measurement is called “unique viewers”, showing the number of unique people that have viewed your videos. This is a very useful analytic tool because you can compare it to the total number of video views, telling you how many people returned to watch your video for a second or third time. 

Impressions on YouTube are the number of times your video’s thumbnail was displayed to users, whether as a search result, in a subscription box, or as a recommended video. Google Analytics also offers traffic sources for impressions, which shows where on the platform your video was offered up to potential viewers. Finally, the impressions click-through rate tells you just how successful your thumbnails are, showing the conversion rate from impressions to interactions. 

How To Improve Your Social Media Marketing Strategy Using Reach and Impressions 

Now you better understand what these analytics tools mean, it’s time to explain how marketers can use them to improve their social media strategy. Knowing your target audience is a vital aspect, as it doesn’t matter if you have a reach of 1000 if only 100 people are actually interested in your piece of content. Ignored posts and messages gain nothing for your brand, so make sure you’re designing your digital marketing with your specific target consumers in mind. 

Use your impressions metrics to closely monitor which content is receiving likes, retweets, shares, and comments. By tracking these useful engagements, you can find more potential consumers and improve your reach and the number of unique people who see your posts. Make the most of social media analytics by checking them regularly and analyzing the information they provide. 

If your impressions are rising, it means you’re doing a good job of reaching your target audience. If the figures aren’t what you’ve hoped for, there’s a good chance that your posts aren’t optimized for the social media platform you’re using. Facebook ads don’t work in the same way as tweets of Instagram stories, so each way of connecting with your audience requires a different approach. 

If optimization isn’t helping your impressions and reach grow, you might want to turn your attention to better engaging the audience you already have. If you put more effort into publishing shareable content, your audience is more likely to spread it around. As well as raising impressions considerably, this will also help to grow your organic reach. Don’t let your content get stale. You need to be constantly re-evaluating what works best, and stay ahead of the curve with fresh content. 

Reach vs Impressions: Which Is More Important? 

The reach and impressions figures are two very different metrics in the information they provide. The figure you choose to focus on should be different depending on your goals, so here’s why you might prefer to pay more attention to one or the other. 

  1. Impressions: If you’re worried about ad fatigue, which is when you overwhelm potential customers with too many posts so much that you put them off your content, then it’s better not to increase your impressions. If ad fatigue is an issue then it’s better to focus on reach. Learn more about ad fatigue in this handy video. However, if you’re starting a new ad campaign it’s vital to track its success from moment to moment, and this is done with the impressions metric. If your new ad is getting far fewer impressions than you expect, you need to spot this early on and address the problem. It could be an issue with framing or content, but finding the issue is vital. 

  1. Reach: The reach metric can also be useful in monitoring ad campaigns. If your total reach is high but your conversion rate is low, this could be another sign of a content or framing issue in your post. On the other hand, a large reach, particularly a broad unique reach, is a sign that your content is making its way to plenty of users’ feeds. Monitoring both of these social media metrics is the very best way to improve your social media engagement. 

Impressions will almost always come to a higher figure than reach, so you can’t directly compare the two metrics. You can, however, figure out the average number of impressions per user. Also called ad frequency or average impressions, and is a very useful figure indeed. Research shows that a single user needs to see your content at least several times before they become aware of your brand. That means a delicate balancing act is necessary to avoid ad fatigue, but enough exposure to get people interested. 

If you have a time-sensitive promotion or campaign, then it’s fine to focus on high impressions. On the other hand, if you’re looking to build a permanent audience and raise general awareness of your brand, don’t overwhelm users with too many ads. The best metric to track depends on your social media goals, but neither should be ignored if you want to achieve success. 


While precedence is often given to one social media metric over another, tracking both impressions and reach is the best way to be successful in your campaign. Whether you’re an influencer looking for more attention, or a business looking to sell more of your products, engaging with users is the number one way to do it. By tracking both reach and impressions, you can see where your content is working, and what elements are failing, better tailoring your ads and posts next time. Social media analytics is a powerfully useful tool, so use this information wisely to build up a dedicated audience. 

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