Let’s say you started an ad campaign or published a piece of content and you want to see how it goes. You open your analytics dashboard and see two words pop up over and over: “impressions” and “access”. You’re sure these are two separate things, but you never quite understood the difference.

What exactly is the difference between “reach” and “impressions”? Which one should you pay attention to? And what do these terms mean for your marketing operation?

Difference between reach and impressions

Reach and impressions mean different things on different platforms. What Facebook calls “impression” Twitter would refer to as “reach”, for example. But in general they define two concepts:

To reach refers to the total number of people who saw your ad or content. If a total of 100 people saw your ad, that means your ad has 100 reach.

impressions refers to the number of times your ad or content is viewed on a screen. Let’s say your ad in the previous example appeared on these people’s screens a total of 300 times. This means 300 impressions for that ad.

To understand how each metric works, let’s look at how each major platform defines the two terms.

Facebook reach and impressions

Facebook officially defines “reach” as “the number of people who see your ads at least once.” It organizes the reach into three categories: organic, paid and viral.

Organic reach It refers to the unique number of people who see your content organically (for free) in Facebook News Feed.

paid access The number of people who see paid content, such as an ad, on Facebook. It is often directly influenced by factors such as ad bids, budgets and audience targeting.

viral reach is the number of people who saw your content because one of their friends interacted with it.

Reach on Facebook is different from impressions, which Facebook defines as “the number of times your ads are viewed on the screen.” A unique user may see a post in their feed three times during the campaign period. This counts as three impressions.

Neither “reach” nor “impressions” indicate that someone actually clicked or even saw your ad.

Facebook also says that a video “does not have to start playing for the view to count.” A better way to express this is that impressions measure how many times your content may have been seen.

So how do we know if the “reach” or “impressions” we get are truly genuine? To answer this question, Facebook divides impressions into two categories: “posted” and “viewed”.

If an adservice”, this simply means that the ad has been paid for and the system has decided to send the ad somewhere (at the top of a very visible news feed, an ad box in the sidebar, etc.).

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Ads that are “served” don’t need to appear on-screen (they can stay “below the fold” as Facebook calls them) or even finish rendering to count as a “delivered” impression.

“Displayed” impressions, on the other hand, is not counted unless the user sees the ad appear on their screen. If the user doesn’t scroll to see the ad, or leaves the page before it loads, the ad isn’t counted as “viewed.”

Twitter reach and impressions

Twitter doesn’t track “reach,” so the question of reach and impressions is a little simpler. Twitter defines an “impression” every time a Twitter user sees one of your tweets in their feed, search results, or as part of a conversation.

Let’s say you have 1000 followers and each of them sees your most recent tweet (or ad). This means that the tweet received 1,000 impressions. Now let’s say you replied to that tweet with another tweet. Your followers will see the original tweet again, along with your reply. This will result in an additional 2,000 impressions for a total of 3,000 total impressions.

It’s important to remember that the way you use the platform will have a serious impact on the average number of impressions per tweet.

Replies to other people’s tweets often get far fewer impressions than tweets you post in your followers’ news feeds. Therefore, if you spend a lot of time responding to people on Twitter, the number of impressions per tweet reported in your analytics may be skewed downward.

Reach and impressions on other networks

Instagram it treats ‘access’ and ‘views’ almost exactly as Facebook does. Reach refers to the total number of unique accounts that have seen your post or story. Impressions measure the total number of times users have seen your posts or story.

Snapchat treats “access” and “impressions” slightly differently; he calls them “access” and “story views”.

Google ads accounts for two different types of access: “cookie-based access” and “unique accessThe first measures unique users the traditional way using cookies. Unique reach goes a step further by anticipating and skipping duplicate views from the same user.

Inside Google Analyticsrelevant metrics hereusers” and “page views” “Users” measures the number of people who have visited your site at least once during that time period. “Pageviews” is the total number of pages viewed by all your users.

What is best to watch?

Reach and impressions refer to two different activities; so it will depend on the metric you choose to pay more attention to, what your goals are. Let’s start with why you might want to focus on impressions.

Why should you focus on impressions?

If you’re worried about overwhelming users with too many ads, you can watch impressions. If you want to avoid this, you may want to focus on increasing reach rather than impressions.

Impressions are also useful when you want to watch your ads moment by moment. If you run an ad and it gets few or no impressions right away, this may be an early sign that there is a problem with its frame or content.

Why should you focus on reach?

Reach can also help you figure out if something is wrong with your ads. If your ads reached a large number of people but didn’t drive a single conversion, for example, this may mean that you need to review the ad’s frame or content.

On the other hand, if your content has wide reach, it means that it successfully reaches many new users; this means they are more likely to be shared and interacted with.

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Why should you track both impressions and reach?

Impressions and reach tell you very different things about the performance of your ads and content. Often times, you will need to use both metrics to understand the effectiveness of a campaign or ad.

To find your ‘effective frequency’

Comparing impressions for reach is difficult because impressions (by definition) will always equal or exceed reach. Every user included in your reach will have seen your content at least once, and most will likely have seen it many times. How many times?

To understand this, we divide the total impressions by the total reach. average impressions per user. (People may call it “ad frequency”, “frequency” or “average impressions per user” interchangeably.)

So, on average, how many impressions per user are good?

Most research on brand awareness shows that users must have seen an ad at least a few times before they become aware of the brand. Advertisers call this “effective frequency,” which is how many times a person sees the ad before responding.

General Electric’s Herbert E. Krugman suggested that three exposures is all it takes to make someone aware of your brand. In 1885, London businessman Thomas Smith, twenty.

In any case, the effective frequency for your business will be highly specific to your industry and product. If you want to get an idea of ​​what a reasonable impression per user count is, try getting a feel for what competitors in your space are aiming for.

To avoid ‘ad fatigue’

Finding your ‘effective frequency’ is also important because it tells you how many times users can see your ad before they get offended.

How many impressions per user is too many will depend entirely on your social media goals. If you want to gradually build brand awareness in a small niche, an in-person campaign with a large number of impressions per user is probably not the way to go.

However, if you have a time sensitive promotion and you want to show it to as many people as possible, a high impression per user count can be a good goal.

What to watch besides reach and impressions?

Impressions and reach can tell you a lot about how your content is currently performing. However, it’s important to note that they don’t tell you anything about whether someone actually clicked or interacted with your content.

Focusing on business conversions is still key if you want to measure your social media ROI and focus on short- and medium-term returns. At the end of the day, site traffic, leads generated, signups, conversions and revenue are much more tangible metrics of campaign success.

If you want to draw a direct line between ad spend and ROI, match reach and impression metrics with conversion and revenue data. Be sure to tie access to more tangible measures like registrations and income.

One way to do this is to divide revenue by total users reached to get ‘average revenue per user reached’.

Doing so can help you understand how your ad spend and efforts to increase reach are resulting in tangible returns.

For more metrics and reasons worth watching, check out our full guide to social media analytics.

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