Metrics That Matter: Reach vs. Impressions

August 24, 2022
reach vs impressions

Whether you run a business or you work as a marketer, your goal is to drive sales and scale up. But this can be difficult if you don’t understand how your content performs. You need to understand social media analytics, where to intensify efforts, and what to produce. How do you know all these? By understanding your metrics.

Metrics are important when you publish content or launch an advertising campaign on social media, as it helps you determine the effectiveness of your campaign. 

Two key social media terminologies often used interchangeably are reach and impressions. While they are measures of how many people see your content, there is a difference between them. In this article, we will explain what these metrics are and what they tell you about your marketing performance.

Reach Vs. Impressions: What’s The Difference?

Understanding the difference between reach and impressions is important, as this would inform how you approach these metrics. Whether you run a creator or a business account, most apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram grant you access to your analytics.

impressions metrics


Reach refers to the total number of unique accounts that have seen your content. Facebook describes it as the “number of people who saw your ad at least once.” 

So, if you have 500 followers on Instagram, you can assume to have 500 reach. But things rarely work like this. For example, the algorithm may not display your content to all your followers, or they may not be online when you post and consequently miss the content. 


Impressions refer to the number of times your ad has appeared on people’s timelines. For example, if you have 500 followers and all 500 of them check your published content, the content may appear various times to each unique user. 

A person may see your post twice, and another may check it out four times, so the total number of times all those followers and other unique users see your post forms impressions. 

Impressions will generally always be higher than reach since reach forms the basis of impressions. Additionally, each person can check your content multiple times. 


Engagement refers to the total number of times people interact with your content. For example, if you publish video content on TikTok, likes, comments, shares, and saves count as engagement.

Engagement is often the most direct indicator of content or ad performance.

Reach Vs. Impressions: Which Is Most Important?

Reach, and impressions are distinct, so what you want to achieve determines which you should prioritize. 

Tracking reach will help you determine if your ad is suitable as it is. If your ad has a long reach, many new unique users are seeing your content. But you should analyze and modify your content if your ad reaches several new people without substantial conversion. 

Similarly, tracking impressions will show you if your content is right. If your post gets few or no impressions, it may be advisable to take it down and publish a modified version.

Impressions also keep you notified about whether you are overwhelming your audience. For example, if you notice a dramatically high impressions to reach rate, you need to focus on improving your reach and getting a new audience. 

Still, it’s best to keep track of both. You need both Impressions and Reach to determine your ad frequency. Ad frequency refers to the number of impressions per user. 

Ad frequency helps you predict conversion. Content needs to appear to each user a few times for it to stimulate them into action and allow you to easily anticipate when your ads will convert. Tracking sales performance metrics will allow you to improve your social media ads over time, improving conversions and reducing cost.

You can also predict if your ad triggers awareness and interest or is borderline annoying. For example, the appropriate frequency depends on whether the ad intends to achieve social selling or social marketing.

How Reach And Impressions Vary By Platform 

Let’s look at how impressions and reach work on popular social media sites. 

a group of friends looking at their phones


Twitter analytics is one of the easiest to track. Twitter doesn’t provide reach information. Instead, you get impressions. 

For Twitter, if 200 people see and engage with your initial tweet, this is recorded as 200 impressions. People can see your tweets because they follow you, due to their interests, in a conversation, or search results. 

When you quote or reply to a tweet with 200 impressions, people who see the new tweet will see it with the original tweet. So, if 100 people see the latest tweet, it will make 200 impressions, totaling 400 impressions for both. 

Usually, replies get lower impressions than a new tweet or a tweet quoting another.


Facebook considers Reach to mean the number of people who view your content or ad at least once. But Facebook’s Reach is further broken down into organic, viral, and paid reach. 

Organic reach makes up the number of people who randomly come across your content for free on their News Feeds. These are usually your Facebook friends. 

Viral reach is the number of people who came across your content because someone in their network shared or interacted with it. Meanwhile, paid reach is the number of people who viewed your content because you paid for an ad. The algorithm manipulates whose feed it appears in based on audience targeting, bids, and ad budget. 

Impressions on Facebook refer to the number of times a post appears on the screen. It’s divided into served and viewed. 

Served impressions mean that you have paid for an ad, and the algorithm has decided to serve it to some users. On the other hand, viewed impressions mean that the users have seen the ad on the screen. So, a user needs to scroll to check out the ad for it to count as an impression. 

Therefore, on the surface, reach and impressions do not signify that someone has watched or read your content.


Instagram is similar to Facebook in its definition of the two metrics. Reach refers to the number of people who see your post, while impressions refer to the total number of times they all saw it. 

A high number of impressions shows that your content had the attention of most people it reached. 

Google Ad Words And Analytics

Google Ad Words divides reach into “unique reach” and “cookie-based reach.” Unique reach estimates the number of times each user viewed the ad, while cookie-based reach measures your reach using cookies. 

Google Analytics doesn’t use reach and impressions. Instead, you have “users” and “page views.” “Users” tells you the number of people who visited your site during your campaign’s timeframe, while “page views,” tells you the total number of pages your visitors viewed. 

reach vs. impressions

Key Takeaways 

Reach refers to the number of people who saw your post, while impressions add up to the number of times those people saw your posts. Both are important to enhance your marketing strategies and increase conversion. 

You should:

  • Determine the end goal of your content or ad. 
  • Learn the peculiarities of each social media site.
  • Compare your engagement to other metrics and track your social media KPIs. 

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