Our Articles

Social Media Engagement: Reach vs. Impressions

Social Media Engagement: Reach vs. Impressions

Analyzing social media engagement is one of the many things we do for clients as a digital agency.  We have a full time Marketing Department who loves to geek out on social media campaigns, Facebook algorithms, retweets, shares, emojis…and the list of social media jargon goes on.

As time has passed, the world of social media marketing has unfolded into a language all it’s own.  One can measure engagement in terms of Facebook likes, shares, comments, views, and more.  And these are just the base-lines.  What we like to do in our engagement reports, is dig deeper into these analytics and give our clients valuable information beyond the surface-level numbers.

At the end of our reporting period that was decided upon with the client, we send out a report that breaks down all of the analytics that we have collected.  Inevitably, the client returns with questions and observations that we discuss and move forward with these numbers as our guide for new strategies.  

A question that we always get is: “What is the difference between reach and impressions?”  Reach and impressions are often confused to mean the same thing, they actually  are very different and each yield different and valuable information. Reach and impressions are two measurements that are ambiguous to the untrained eye, but their differences are actually very big, and knowing what makes them unique can make a large impact in your social media engagement strategy.  

Social Media Engagement: Reach

To begin, let’s define “reach” in simple terms:

Reach: noun, the number of people that see your content.  

In the world of social media engagement monitoring, this can get tricky because not everyone who follows you on the various platforms see your content.  Ideally, if you have 1,000 Facebook fans, you want 1,000 people to see your content.  But because of a number of different factors such as algorithms as well as post frequency and timing, all of your fans will not see your content, much less engage.

Reach, then, measures how many people actually see your content.  So when we are reporting “reach”, we are actually looking at how big our effective audience is.  That is, how many people out of the lump sum of our fans actually see our content.  

Social Media Engagement: Impressions

Impressions, on the other hand, is defined in similar, yet different terms:

Impressions: noun, the number of times your content is displayed

While reach measures how many people see your content, impressions measures how many times this content is displayed.  For example, you may see the same piece of content in your Facebook feeds multiple times.  If we were measuring reach on this piece of content, then it would be one, because it was just you who saw it.  However, because it was displayed twice from two different sources, then the number of impressions would be two.  

What These Numbers Mean

shutterstock 444269305 Social Media Engagement: Reach vs. Impressions

Knowing the difference between reach and impressions is important because they tell us important information about how effective and active our fans our.  Let’s pretend again that you have 1,000 fans on your Facebook page.  When you post a piece of content, you let it run for a few days to get organic reach, and then you check your analytics.

The number of reach that your piece of content obtained was 500, but the impressions were 2,000.    

What does this tell us?  The reach number tells us that about 50% of your fans are active followers of your fan page.  Fans won’t see your content unless they have previously (and recently) engaged or have visited your business page.   Knowing this may prompt you to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are we satisfied with 50% of our fans being active, engaged users?  Or do we want to strive for more?
  • What can we do to increase the number of active fans on our page?
  • Is it time for a paid Facebook ad that is targeted only to page fans?

The impressions number tells us that those 500 fans not only saw your content, but many of them shared it as well.  This tells us that while only 50% of your fans are engaged and active, and those 50% are very engaged, and very active. Knowing this may prompt you to look deeper into those fans and identify the following:

  • What is the demographic of the fans that share our content the most?
  • What content has been shared the most?
  • Who are the fans that could potentially be brand ambassadors?

The answers to these questions allow you to tailor your content going forward to achieve the most amount of engagement and active users.  

So the next time you see reach and impressions on your social media reports, don’t skim over them.  These are real measures of fan activity, which can lead to increased engagement, better brand advocacy, and overall increase in sales or conversions.  What other questions do you have about social media engagement? Comment below, or head on over to our Facebook page and join in the conversation!

Randy TaylorSocial Media Engagement: Reach vs. Impressions