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Difference between reach and impressions — let's put it simple

Difference between reach and impressions — let's put it simple

If you want to build brand awareness and reach a loyal audience, it is important to run large-scale ad campaigns. Typically, the two main metrics that measure the success of these campaigns are reach and impressions. It is important to understand the difference between the two definitions. We decided to cover the main issues in this article.

Table of contents:

What is social media impression

An impression is one demonstration of an ad to a site visitor, search engine user, or social network user. In internet marketing, this term is used in several cases:

  • As a unit of account. Some ad models use pay-per-impression — for example, this is a common scheme for display and targeted ads.
  • To assess the click-through rate. PPC advertising uses pay-per-click advertising, but the number of impressions is also easy to find out. To measure the effectiveness of your ad, you need to know the percentage of clicks to impressions; this will be your click-through rate (CTR).
  • Impressions are one of the most important parameters by which you can evaluate how effective a campaign is. Without it, it’s impossible to create a reliable sales funnel.

What is social media reach

Reach is the number of people who have seen your ad message, community page, Instagram profile, or post at least once.

Reach measures unique users. If a person visits your page several times a day, statistics will count his visits as +1 to reach.

Non-unique views and visits are counted in the "Impressions" or "Views" metric.

Social media coverage is divided into several types:

  • Organic/Natural coverage. These are impressions to your audience, page subscribers. To get it, you just need to publish a post.
  • Paid / Advertising coverage. These are impressions received due to paid promotion: post through targeted advertising or purchase of advertising space on the site.
  • Viral coverage. These are additional impressions that occurred due to content reposts. If your subscriber reposts a post to his page, his audience’s reach will be considered viral.

How is reach calculated

It's essential to understand the difference. Reach is the number of people who saw your content. Impressions are the number of times your content has been displayed, whether clicked or not.

Calculating the reach can be done in two steps:

  • Measure the reach of any post.
  • Divide the reach by the total number of subscribers and multiply by 100 to get the post's reach percentage.

How impressions are calculated

Impressions are the total number of times your ad has been shown. One person can get multiple shots over time.

Counting impressions is simple. For example, if one person saw an ad five times, that would count as five impressions. Impressions are calculated by multiplying the number of Spots by the Average Number of People.

Reach vs impressions Instagram

Instagram works with almost the same algorithms as Facebook.

Here's an example of an Instagram post analytics where we can see the reach is less than the number of impressions. At the same time, 10,302 users have seen this post a total of 13,748 times.

In most cases, impressions exceed reach since impressions are the number of times your content has been viewed. The same post or story can be viewed multiple times, and a profile can also be visited multiple times. When the number of impressions exceeds reach, it means that your followers view your content multiple times. It's the impression percentage that will help you understand which content works best.

Facebook impressions vs reach

Reach on Facebook, like other social networks, is different from impressions, which the system defines as "the number of times your ad has been on screen." A unique user could see a message in their feed five times throughout the campaign; this will count as five impressions.

But neither “reach” nor “impressions” indicate that someone actually clicked on your ad or even didn't see it. Moreover, according to the social network algorithms, it isn’t necessary to start playing the video to count the impressions. It’s best to say that impressions measure the number of times your content may have been viewed.

But how do you know if your reach and impression data are real? To do this, Facebook divides impressions into two categories: "served" and "viewed".

If an ad is “served,” it simply means that it was paid for and that the system decided to place it somewhere (at the top of a highly visible news feed, in a sidebar ad unit, etc.).

"Viewed" impressions are counted when a user sees an ad on their screen. If the user does not scroll to see the ad or leaves the page before it loads, the ad isn’t considered viewed.

Twitter Reach vs Twitter Impressions

Twitter doesn’t track Reach, so things are a little simpler in this case. Twitter defines "impression" as every time a Twitter user sees one of your tweets — either in their feed, in search results, or as part of a conversation.

For example, you have 3000 followers, and every one of them has seen your tweet at least once. It means that the tweet received 3000 impressions.

You replied to your tweet with another tweet. Your followers saw the original tweet and the reply. This will result in an additional 6,000 impressions.

It's important to remember that how you use the platform will significantly impact your average impressions per tweet.

So, your replies to other people's tweets result in fewer impressions than the tweets posted to the news feed. Therefore, be prepared because if you frequently reply to other people's tweets, the number of impressions may decrease.

Comparison on YouTube

YouTube analytics are ingenious and offer data on four important reach metrics.

  • Unique viewers are the same metric as "reach." This parameter shows the number of people who watched your videos.
  • The number of impressions shows how many times your video thumbnails have been shown to viewers on YouTube.
  • Traffic sources let you know where the thumbnails of your video were offered to viewers.
  • Click-through rates (CTR) show conversions — how often users watched a video after seeing a thumbnail.

Reach vs impressions in Google Analytics

Google Analytics also provides reach and view data. The metrics "Users" and "Pageviews" correspond to this.

The "users" indicator is the same as the reach — it shows the number of people who visited your resource at least once during a particular time.

Pageviews tell you how many times your visitors have viewed a page.

Reach vs impressions in Google Ads

Google Ads has one important feature: reach is divided into unique and cookie-based.

Unique reach displays the number of people who have been shown ads across different social networks, formats, and devices.

This parameter includes two metrics: the number of unique users and the average frequency of impressions per user.

Cookie Coverage determines the number of cookies that have been shown ads. This parameter also includes the number of clicks on the ad.

This type of coverage is approximate. Many internet users use not one but several devices or browsers with different cookies. Therefore, the parameter may include duplicate views.

How to track reach and impressions

By tracking your reach and impressions, you can see how effective your ad campaigns are. You will also understand in which areas it is worth improving your work.

Tracking both metrics can help you:

  • Calculate your effective display frequency. All marketers are sure that the user needs to see the ad several times before deciding to take the desired action. This is the so-called effective frequency — the number of times people need to familiarize themselves with a specific piece of content before they feel the urge to respond to it in one way or another. To determine the most effective frequency, you need to select the most effective post and divide the total number of its impressions by the total reach.
  • Avoid intrusiveness. There is a fine line between informativeness and flickering on social networks and irritation. Social media users don't like being bombarded with advertisements. If your campaign is time-sensitive, you may have to do your best to deliver higher frequency. However, if you want to grow your audience and brand awareness steadily, and time is of the essence, sit back and work to expand your reach through continuous customer influence.

To correctly track reach and impressions, you should use proven tools such as Postoplan.

Postoplan is a smart, automated social media and messenger marketing platform that allows you to create, schedule, and promote content.

With Postoplan, you can:

  • Maintain an unlimited number of accounts not only in standard social networks.
  • Process images using two powerful graphics editors.
  • Publish posts to multiple accounts at once.
  • Use cool post ideas if your creative is on vacation.
  • Massively and conveniently scheduling publications.
  • Get complete statistics and change the course of the campaign in accordance with the data obtained.
  • Chat with subscribers in Social Inbox.

We offer you a free 7-day and PRO account. You will appreciate the benefits of the service and the convenience of tracking reach and impressions.


Which is better reach or impressions?

This is a simple question with no simple answer. As with other metrics, the one you choose to focus on will depend solely on your current marketing goals.

Why are impressions higher than reach?

Impression rate is always higher than reach. Impressions mean how many times your post has been viewed in total. If your post has been viewed ten times by one user, then the reach will be 1, and the number of impressions will be 10. In the context of social media algorithms, this means that the more people return to view your post or read the text under it, the more interesting it is to the audience. This is one of the signals to give additional coverage to the post.

Why are my impressions lower than reach?

The reason would be organic traffic to your site, which is a very good thing. Suppose you are only looking at your ads dashboard. In that case, it could be the result of people clicking the advertisement more than one time per impression, or, also, the result of them sharing the advertisement and people clicking it, which means their clicks/views aren’t registering as an ad impression.

What is a good reach on Instagram?

It’s difficult to say which coverage is considered good. The fact is that numerically this indicator gives an idea of both “good” and “bad” only when considering the involvement. So, the following ratio can be regarded as the norm:

  • Reach: 30% to 60% of total subscribers.
  • Engagement: 9-10% of reach.

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