Impressions and Reach: Metrics That Matter

The main difference is that reach is the total number of people who see your content, and impressions are the number of times your content is displayed or shown. But, how do you apply them to your digital marketing?
Social Media Metrics

There are seemingly endless metrics that a marketer can track in the social media world to determine how effective their campaign is. Not all of these metrics mean much on their own, and not all are created equal. Enter: impressions and reach. 


At their ground level, impressions and reach are similar; they both refer to how many times someone saw your content. The difference, however, is in who saw the content. In the context of most social media platforms, impressions and reach can be defined broadly in the following ways:

  • Impressions — the total number of times content was seen or displayed to users 
  • Reach — the total number of unique users who viewed the content

Notice the difference: reach refers specifically to unique users who viewed the content. An impression is tracked each time someone is exposed to the content, even if it’s the fifth, sixth, or seventy-eighth time they’ve seen the post — and even if they don’t interact with it.


To shed light on the primary difference in these measures, let’s look at some simple arithmetic.

Imagine that you curate a post of the top ten tips for newcomers in your industry. You had one follower (slow day!) that clicked on your content — but they returned an additional 99 times to look at it again. The breakdown would look like this:

  • Impressions — 100 (that single follower saw the post 100 times)
  • Reach — 1 (even though the content was seen 100 times, only one person viewed it)

The math is simple, but do these numbers mean anything? Yes, if you apply them properly.


In a nutshell, impressions measure exposure to your content, whereas reach is measuring interaction with that content. This distinction is essential because each serves a slightly different purpose when it comes to understanding how your marketing campaign is performing in relation to your goals. 

For perspective, some top goals that companies address through social media marketing include things like:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Managing the brand reputation
  • Engaging the community
  • Increasing conversion rates
  • Gaining customer and market insights

If your goal is to see whether a specific ad is effective, you’ll likely derive the most value from reviewing how many impressions it received. But if you want to know if your content is engaging for your target audience, you’d be better served by verifying its reach. Additionally, you can combine these and other metrics to further quantify the goals above.

Social media is a complicated, multi-faceted beast, and each platform operates under slightly different parameters. Understanding the role that these metrics play in reaching your goals is vital in ensuring your campaign’s success. As you build your social media marketing plan, be sure to do some research on which site(s) will provide you with the most useful information relative to your business objectives. 

Contact us today to learn more how we can help you to design and implement a social media marketing plan that will allow you to make the most of the metrics you capture.