The Blog

December 27, 2019

brands resources

Social media reach vs impressions: which is most important?

Within influencer marketing, you’ll hear phrases such as “reach” and “impressions”. You know they’re important, but do you fully understand the difference between them? This understanding is critical to evaluate the success of influencer marketing campaigns.

In an ideal world, every follower would see every piece of content. However, with social media algorithms, this isn’t the case. Each social platform uses a different algorithm to decide what content a user sees. This is why social media marketers track reach and impression metrics to assess the performance of their social strategy.

In this post, you’ll understand the difference between the two metrics and how to use these to inform your social strategy.



Reach refers to the total number of unique people who see a piece of content – this could be an Instagram post, Facebook post or paid ad. Reach doesn’t, however, indicate how many people interacted with the content.

Having said this, social content with high reach is much more likely to see an increase in the number of people who interact and engage too. Tracking reach helps clarify whether there is anything wrong with the content. If reach is high but engagement low, it highlights issues with the creative itself. The content reaches people, however because the creative concept isn’t good, those people don’t engage.



Impressions refer to the total number of times a post was seen (this includes the same person seeing it multiple times). Usually, the number of impressions is higher than reach as people may come across the post more than once.

As impressions change from the moment content is published, it is possible to instantly gather insight as to how that piece of content is performing.


reach vs impressions


Reach vs impressions on Instagram

On Instagram, reach refers to the number of unique users that see a piece of content. Impressions indicate the number of times a user has seen a story or on-feed post. With an Instagram creator or business account, these metrics are accessed within the insights dashboard. Data can be segmented further by percentage of reached users who were not following the account in question.

Impressions analysis gives insight as to which source (feed, profile, hashtags) generated the most impressions. If a user watches a story four times, reach would be one and impressions would be four.


Reach vs impressions on Facebook

Facebook has three types of reach and impressions. Reach is defined as “the number of people who saw your adverts at least once.” (This figure is calculated from sampled data). Use reach to see engagement over time and discover what type of content resonates best with users. Content with high reach indicates a higher number of people saw the content. Content with low reach indicates a lower number of people saw the content. Once top-performing content has been identified, create more of the type of content that is highly likely to perform well.

Organic – How many unique users saw content organically in their personal newsfeed.

Viral -The number of users who saw content because someone else shared it, mentioned it or interacted with it.

Paid – The number of people who see paid promotional content.

Impressions are defined as “the number of times that your adverts or content were on-screen”. For example, if a user sees content during one session and scrolls back to see it again within the same session – this is counted as one impression. However, if a user returns later in the day and sees the same content – this is counted as two impressions. This metric indicates what frequency users see content within their feed.


Reach vs impressions on Twitter

Twitter measures impressions, however not reach. Impressions are defined as the number of times users see a tweet on the platform. Note: this figure is not unique users. This includes within a user’s feed, in the search results, or on someone else’s feed as a result of the Twitter account’s followers interacting with the content. It’s possible to view the total number of impressions per tweet, or for all tweets in a specified timeframe. Is it unique or not?

Use impressions to gauge how much presence a brand has on Twitter. When paired with engagement, it indicates the relevancy of the published content.


How to use reach and impressions to improve your social strategy

Looking at the right metrics at the right time helps make informed decisions to improve social strategies. Analyse metrics too soon and there won’t be enough data to make educated decisions.

Reach, for example, is a great metric to track if the goal is to increase brand awareness. As the number of people content reaches increases, so does the number of people who become aware of a business or offering.

Impressions provide greater understanding of new audiences. By monitoring what type of users view content, it is possible to target those users specifically with content proven to resonate with them.

If overall impressions decline, it’s usually because the audience doesn’t see enough value in the content. It could also be because the content is not effectively optimised for the platform it’s shared on. Most social media platforms put emphasis on relevance when choosing what content a user sees. Always ensure created content is geared towards the target audience on each platform.

If reach and impressions are high, it’s an indicator that content reaches the right people multiple times. reaching the right people multiple times. It’s a strong sign the content is effective enough to get people to engage and interact with.

All things said, without an understanding of the target audience, improving reach or impressions would not be possible. After all, they’re the ones who ultimately drive the success of social media campaigns.

Reach vs impressions: which comes out on top?

Reach and impressions are two vital metrics to analyse how social content performs. These metrics work well together and offer critical insight into social campaigns. We would recommend using reach and impressions to establish brand awareness, platform visibility and assess content relevance.

It’s important to note, reach and impressions actually measure different elements of social analytics. Whether you focus on one or the other is dependant on your overall social marketing goals.

When it all comes down to it, however, every brand using social media is after one thing: engagement. Increasing reach and impressions are key to encouraging people to take action. It’s impossible to improve one without also thinking about the other.


To see how influencer marketing can help you improve both your reach and impressions, check out our Brand Catalogue that allows you to work with up to five influencers for free.

Asset 1