Digital Marketing: Reach vs. Impressions

Analysing how well your post or a Facebook ad is doing is important for your brand’s development and working out the best way to reach your target audience. When the analytics are presented you will see the next two words pop up quite frequently: “impressions” and “reach”. What is the difference between the two? Which one as a business do you need to focus on? Do they mean different things on different platforms? These are all important questions, and in this blog, Tim Smith Marketing will explain how to use this information in your marketing strategy.

Let’s start by differentiating them:

In general the reach is the amount of people who have seen your content or ad. Impressions refers to how many times your content or ad has been displayed on a screen.
For example, five people have seen your ad so the reach is five, but was displayed on the screens on a rotational ad system 10 times; this means the impression rate is 10.
Understanding the reach and impression rate are great measures to see how well the content or ad is doing, however across the various social media platforms they do differ which is why sometimes it can be confusing.


Facebook generally defines reach as a number of people of have seen your ad or content once, but then also has three separate categories for the reach; organic, paid and viral.

– Organic reach – is the amount of people who have seen your content for free most likely from their newsfeed.
– Paid reach – this is the number of people who have seen your content paid through audience targeting, ad bids and budgets.
– Viral reach – which are views from someone who saw the content because their friends interacted with it.

Impressions for Facebook are defined as the number of times your content was on screen. So one user could have seen your content in their feed five times, this would be classed as five impressions but only count as one reach. The important thing to remember with Facebook and impressions is that if the ad doesn’t load in time or the user doesn’t scroll to the ad it does not count as viewed.


Reach isn’t recorded by Twitter and the platform only focuses on impressions, which is when one Twitter user sees your tweet on their feed, search results and or as part of a conversation. When you comment on your original tweet this then increases the impression figure again with your amount of followers, so being interactive is key in creating a larger impression rate.


Impressions and reach on Instagram is almost the same as how Facebook measure the figures. Reach is the total number of unique accounts that have seen your post or story and for impressions it is the measure of the total number of times users saw your content.


Compared to other social media platforms the only main difference for Snapchat is that impressions are called “story views” which is relative to how this platform works.

Google AdWords

This focuses on reach and divides them in to two categories: “cookie-based reach” and “unique reach”. Cookie-based reach is the most traditional way in measuring users using cookies and the unique reach is extremely clever – it estimates and omits duplicate views giving you a more realistic reading.

Google Analytics

“Users” and “page views” are used to measure the statistics. The number of people who have visited your webpage at least once during a set time are users. Page views are different – it is the total number of pages viewed by all users within a time period.

Which is best to use?
It is entirely down to you on which one to track, as they both are two distinct activities and both can assist in your business goals. Focusing on impressions can aid in investigating how many times your ads go out which could be overwhelming users. This can have a negative effect. If this is the case reach will be more important to push to spread out to new customers rather than spamming your current consumers. Impressions are also useful when you want to track your ads in the moment. If you have launched an ad and receive very little impressions this is a good indicator that your ad needs to be amended.

If you sell products on a website, reach can also assist in finding out why an ad isn’t doing so well. For example if you have a campaign that has a big reach but no conversion, your ad may need to be revised. On the flip side, if your ad has a big reach, this means it is successfully being pushed out to potential new customers and can mean that its’ engagement and shared rate increase.

Considering the above, both “reach” and “impressions” play an important role in working out how effective your social media/online campaigns are working and are key in the process of gaining new customers, engagement or likes etc.

If you need help with your social media and setting up ads and campaigns successfully call TSM for an informal chat on 01724 784600 or email