KPIs & metrics

Reach vs Impressions – Understanding the Difference

Social media engagement has become a necessity for online so as for offline businesses. It requires measuring many different metrics, reach and impressions being two of the most important when it comes to the success of your overall social media strategy. But, not everyone understands the difference between reach vs impressions. These two are often grouped, but they are not the same. Although both of them affect your overall engagement and visibility, you should know the specific meaning of each.

Whatagraph marketing reporting tool
Indrė Jankutė-Carmaciu

Oct 01 2019 4 min read

Whatagraph marketing reporting tool

Table of Contents

    Reach vs Impressions – What’s The Difference?

    To understand the difference between these two metrics, you should know what each of them represents. 

    What Is Reach?

    Reach shows the total number of unique users that have seen your content or ad on social media, such as Facebook. You can have, let’s say, 500 followers, but that doesn’t mean that your reach will also be 500. In fact, your ad or content doesn’t show up on all of your followers’ news feed. Social media marketing doesn’t work that way, although it’ll be perfect. 

    If your content was seen by 200 different users out of 500 followers, your reach would be 200. Mind you that this also doesn’t mean that you have 200 clicks for that content. Reach doesn’t show the number of people that have clicked on the ad or content, only the number of unique people or users who have seen it.

    What Are Impressions?

    It’s the number of times your content or ad was displayed on people’s screens. This means that one person can see the same content two or more times. In that case, it’ll count as two or more impressions.

    For example, your content may show up on one person’s news feed, and that’s one impression. But, if a friend of that person shares the same content, it may once again appear on that person’s news feed. So, you get two impressions from one user. 

    Impressions is different from clicks as well because it doesn’t show if the audience has actually engaged with the content displayed on their news feed. A person can see the same ad or content multiple times and not engage with it at all. 

    Clicks, on the other hand, is the number of times your audience has literally clicked on your content. The more clicks, the better. 

    How Different Platforms Define Reach and Impressions

    Some platforms have a different meaning for these two terms. Let’s see what they mean on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Analytics, and Google AdWords.

    Reach vs Impression on Facebook

    Reach shows how many unique people have been presented with your content or ad on their news feed. Without it, you wouldn’t know the most effective part of your audience. 

    Facebook measures it, but also other metrics, and it’s your job to monitor them so that you can work on improving it. As a result, you’ll establish a better connection between your business and your target audience. Facebook measures reach with the help of sampled data. With Facebook reporting software you may see it and much more. 

    Facebook Business separates it into three categories – organic, paid, and viral.

    • Organic reach indicates the number of unique users on Facebook that have seen your content for free.
    • Paid reach is the number of unique Facebook users who have seen your content or ad with advertising. 
    • Viral reach is the number of unique Facebook users who have seen your content or ads just because some of their friends have liked, shared, or commented on that content. 

    Impressions, on the other hand, is the total number of times your content or ad has been displayed on Facebook users’ screens. This doesn’t mean that if someone sees your content, scrolls down, and then returns back to your content will count as two impressions. Facebook only counts it as two impressions when the same content is displayed twice on that person’s news feed, whether that’s on the same day or not.

    This metric allows you to see how often your Facebook fans are seeing your content. It’ll help you see if your content is interesting or educational enough so that your fans want to share it with their friends. You can use this metric to see if you should change or optimize your content to get better results. 

    Organic, viral, and paid are the three categories of Facebook impressions. They all indicate the number of times your content or add has been displayed on Facebook users’ screens, with the following difference:

    • Organic – it involves content or ad that has been displayed without advertising, or for free
    • Paid – it involves paid content or ad
    • Viral – it involves content that appeared on a user’s screen after some of their Facebook friends have shared, liked, or commented on it.

    Impressions vs Reach on Twitter and Instagram

    The terms impressions and reach have pretty much the same meaning for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

    Twitter reach is the number of unique Twitter users that see your tweet, whereas impressions indicate the number of views of your tweet. 

    Instagram reach is the number of unique Instagram followers that have seen your Instagram story or post, whereas Instagram impressions stand for the number of times your Instagram story or post has been shown to users. 

    Reach vs Impressions on Google AdWords and Google Analytics

    There are two types of Google AdWords reach – unique and cookie-based reach. The first one shows the total number of unique people who saw your ad, omitting duplicate views by one person. The second type shows the number of unique people who saw your ad based on cookies. The cookie-based reach distinguishes individual browsers, so it may count one person more than once if they use different browsers or computers.

    Google AdWords impressions is the number of times users see your ad on Google or the Google Network.

    In Google Analytics, we have the terms page views and users. The first one refers to the number of pages viewed by all of your visitors. The second refers to the number of people who visit your site at least once at a particular time range.

    How to Measure Reach and Impressions?

    You can track these two metrics using the social media platforms’ native analytics and as well make marketing reports with Whatagraph.


    Reach vs impressions or impressions vs reach may be a bit confusing, but not impossible to understand. Knowing the difference between reach and impressions will help you increase your social media engagement.

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    Published on Oct 01 2019

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    Indrė Jankutė-Carmaciu

    Indrė is a copywriter at Whatagraph with extensive experience in search engine optimization and public relations. She holds a degree in International Relations, while her professional background includes different marketing and advertising niches. She manages to merge marketing strategy and public speaking while educating readers on how to automate their businesses.