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Key Differences between Reach vs Impressions! Which One To Track?

CEO Updated: December 01, 2023
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If you are going to promote your brand’s engagement and launch an advertising campaign to fulfill it, you must have once seen two terms popping up again and again, which are “impressions” and “reach.” Indeed, they are two must-have terms appearing in any analytics dashboard, showing how the advertisements or posts are working.

Impressions and Reach are especially crucial for those working on social media to grow their brand awareness. All being advertising metrics in counting engagement, reach, and impressions have, on the other hand, two different definitions. Though you can easily group those terms, having a deeper understanding of them will help you find out the right areas to increase efforts.

So, we have Reach vs Impressions: Key Differences & Which One To Track? post to differentiate two definitions of some common social channels as well as prove their importance to businesses.

Let’s dive in!

Reach vs Impressions: What are they?

Having encountered Reach and Impressions many times, but do you know what they are? Reach, and Impressions are two terms used to count the brand awareness and then the brand engagement of a business when it posts on social networks to advertise. They often bring about confusion since both are similar; there are still some main notes about them.

Reach is used to count the number of people who see your piece of content and engage with them via clicks, likes, reactions, comments, or shares. For example, you launch an advertisement displayed 500 times on social media pages. 200 out of 500 clicks on your ad to see then your reach will be 200.

On the other hand, Impressions are the total number of times social media browsers have been shown your content. That is, the people your post is visible to no matter whether they click it or not. It doesn’t refer to those engaging with your content but those who are exposed to it.

Impressions are different from reach because it doesn’t count people who click or engage with your content, just those exposed to it. If your ad was displayed 500 times on social media, your impressions would be 500. In the previous example, while your reach is 200 out of 500, your impressions will be 500 because your content is displayed and delivered to the user’s feed 500 times.

So, they are now easy to understand. Impressions refer to exposure while reach refers to clicks and interaction. Impressions are normally higher than reach, and they are often close to the number of followers you have on social channels. And, to understand the rules each social media site puts on reach and impressions, let’s find out what you are working on first and come to the next part to measure one over the other.

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Differences between reach and impressions of different social media

It might be a little bit confused since Reach and Impressions mean different things on different platforms. Impressions on Facebook may be the reach, according to Twitter, for example. They are commonly called “a media impression” or “media reach.” How they are defined in each channel is decided by the apps’ main function or how they work. Let’s look at how four common networks define the two terms and remember to be aware of the small changes from app to app if you are using a social media analytics tool to monitor your metrics.


Facebook even provides a website called “Facebook for Business” to help users understand how they count those terms.

According to them, Facebook reach is “the number of people who saw your ads at least once.” Reach is split into three types: Organic, Paid, and Viral.

  • Organic reach: The total number of unique people who saw your content organically, which means they observe it for free in the Facebook News Feed.

  • Paid reach: The total number of users on Facebook seeing your piece of content that has been paid for. For example, an ad. Paid reach is directly influenced by ad bids, budgets, and audience targeting.

  • Viral reach: The total number of people seeing your content on their feed because one or more of their friends interacted with it.

Differently, Impressions on Facebook are “the number of times your ads were on-screen.” They add more details “Facebook impressions are measured by the number of times your ad appeared on the screen. If a Facebook user scrolls past an ad on their screen, then scroll back up to that ad, this counts as one impression. If an ad appears for a user two different within 24 hours, these are two impressions.”

For example, let’s say you see an ad on Facebook or scroll past an ad once but change your mind and turn back to it, that counts as one impression. Also, on this day, you check out Facebook again and reencounter the same ad, which counts as two impressions. The more time users see advertisers’ content, the more reach they have. The definition of Facebook differs from industry standards for ads. Further, Facebook is more specific.

What’s more, Facebook also says that a video is “not required to start playing for the impression to be counted.” That means impressions are counted the same way for video and image ads and that a video doesn’t need to be played or watched totally to be counted as one impression.

Regarding Facebook, neither “reach” nor “impressions” show that someone has clicked on or even seen your ad. So, the only way to see whether users have viewed your post or not is checking out two impressions categories divided by Facebook: Served Impressions and Viewed Impressions:

  • Served ads are those having been paid for, and the channel has made up its mind to publish the ad at the top of a highly-visible news feed, an ad box in a sidebar, etc. They do not need to be viewed on-screen but can stay below the fold or even finish rendering to count as a “served” impression.

  • Viewed ads are those appearing on the screens of users. Or else, they are not counted as one impression. Only when the user scrolls to see the ad or navigate away from the page before it the ad loads will it count as “viewed.”

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For those who don’t know, Twitter doesn’t track reach, so we will keep a better look at just its impressions. In accordance with Twitter, impressions are defined as anytime a user sees one of your tweets. When they see a tweet, you created in their feed, search results, or as part of a conversation, you get one impression.

Let’s imagine you have 2,000 followers on Twitter. You post a tweet seen by every single one of them, which means you get 2,000 impressions. If you reply to that tweet with another tweet, your followers see the first tweet one connected with your reply tweet. You will then get 6,000 in total, a combination of 2,000 at first and an additional 4,000 impressions.

One interesting thing about Twitter is that it offers you Twitter Analytics for free. Once you log in to your account, the results will be displayed immediately. Let’s check out the Twitter analytics of a particular user.

You will notice that reach is not a trackable metric. All the dashboard is about impressions indicated with a bar graph on the “Tweets” tab on the site. Being displayed on the app is the number of tweets you’ve created and the number of organic impressions you’ve gained. Also, Twitter helps you evaluate brand engagement according to the number of clicks happening on a tweet. They are also shown in a line graph on the same page.

However, when using Twitter, brand engagement is not just about the number of impressions you get but the number of impressions per tweet. The result of them reported in your analytics will be decided by the way you use the network channel. Replies in response to user’s tweets will often get fewer impressions than those you post in your followers’ news feeds. So, don’t spend too much time replying, but posting or the number of impressions per tweet will be reported decreased.

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Similar to Facebook, reach and impressions on Instagram are two different entities. Instagram impressions are the total number of times an account see your story, IGTV video, or post.

Meanwhile, Reach looks at the total number of unique users interacting with your post or story. “Unique” users are a group of people that expose your content not only because they are your followers but also due to their common interests. For example, I often like and follow Instagram content related to beauty; my timeline is populated with suggestions of cosmetics, outfits, fashion lifestyles, etc. I am regarded as a unique user in that category.

When impressions are higher than reach on Instagram, your followers or audience look at your content many times, and even every time they open the app.

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When it comes to websites, they treat reach and impressions differently. To measure the brand engagement of a business using websites for advertising, Google Analytics is used as a must-have tool. When it comes to brand exposure, reach, and impressions are replaced by “users” and “page views:”

  • Users term is defined as the total number of people who have come to your site at least once during the relevant time period.

  • Page views, on the other hand, is the total number of pages observed by all of your audiences.

Reach and impressions: Which one should you track?

Reach, and impressions are about two different activities. So, which metric should you choose to increase attention and efforts? The answer is depending on the business goals you are pursuing. Let’s think about it first and look at why you might want to focus on impressions or reach.

Focusing on Impressions

If ads are something you want to spend more time on, you should focus on impressions. This is because when coming to impressions, it is about the number of people seeing your ad that will decide the success and exposure level of your promoted and sponsored content.

For example, when you spend money on promoting a tweet on Twitter, the site will give you the analytics report showing the numbers of this content. Twitter and Facebook are two giant, looking at impressions rather than reach. So, if you care about ads, let’s focus on those apps.

Another reason why Impressions should be tracked if you are concerned about ads is that this term turns into extremely handy that it helps you track your ads on a moment-to-moment basis. When launching an ad and seeing it surprisingly gets few to no impressions, it could be an early sign predicting that there’s something wrong with its framing or content.

Focusing on reach

When tracking impressions, you might be worried about overwhelming users with too many ads. To avoid this, you should focus on reach instead of impressions.

Also, if brand awareness and engagement are your main goals, then reach is the metric you should focus most of the time. It is because reach reveals details of how many people are interacting and engaging with your brand and how many leads you are getting. In this case, Instagram is the app you should consider.

Similar to impressions, reach also takes a role in finding out whether there’s something wrong with your ads. If your ads gain a lot of reaches, but the number of conversions you have is opposite, there must be something wrong with the framing or content of the ad that you need to revise and adjust.

On the other hand, if your posts have a broad reach, you are successful in reaching many new users. That is, there will be more and more users sharing and engaging with your brand.

As you can see, tracking engagement is an essential tool to find out the total ROI with your business accounts. Both impressions and reach should be focused on the numbers of leads and who is seeing posts. Though they tell you different things about your ads and content’s performance, you will need both metrics to identify the effectiveness of a campaign or advertising strategy.

Why are reach and impressions important?

Now you have a better understanding of two terms. For those still wondering, both of these metrics are important to give insight into your campaign. Let’s look at why they are essential for businesses.

Reach, and impressions help measure brand awareness

Before reaching brand engagement, you need to consider brand awareness first. Taking an important role in your business, brand awareness is when audiences are familiar with your brand and are likely to buy products from you rather than those of the competition. To measure and increase brand awareness, you should track your reach and impressions that present if your audience is familiar with your business or not.

When you notice your reach and impressions are both high, you must be getting leads various times. That means you are successful in engaging audiences and having them interact with your posts or content.

Reach and impressions indicate the effectiveness of your ads

When running an ad, it is not about publishing it and waiting for success. You need to keep track to see whether it works well or not. Money spent on running ads, no matter whether they are PPC ads or social media ads, is a big deal, so you must want to know if they’re useful. Reach, and impressions will help you dig into the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns.

Reach, and impressions can not be compared since impressions will surely be equal to or higher than reach. One person devoting to your reach must have seen your content once, and most will have seen it various times. Only when they watch your content multiple times do they begin to become aware of the brand.

To measure an ad’s effectiveness, you must know how many average impressions per user is considered effective. To find out the number of times they see an ad before they respond to it, total impressions are divided by total reach to get the average number of impressions per user. This term is also known as “effective frequency,” “ad frequency,” “frequency,” or “average impressions per user.”

Effective frequency - The average number of impressions per user
Effective frequency - The average number of impressions per user

According to General Electric’s Herbert E. Krugman, you need about three exposures to make the audience aware of your brand. Whereas, in 1885, London businessman Thomas Smith said that it took twenty times to gain brand awareness. However, the effective frequency for your business will vary according to your industry and products. If you are a newbie, take a look at what your rivals in your market are targeting and draw out the right impressions per user count for yourself.

The reasonable impressions per user are also different based on your social media goals. Don’t aim lots of impressions per user if you have an intention to increase brand awareness gradually in a small niche. Nonetheless. a high impressions per user count is totally suitable when you have a time-sensitive promotion and target exposing it to as many people as possible.

Reach, and impressions help avoid ad fatigue

When knowing the sufficient frequency, you can also learn how many times your audience can see your content before getting annoyed. Therefore, reach and impressions can help a lot in predicting ad fatigue and weaknesses.

Let’s say your ad results in a lot of impressions but few or no reach, it may be not effective anymore. This term is called “ad fatigue” which is when people become fed up and tired of seeing your ad while it keeps running to reach them.

When seeing this problem, you will know what you need to change by rethinking your advertisement structure or content. With the help of reach and impressions, you will not only make it more appealing for your audience but also create a better campaign and improve brand engagement.

Reach and impressions are undeniably essential for any business. Before tracking it, remember the two following notes to maximize its effectiveness:

  • Identifying your target audience

The more people see your content appearing on their feeds, the higher brand awareness increases. Most businesses look for ways to extend their reach to as many audiences as possible. Nonetheless, the number of people who expose your content is not who has an interest in your brand.

Instead of focusing on the number reached and sending them the messages they will surely ignore, let’s design messages and advertising strategies that target a group of audiences. Reach and impressions are important in helping you identify who your target audiences are. In this way, you will find potential users to spend attention on and extend your reach. Remember to take a look at the content that’s being shared, retweeted, liked, replied, or reacted.

  • Usually keep track and analyze engagement metrics

As mentioned above, impressions indicate your performance in getting your content observed by your target audience. When the impressions rise, it means your piece of content is displayed more frequently on users’ feeds. Each social platform has its own rule in tracking reach and impressions. Therefore, notice how you share your content and whether it is optimized for the platform you’re using if you do not get the impressions you are expecting.

What’s more, you should devote more efforts to increase the number of actively engaged fans in your community for the platform you are using. That means focusing more on posting shareable content to grow impressions. Let’s say your community has 1,000 members sharing your content with their networks and each of them owns 500 friends on average. Your impressions and reach will then increase dramatically.

To know if your campaign works well, you should regularly monitor and analyze these metrics. Retarget your audience first and use social media monitoring tools to add messages to each department of your social media team. Using the right tool is not only easy-to-use but also effective in avoiding the back and forth between networks. You are now able to streamline your social media through an all-in-one Smart Inbox.

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To sum up, to increase brand engagement, you need to focus on brand awareness that is decided by reach and impressions. These two terms mean a lot to most businesses doing advertising on social media. The fact is that you cannot gain one without the other so let’s take into account both reach and impressions devoted to your success. Even though reach and impressions mean nearly the same, they are not impossible to be distinguished. Once you can differentiate them, you will find out the more important one and where to spend time as well as efforts on.

Hopefully, this post helps you answer everything you wonder about reach and impressions when it comes to advertising on social media. Leave us a comment in the section below in case we miss something or you have any trouble. Remember to visit our site for more interesting articles.

Thank you!

Sam Nguyen is the CEO and founder of Avada Commerce, an e-commerce solution provider headquartered in Singapore. Sam aims to support more than a million online businesses to grow and develop.

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