Reach vs. impressions — they’re both the same, right? Not exactly. It doesn’t help that each social media platform measures these two things differently. They are two of the most common marketing metrics, yet they’re also the ones that many struggle to differentiate.
Defining Reach and Impressions
What is reach in marketing, then? Reach is the total number of people who could have seen your content. You post new content and it goes out to 100 of your followers. This is a reach of 100. Reach will almost always be lower than impressions, since each of the people who could see your content (reach) may come across it multiple times (impressions).
Reach is very important because it affects all of your social media activities. Without reach, your social media campaign has no impact. This article focuses on organic reach and impressions (as defining reach in a paid advertising context is slightly different). Organic reach is the kind you get without a paid promotion. Users see it because they are:
- Your followers
- Your followers’ followers
- Followers of a hashtag used in the post
The definition of marketing impressions is the number of times your content is shown or served. This could mean being displayed multiple times to the same person. It could also mean a user opening the same content several times. Every serve of your content counts as an impression. For example, if an item appears on two separate occasions in each user’s timeline, because it was reshared, that’s two impressions. So for the 100 followers reached, that’s 200 impressions.
Reach vs. Impressions: Which Matters Most?
How do these two awareness metrics differ, and which one should you care about most? Note that neither of these numbers tells you whether a user actually viewed your content. Perhaps they scrolled down the page and didn’t even look at your post. And if you have a video on Facebook, for example, the video does not have to start playing for the impression to be counted. Both reach and impression are more indicative of brand awareness and perception.
Reach tells you the size of your audience, and lets you know whether you are getting your message out to potential customers. It reveals how successful your organic marketing is. But if you reach a ton of people but only a few click through to your website or become actual customers, you’ll want to tweak your strategy.
As far as the two stats go, the number of impressions is typically higher. So if bigger is better, you’ll like this number. But again, it doesn’t necessarily tell you whether users viewed the content or not, only that they had the potential to view it because it was displayed to them. Impressions add up whether or not the viewer is engaged. When the number of impressions is too low, you may need to adjust your targeting: If it is overly specific, you won’t reach many users. On the other hand, when the number is high, you risk spamming viewers so that they eventually tune you out.
Awareness vs. Engagement
Reach and impression aren’t the only numbers you need. If your goal extends beyond brand awareness, you’ll want to track your brand engagement numbers. Engagement metrics tell the story of how involved your audience is with your content and whether they interact. These metrics include likes, comments, shares, retweets and so on.
When your audience is engaged, social media platforms notice. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the other platforms use algorithms similar to Google’s. It’s all about the user experience. The best content is pushed to the top of user timelines and feeds.
Using Facebook as an example, here’s roughly how the algorithm works. Your content gets served to a small percentage of your followers. If they engage, then Facebook will feed the content to a larger group. Users see content if it’s engaging. If it’s not, few people see it.
Improve Your Reach, Build Engagement
Since social media platforms value engagement, what you really need to know is how to ensure that your content not only builds awareness but extends your organic reach and inspires users to follow, share and retweet.
Here’s how to ensure you get the most engagement from your social media activities:
Choose the Best Platform for Your Target
Keep in mind that Internet users average eight social media accounts each. Even though Facebook has over twice the number of users as Instagram, you could miss the mark if you ignore Instagram and that’s where your audience hangs out.
Understand Your Brand
Could you benefit from the business focus of LinkedIn even if your company has more of a creative bent? Or is the graphic focus of Instagram a better fit? What are your most successful competitors doing? You don’t need a copycat strategy, but it can be useful to consider your brand image and understand what works for your competitors.
Provide Useful Information
Remember that most users are not on social media to buy. Yes, you can absolutely find buyers on social media. But you don’t need to push product in every post. Instead, provide useful content in the form of how-to guides, informational articles, trend reports, and infographics. Then, when the urge to purchase does strike, your brand will be top of mind.
Post High-quality Content
What you post online is a reflection of your business. Make sure that your posts are helpful, positive, comprehensive, and consistent with your brand’s values. Also make sure they are thoroughly researched and accurate.
Let the Authentic Voice of the Brand Shine Through
Brand voice is reflected in your style of communication. If your brand is friendly, inspiring, minimalist, elegant, weird, funny, strong, environmentally conscious, or whatever, it should come through in every post. That’s how you make the emotional connection that engages your audience.
Post a Variety of Content
Change up your posts. Continually test to see what your audience responds to best. Here are just a few ideas:
- Status updates
- Weekly series
- Customer spotlights
- Polls & Quizzes
- Reading or playlists
- Product announcements
Post Evergreen Content
Evergreen content is content that endures. When your content has no pull date, there’s no excuse for your social media account to go dormant, because you can always repost. There are many types of evergreen content, including:
- Quotes with images
- Blog content
- Open-ended questions
- Favorite hacks
- Slideshow presentations
- How-to guides
- Links to guest posts
Engage Your Followers
It’s great to have followers. It’s even better when those followers are engaged and genuinely interested in your brand. When they comment, reply to them. Get followers to interact. Solicit their information and stories, sponsor contests, create polls and surveys. Use social media tools to find users who are posting about your brand. Connect with them and invite further dialog.
Tend Your Social Media
Social media requires a commitment. If you nurture your accounts, you’ll not only extend your reach and impressions, your audience will engage with you more. Ensure you pay close attention to the unique qualities of each platform, and you will have greater success.
If you want to do more to optimize your social media presence and are unsure how to get started, Hawke Media can customize a plan for you. Contact us for more information.