Reach & Impressions: What The Heck Are They?

May 3, 2020

For many of our clients, online metrics are unfamiliar or just plain overwhelming. The online world changes so fast, making it hard to keep up with what the key metrics actually are, let alone what they mean. The answer is simple, yet complicated. The metrics you need to look at are based on your business goals. Different goals would each require its own set of metric data in order to effectively determine your ROI and how well your marketing efforts are working. 

When you hear the word ‘impression’, you probably think about the traditional meaning of the word. The dictionary defines an impression as “an idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence.” It can also mean “an imitation of a person or thing, especially one done to entertain.”.

As humans, we tend to form opinions based on our impressions, but this isn’t the same as a marketing impression metric.


With the advent of social media and the internet, some words have taken on different definitions when placed in a marketing context, like impressions. 


The marketing definition of an impression refers to the number of times your ad or post APPEARED on a page, website, or social feed. It doesn’t mean it was seen (reach), clicked (engagement), or even given the time of day (any engagement metric)…it was just there…like a ghost waiting to be seen.

Impressions are what we marketers tend to call a ‘vanity metric’ when it is used on its own. The numbers look REALLY good on paper but they aren’t saying much. 


When we talk about reach here at Sproing, we are referring to how many people actually SAW your content, even a brief glance as they are scrolling through their wall. One definition of reach is the “range of application, effect, or influence of something”. Marketing reach measures the range and influence of your content online. 

Reach, combined with other metrics, is the most effective way to determine if your awareness goals are being met.


There are few differences between the reach metric you see on organic social media and the reach from paid ads on social media. Organic reach and paid reach are NOT created equally!


Organic reach is the number of people who had an unpaid post from your Page enter their screen. Facebook Help Center

Organic reach occurs naturally as your free content is discovered, shared and spread around the internet. Organic reach, along with engagement metrics, can tell you how many times your content was seen on feeds and walls. It can also help you determine if the audience who is seeing your content, is the one you are actually trying to reach and if the content is effective. 


“Paid reach refers to the number of people who saw your ads at least once. Reach is different from impressions, which may include multiple views of your ads by the same people.” – Facebook Ads Help Center

When you set up ads on social media platforms, they are shown to people the platform THINKS will be interested in what you have to offer, based on your targeting choices. Most platforms have a special algorithm that they use to determine who, when and what is shown to people.


“Ad reach is an estimate of the number of people within a location target, based on signed-in users. You can use the provided reach numbers to get a rough idea of how many people your ads could reach within a geographic area.” – Google Ads Help – About Ad Reach 

Google uses the reach metric in a completely different way from paid and organic on social media. This metric is actually closer to an impression and tells you how many people MIGHT see your ad when they are searching and use your keywords. Depending on how broad or narrow you are in your targeting, or the keywords you choose, the potential reach could change. 

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We have many clients who come to us with reports, numbers and questions about what they all mean. Our monthly and quarterly reports show you exactly what is going on with your accounts, and we will make recommendations based on this data. Your account data tells a story, we help you read it and translate the data into something that you can understand. We want to see your business grow as much as you do and show you the metrics that matter.

We tell it to you straight and if your accounts aren’t doing well, we will show you why using data like reach and engagement metrics, while avoiding vanity metrics.

We will then make recommendations that will get you back on track. Our recommendations can include a deeper refactoring of your ad keywords for better performance and more clicks, or generating themed social media content to improve engagement. Refactoring is ongoing, meaning it isn’t just done after a report. Our digital marketing team is constantly changing, tweaking and fine-tuning your ad account for optimal performance. We look at your website traffic that comes from ads and social media, to determine if any changes need to be made to your pages and links for better performance on both ends.

Wait…what about vanity and engagement metrics?

To measure how many of the people reached are interacting with your content, you would use engagement metrics, which use reach as part of the calculation…yes, it’s math! 

When any metric is used by itself because the number looks good, they are also called ‘vanity metrics’. Impressions are commonly used as a vanity metric because the number looks great on paper, but once you dig deeper it isn’t really giving you that much information. Metrics need to be combined with other data in order to effectively get the whole picture. Don’t fall for first ‘impressions’, get the whole story instead!

We will help you understand, manage and grow your online accounts using strategy and data. 

If you’re ready to take your business marketing to the next level, give our marketing team a call at (250) 549-1200 or email us at!

Whether you are looking for someone to manage your social accounts so you can focus on your business growth, take over online advertising or you just want to learn some new skills, together we got this!

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