If your business is working toward better brand awareness or looking to grow and influence your audience on social media, knowing the difference between reach and impressions is critical.

Marketers understand when it comes to strategy, it’s all about accurately measuring your social media analytics and finding areas to increase efforts.

While it’s very easy to group terms like reach and impressions together, they do have their own definitions and can vary per network. To help you accurately measure these metrics, here’s a crash course on reach vs. impressions.

What’s the difference between reach and impressions?

Reach is the total number of people who see your content. Impressions are the total number of times your content is displayed, no matter if it was clicked or not.

Think of reach as the number of unique people who see your content. In a perfect world, every one of your followers would see every piece of content you posted. But, in reality, not all of your followers will see every single post you publish.

Think of impressions as the content delivered to someone’s feed. One person could have multiple impressions for a single piece of content. For example, if one follower saw a post three times, that would count as three impressions. But, since it’s the same follower, reach would equal one.

If a Facebook post appears in the original publisher’s feed and again when a friend shares the post, and you saw both, that counts as two impressions for the same post.

Let’s walk through another example: You have 100 followers and publish one post. If every followers sees it, you would have a reach of 100 users and 100 impressions. The next day you publish two posts to the same followers, and all of them see both posts. Your reach is still 100 users because your follower count didn’t change, but now you have 200 impressions.

There will also be situations where the number of impressions for a piece of content is sometimes larger than your follower count or reach. Notice in the example below how there are 93 likes and five shares. Each person who sees those five shares would be included in the number of impressions. We can’t see the total number of impressions, so let’s assume those shares are higher than the total number of likes and reach.

A Facebook ad from MarketerHire that has 94 likes, four comments and five shares.

Reach vs. impressions can be a challenging concept, but knowing the difference is essential when tracking the success of a social media campaign, especially if you’re using other engagement metrics.

If you want to make sure you’re focusing on the right metrics, our social media metrics map can help you understand all the metrics to focus on based on your marketing goal(s) so you can make a greater impact with your data.

Reach vs. impressions per social media network

If you’re looking to better understand how to improve your reach and impressions, it’s important to learn about the different ways each social media network measures them. Many networks include reach and impressions in their native social media analytics, but their definitions can differ slightly. Let’s review.

Facebook reach vs. impressions

Facebook shows reach and impressions broken down by post type and other categories. Facebook reach falls into three different categories:

  • Organic: The number of unique people who saw your content for free.
  • Paid: The number of unique people who saw your paid content, such as a Facebook Ad.
  • Viral: The number of unique people who saw your post or Facebook Page mentioned in a story published by someone else. These stories include actions such as liking, sharing or commenting.

Facebook impressions are also broken down into three categories, which are viewable in Sprout’s Facebook Pages report:

  • Organic: The number of times your content was displayed in the Feed or on your Page.
  • Paid: The number of times your paid content was displayed.
  • Viral: The number of times content associated with your Page was displayed in a story published by another user. These stories include liking, sharing or commenting.
Sprout Social's Facebook Pages report, featuring reporting on impressions, engagements, post link clicks and audience growth.

Instagram reach vs. impressions

Instagram refers to reach as “accounts reached,” which means it includes the total number of unique accounts that have seen your content (posts and Stories) at least once. For Reels, accounts reached include the number of unique accounts that have seen the video on screen at least once, whether they played it or not.

Instagram impressions measure the amount of times content was seen overall. Instagram Reel impressions include multiple views from the same account.

If you’re using native analytics or a social media management software like Sprout, you can view demographic information for accounts reached by top cities and countries, age range and gender.

TikTok reach vs impressions

TikTok defines reach as the total number of unique accounts that watched a video. TikTok impressions include every exposure, even if a unique account has already seen the content before. In other words, impressions are simply the sum of all video views. Note that if you’re using TikTok native analytics, reach is considered one of the platform’s estimated metrics, so it’s not an exact number.

LinkedIn social media impressions

LinkedIn doesn’t have a defined metric or definition for reach, but you can see how many accounts viewed your profile over the past month. LinkedIn impressions include the number of times your post, video, article or update appear in a user’s feed. Users don’t have to engage to count as an impression, but since LinkedIn’s algorithm prioritizes content that fuels engagement, posts with more likes, comments, reposts and shares are likely to get more impressions.

YouTube social media impressions

On YouTube, there isn’t a single reach metric. In the YouTube Studio, underneath the “Reach” tab, you can view traffic source types, suggested videos, external sources, playlist and other factors.

YouTube impressions measure how many times at least 50% of your video thumbnail was seen on screen for at least 1 second. You can view impression click-through-rate to determine how often viewers actually watched your videos after seeing the thumbnail.

X (formerly known as Twitter) reach vs. impressions

The native X app doesn’t measure reach, but it does track impressions. The network defines impressions as anytime a user sees your X Post. The number of impressions you see inside the app only counts the number of times your Posts show up in a user’s feed or search results.

When the app doesn’t provide data on reach, there is a workaround. With Sprout Social, you can measure engagement, follower growth, impressions and more.

Sprout Social's Facebook Summary showing a performance summary that includes several metrics including impressions, engagements, post link clicks.

Reach, impressions and your marketing strategy

With better clarity on reach vs. impressions per platform, it’s easy to gauge behavior from your target audience. The more you know about them, the more you’ll be able to optimize your strategy. Let’s review the connection between reach and impressions to your target audience and marketing strategy.

Know your target audience

For businesses, it’s important to scale your reach. As reach increases, it naturally leads to increased awareness. But even if you’re reaching 10,000 people, it won’t mean a thing if only 1,000 of them have interest in your brand. Design messages and your content strategy with your target audience in mind.

With Sprout’s Smart Inbox, you can keep an eye on the content that’s being shared, liked or replied to. By tracking these engagements, it’ll help you find potential users to target, thus extending your reach.

Sprout's Smart Inbox showing incoming messages, comments and mentions with a spike alert overlay shows 522 remaining messages in the inbox.

Monitor and analyze engagement metrics regularly

Impressions measure your ability to get your content in front of your intended audience. When your impressions rise, it’s likely due to your content surfacing more frequently into users’ feeds.

This usually means your posts are optimized for whichever social network you’re using. If you do not see the impressions you hoped for, look at your content and consider if it’s optimized for the platform you’re posting it on.

If you’re trying to increase impressions, focus on publishing shareable content. As your community begins sharing your posts with their networks, your impressions (and reach) will increase.

See if your efforts are working by consistently monitoring and analyzing these metrics. Continually make improvements and experiment with changes by using social media monitoring tools like Sprout to tag messages for specific departments on your social team.

Sprout's Smart Inbox showing inbound messages with a tag overlay that shows a dropdown of different options for support.

Sprout’s Smart Inbox helps you avoid going back and forth between networks by centralizing your social media in one place so monitoring and analyzing engagement metrics like reach and impressions is easier.

Looking at the bigger picture

Now you know the difference between reach vs. impressions on different platforms, you can use these metrics to better understand how well your brand is generating awareness on social media.

But awareness is just the tip of the iceberg: the next step is to measure and optimize for engagement so you’re creating content that drives business and demonstrates ROI. You can track reach, impressions and engagement for every major network all in one place with Sprout Social: sign up for a free 30-day trial to get started.