Why You Need to Know the Difference

Does it sometimes feel like the world of digital marketing is packed with endless jargon? Even the Zebra 360 Digital Marketing team will admit you aren’t wrong there! However, these key words often go far beyond meaningless ‘industry fluff’ into some critical concepts that matter deeply to your campaigns. We’re here today to clear up one of the most famous ‘muddy waters’ of digital marketing- what is reach, what are impressions, and how do they differ from each other?

So, what is ‘reach’ in digital marketing?

Reach is simply the total number of people who see your content. A key word here is ‘unique’… in other words, we’re talking about the first time someone sees your content. If you posted, say, a funny video, your ‘reach’ is the number of unique people who saw it, the first time they saw it. We’re taking the other 10 times they clicked on it (because it was awesome) right out of the equation. We’re also discounting repeat shares of it to their feed from other people or sources. Your reach can be thought of as the broad web of individuals who saw your content.

Imagine you posted some Facebook content, and 10 people see it today. Your reach is 10 people. If you post something else tomorrow, and the same 10 people see it, you still have a reach of 10 people.

Then what are ‘impressions’ in digital marketing?

If that’s your reach, what are your impressions? Impressions indicate how often your content was delivered to someone’s feed. They don’t have to have actually interacted with it to count as an impression. Of course, one potential viewer could also have seen it crop up multiple times in their feed- and each one of those times was an ‘impression’, even though it was the same person being ‘reached’ each time. Your number of impressions will inevitably be far higher than your actual, tangible reach.

Take the same Facebook scenario as above. You posted 2 pieces of content, and the same 10 people saw it each day. Your impressions here were 20- the number of times your content appeared in a feed. If it entered their feed once from your page, and then once when someone shared it to them, and then again when another page shared your content, that’s 3 impressions, but only a reach of one person.

Why do these 2 metrics matter?

So, now we know how the two terms differ, what do they mean for you?

Firstly, impressions matter, but they are not the be-all and end-all of marketing. As you can see, just because something pitched up in a feed doesn’t necessarily mean people did something with it. Impressions are most important for ensuring that your potential target audience has the chance to see your content…but it’s key your marketing efforts don’t grind to a halt there. Impressions become meaningless if they don’t convert to reach (and sales, of course).

You need to take those impressions and capitalise on them to help broaden your reach. Even a good amount of reach doesn’t guarantee interaction with your content, just that that many unique, individual people may have seen your content. This is where other key digital marketing concepts like conversion (taking that reach and making sure engagement with your content happens) and knowing your audience (to make sure your content is appealing to interact with and actually draws people in when they see it) begin to matter.

Digital marketing may seem like a complicated landscape, but fully understanding how to boost your brand profile starts with some simple basics. Both reach and impressions are important measures of how your content is performing, and give you important data you can use to help drive conversions and results from them. Still feeling a little confused? Why not let Zebra 360 Digital Marketing take the load off your shoulders? We have the experience and the expertise to help you meaningfully monitor and use the data your advertising efforts are bringing you.