What’s the Difference Between Impressions and Engagements?

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Digital marketing terminology can be confusing at the best of times, as many terms refer to metrics and KPIs that are closely related. These metrics and their associated terms are used to track how effectively a marketing strategy is performing, so knowing how to talk about them and understanding the differences between them is vital.

This article will look at several terms—including impressions, engagement, and reach—that have made their way into every marketer’s daily vocab list. Keep reading to learn about what these terms mean and the differences between them.

Impressions vs. Reach vs. Engagement: What’s the Difference Between the Three? 

You will often see these three metrics mentioned when you read about social media marketing. Most often, you’ll hear the terms impressions and reach when dealing with any kind of social media platform or paid advertising campaign. On the other hand, engagement is a broader term that can apply to ads and social content as well as to actions that users take on a brand’s blog or website. 

These three terms represent essential digital marketing KPIs, and they’re very commonly used in marketing reports and analyses. They all have their own specific purpose and meaning, so let’s take a closer look at what they tell you as a marketer.


Impressions signify the number of times your content is displayed on a user’s screen. For example, if you have an Instagram ad that has popped on screens 500 times, that will mean that it has 500 Instagram impressions

If you’re looking to calculate marketing ROI, impressions are rarely a significant metric due to how some platforms treat them. For example, on Facebook, your video just needs to pop up on someone’s screen to be counted as an impression, regardless of whether the user just scrolls past it. 


Reach shows the number of unique people who have actually seen a piece of content. Some of these users may have already seen your ad before (which means they don’t count toward the total reach), while it may be the first time for others. Facebook separates reach into three categories: organic, paid, and “viral” reach.

Typically, an ad’s impressions will be equal to or higher than the same ad’s reach. That’s because most social media platforms, like Facebook, show an ad multiple times to a part of the ad’s target audience. This is a positive for companies, as it drives brand awareness and ensures that your content is delivered to the intended audience.


Engagement is perhaps the most meaningful metric of the three. It refers to the way the user engages with your content, and tracking engagement means tracking actions such as:

  • Clicking on a website advertisement
  • Sharing a blog post on social media
  • Commenting underneath a piece of content
  • Clicking on the “Shop Now” button on an Instagram story
  • Liking a TikTok

Engagement is the only metric that directly measures the way the user behaves towards the content. With impressions and reach, you can see that people have seen your ad, but you aren’t able to gauge their reaction to it—these metrics measure exposure. However, they don’t give you any feedback on whether that exposure was perceived as good or bad. 

On the other hand, engagement shows you how people are responding to your advertisement methods. It enables you to gather feedback on which ads are working and which aren’t so that you can improve your strategy in the future. 

Which Metric Should You Focus On? 

Regardless of whether you’re a professional marketer managing multiple clients and employees or a specialist focusing on one digital or influencer marketing campaign, tracking all three of these metrics is critical. Here’s why: 

  • Impressions specify the number of times your content has been delivered to someone’s feed. A good impressions rate means that your ad is being distributed properly.
  • Reach helps you understand more about your target audience’s size and responsiveness.
  • Engagement shows you the number of interactions people have had with a piece of your content, making it easy for you to figure out whether your content is relevant (and your audience, receptive) or not. 

While some argue that engagement is the most important metric to measure, understanding them all is key to seeing the whole picture. 

Closing Words

If you see drastic negative changes in your impressions, reach, or engagement, that will clearly indicate that something’s not working correctly and needs another look. Setting goals before launching campaigns and keeping track of these KPIs during campaigns is essential for calculating ROI and will help you better understand how to market to your audience.

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