JUL. 17, 2019
Several days after posting on your wall, you notice your engagement to be as barren as the Atacama desert. With all the talk about Facebook’s News Feed becoming more competitive and overpopulated, requiring users to pay to play, you begin to wonder how many people saw your post, if anyone saw it at all. It’s entirely possible that your post has been pushed so far down people’s feeds that no one had the chance to see it.
Although Facebook discloses the number of reactions, shares, and comments your post receives, the social media company doesn’t tell you how often your content appears to users’ screens—unless you’re running a paid ad through a business account.
Facebook defines an impression simply as ‘the number of times your ads were on screen.’
If you’re a Facebook page owner boosting posts or an advertiser running ads, you have access to a metric called impressions, one among Facebook’s many metrics that measure the success of your ads on the platform. Facebook defines impressions simply as “the number of times your ads were on screen.” Seems simple enough, no? On the contrary, the Facebook impressions metric is more complicated than the nine-worded explanation the company provides.
Although Facebook’s definition is accurate, it isn’t thorough. Yes, as the company explained, the impressions metric measures the number of times your ad appeared on a user’s screen. For example, if you scrolled through your feed and saw an ad from the Hollywood Pantages, Facebook would record that as one impression because the ad appeared to your screen once. If you scrolled back to view the Pantages ad a second time, Facebook would still record that as one impression because impressions are only recorded for each page load.
For Facebook to count another impression, the page must refresh. If you entered your feed, scrolled through a few posts, saw an ad from the Pantages, closed your browser, opened a new browser to visit your Facebook feed once again, then saw the same ad from the Pantages, Facebook would count that view as two impressions because the page—by closing and opening it—refreshed. The same goes for the app: close it, open it again, and seeing the ad for the second time would count as two impressions. As you can probably deduce, one person can often be the trigger for several impressions.
Because Facebook counts impressions as the number of times the ad appears on the screen, you don’t have to click, react, or comment on the post for the impression to count. This is the same for video impressions. In fact, the video doesn’t have to play for Facebook to count it as an impression.
As earlier mentioned, Facebook doesn’t count impressions that occurred without a page load. Facebook also won’t count an impression if it comes from invalid traffic, such as a bot. For this reason, you never have to worry about internet bots spoiling your impressions data.
What’s the Importance of Impressions in Facebook Advertising?
As a Facebook advertiser, you will often use the impressions metric to monitor the performance of your paid campaigns, to determine whether your audience is seeing your ad.
In Facebook advertising, the impressions metric helps you determine whether your target audience is seeing your ads, whether the ad has the potential to reap the desired conversions. After all, how can you expect an ad to generate sales when the audience of that ad doesn’t see it in the first place? Before you can get a conversion, whether that’s engagement or purchases, you must first get your ad seen.
When running Facebook ads, impressions may rise and fall. Rising impressions indicate an ad that has been optimized for the platform and the audience. Plummeting impressions should give you pause because it signals the audience isn’t seeing the ad. A remedy is changing the targeting and the objective of the campaign then testing to see if performance improves. Of course, you should also be wary of too-high impressions because that could be a precursor to ad fatigue, a phenomenon in which users ignore or overlook the ad because they have seen it too often. Changing the creative and target audience also remedies the ad fatigue users experience.
Which Metrics Are Closely Related to Impressions?
When you monitor impressions, you will also monitor closely related metrics that, when analyzed together, provide a holistic view of your campaign’s performance. For example, high impressions may seem as though an ad is performing well, but if your CPM (cost per impression) is also high, you will find that your ad is not performing so well after all. When looking at impressions, you must also look at your CPMs, reach, and frequency.
A CPM, or cost per impression, is a metric that measures the average cost per 1,000 impressions. An ad’s CPM tells you how much you’re spending for each 1,000 impressions you’re gaining. This is a common metric that helps you gauge the cost-effectiveness of your ad campaigns. For example, if the cost to gain 1,000 impressions is exorbitant, then it would be a good idea to target the right audience (you don’t want to show ads to users who are indifferent to your offer or product), create an attractive offer, or create attention-grabbing images or videos.
Reach is a metric that you may confuse with impressions. Facebook defines reach as “the total number of people who see your content.”
While impressions measures the number of times your ad appears to users, reach measures the number of unique users who have seen your ad. For example, if you saw an ad three times on your feed, Facebook will show the ad’s impressions to be three and reach to be one since only one person—you—saw the ad three times. If, however, two people saw the ad, then the reach would be two. Often, the number of reach is smaller than the number of impressions.
Frequency is the average number of times each user saw your ad, which Facebook calculates by dividing your number of impressions by the number of reach:
Formula: impressions / reach = frequency
For example, if your number of impressions is 100 and your number of reach is 70, then your frequency is 1.4:
100 / 70 = 1.4
You will monitor frequency to determine whether your audience is seeing your ad too often. An underperforming ad with rising frequency is a sign that the audience is experiencing ad fatigue. Remedying this involves changing the ad creative or targeting.
What’s the Difference Between Instagram Impressions and Facebook Impressions?
Because Facebook owns Instagram and because advertising for each platform is done in the same dashboard, the impressions metric on Instagram is calculated similarly to the impressions metric on Facebook. However, unlike Facebook, Instagram gives access to impressions for organic Stories and feed posts. To view them, you must have an Instagram business account. To view your Stories impressions, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Click “More” on the bottom right corner of your Story.
Step 2: Click the graph icon to access your analytics then scroll down to “Impressions.”
The Stories impressions metric is the number of times users viewed your story. For example, if you viewed AdvertiseMint’s story, moved on to another account’s story, tapped left to view AdvertiseMint’s story again, the impression would be two for you, since you watched the story twice. In this case, the page-load rule doesn’t apply.
To view the impressions of your feed posts, you must do the following:
Step 1: Click “View Insights.”
Step 2: Swipe up on the Insights bar.
Step 3: Scroll to “Impressions.”
Facebook’s metrics, such as the impressions metric, are necessary to understand the performance of your ad campaigns. As you run your ads, always remember to check their performance and make the necessary changes should they begin to underperform.
Written by Anne Felicitas, writer & editor