What does ‘reach’ mean on social media?

This post is the first in an ongoing series that explains some of the social media jargon that is thrown around the internet like confetti. Keep an eye out on my Facebook page, as I’ll be teaming each post with a short video to further explain each term.

To first understand reach in the context of social media, it’s good to revisit where the term originated.

Reach is a term that’s really familiar to me. Having worked in ad agencies for over 15 years, I’ve had countless media sales representatives trying to sell me advertising space based on the reach of their publications. A media rep would explain it like this; a magazine prints 100,000 copies and distributes them through various channels (subscribers, newsagents, supermarkets etc). That 100,000 is the circulation or distribution of the magazine. They would then estimate the reach by guessing the number of people who view each copy of that magazine. So they may assume each copy is read at least twice, making the reach 200,000. Make sense? Then you just have to imagine that somewhere in that number is the statistic on how many people actually look at your ad, and then those that actually respond in some way.

So that’s the lottery of reach in print. In social media it is not dissimilar.

Let’s say you have 1,000 followers on Facebook. You post a video and it gets 20 likes but a whopping reach of 3,000. You start jumping up and down with excitement because reach is important right? Well, yes...sort of...

The reach figure you are looking at is the number of unique accounts that have had the opportunity to view your video in one or more of the following circumstances:

  • Appears in their newsfeed and they watch it from start to finish
  • Appears in their newsfeed and they watch a few seconds and move on
  • Appears in their newsfeed because one of their friends likes it (they may or may not then also watch it)
  • Appears in their newsfeed and they scroll past it without paying it any attention
  • Appears in their newsfeed because Facebook is giving videos extra reach at the moment

So reach isn’t the best of the insights. It's really just the potential audience for your content. Therefore don’t get too disheartened if your reach says 3,000 but you don’t get many likes or engagement on the post itself. It doesn’t mean the video is bad. It just means that most of that audience didn’t actually watch it.

Remember, content is king. Create content that engages your audience. Use good headlines to draw them in and don’t get too caught up on the reach statistics - as I said in an earlier blog post, your objective is to get people to make an offline connection with you in some way - sales, booking, or foot traffic to your shop.

If you'd like me to explain something of particular interest to you, send me an email or comment below and I'll put it on my list.