Why potential impressions and actual impressions both matter on Twitter

If you’ve ever used any Twitter analytics, you’re probably wondering about the difference between types of Twitter impressions. What are potential impressions compared to actual impressions? And why should you care about potential impressions at all? We can answer these questions. Keep reading.

First, some definitions.

Reach represents the size of the potential unique audience. Reach removes duplicates from the calculation to tell you how large your total audience could be.

Impressions is a measure of the total exposure for a conversation. Impressions metrics are typically not de-duplicated, so you’re getting a count of all possible views.

There are two possible variations of Twitter impressions: potential impressions and actual impressions. Potential impressions measure the total number of views possible – how many timelines you showed up in, if everyone was around to see your posts or didn’t scroll quickly past. Actual impressions measure how many views your posts did receive – how many sets of actual eyeballs landed on your posts. (At Union Metrics, we focus on measuring potential impressions in all our Twitter products, including our free snapshot reports, as well as our real-time Twitter monitoring and full social suite.)

The number of actual impressions a tweet receives will always be way lower than the number of potential impressions possible. That’s fine and just how Twitter (and Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr and LinkedIn) works. Exactly how much lower will vary, but typically you can expect your actual impressions to be somewhere between 1% and 20% of your potential impressions on Twitter.

So why should you care about potential impressions at all?

If you don’t know how many potential impressions your tweets could have generated, you’ll have no way of contextualizing your actual impressions to know how well your tweets are performing. Understanding the ratio between actual impressions and potential impressions will tell you how many people you’re missing. Why aren’t your tweets reaching more of your potential audience?

To truly understand the effectiveness of your tweets, you need to know how many actual impressions you generated relative to how many potential impressions you could have.

To take it a step further, dig into the data about your tweets. Ask yourself:

  • What tweets get the most impressions? Why?
  • What tweets get the fewest impressions? Why?

What can you learn from looking at the differences? Are there particular characteristics that your higher-impression tweets have in common? What about the lower-impression tweets?

A few areas you could improve:

  • When you tweet. Are you tweeting when your audience is paying attention? Are you getting lost in the noise? Try posting at different times to see what works best for your content.
  • How often you tweet. Are you tweeting too often or not often enough? Are you posting important things more than once? Try changing your cadence and sharing the key messages multiple times.
  • What hashtags, if any, you include in your tweets. Finding the right hashtags to reach the right audience will improve the impact of your tweets. Try experimenting with a few different hashtags to see what kind of engagement you get.
  • How many followers you have. Who are they? Are they real people? Are you gaining or losing followers? Of course, the more followers you have, the more potential impressions you generate. But are they the right followers for your content? Are you posting things they’re interested in? Do a quick follower audit to see who you follow, and find some people to follow back.
  • How you engage with others. Do you mention other accounts in your tweets? Do you post a lot of replies or stick more to public tweets? If you do engage with others, you’ll likely generate more actual impressions than simply broadcasting. Try to mix it up and post a variety of different kinds of tweets.
  • How others engage with you. Are you getting any retweets? The best way to boost your impressions – actual and potential – is to get your posts amplified by others. Are you creating the kinds of content people want to share?

When it comes to Twitter impressions, measuring potential impressions is just as important as measuring actual impressions. Be sure you’re monitoring both so you can fully understand how your content is performing on Twitter.

You can run a free Twitter snapshot report here for quick analytics on your Twitter account or any hashtags or keywords you’re interested in. And if you need more, we have the industry’s best real-time Twitter analytics, available as part of the multi-channel Union Metrics Social Suite or on their own through TweetReach by Union Metrics.

Try a free TweetReach snapshot report to analyze any Twitter hashtag, account or keywords.