Impressions are one of those often shared-and-touted but less often fully understood social media metrics. We aim to demystify impressions because really understanding them means you can really put those numbers to work for you and your brand. So with that in mind, we want to break down the different types of impressions plus how you can use that information to improve your impressions ratio.
Got questions or something we missed? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.
Understand the difference between potential and actual impressions
When we recently announced our new Twitter engagement metrics we brought up the concept of the “efficiency ratio”, or comparing your potential and actual impressions to see how effective your tweets are. The gap between these two numbers is what you need to work to close in order to have more “efficient” tweets; that is, tweets that resonate with your audience because they’re valuable to them in some way. (That can mean different things for different brands, but it’s usually a mixture of being informative, entertaining or otherwise useful.)
As we’ve written before, we measure two types of impressions on Twitter: Potential impressions and actual impressions. Potential impressions measure the total number of views possible – how many timelines a tweet could have appeared in, but that’s only if everyone was around to see your posts and didn’t scroll past fast enough that they missed the actual content. Actual impressions measure how many views your Tweets did receive – how many sets of actual eyeballs landed on your posts. Both measures include any retweets and replies your tweet received.
Why does this matter? Why not just concentrate on the actual eyeballs that landed on your content? In doing that you’re missing a big part of engagement: How much more engagement you could potentially be getting. Don’t get discouraged if your potential impressions are much bigger than your actual impressions. That’s normal.
Typically, you can expect to see impression rates in the single digits when you look at actual impressions as a percentage of potential impressions – usually somewhere from 1-8%. Most Tweets will generate fewer than 10% of potential impressions. So if your actual impressions are 15-20% (or rarely, even higher) of potential impressions, you’ve generated higher-than-normal engagement. Conversely, if your actual impressions are 1% or less of potential impressions, you’ve generated lower-than-normal engagement. This will vary from account to account, especially if you have lots of followers.
One important caveat: You can never completely close this gap; your customers would not appreciate A Clockwork Orange approach to your content marketing (i.e. physically forcing them to consume it with their eyeballs). But you can still work on it and that should improve things for your brand overall.
How? We’re glad you asked.
(And if you want more reading on impressions before you move onto the how, see our post Why potential impressions and actual impressions both matter on Twitter and bookmark Everything you need to know about Twitter impressions for quick future reference.)
How to work on closing the gap
This is where a social content audit comes in handy. Look at your best-performing, most-engaging tweets and tease out the elements they have in common. You want to do more of what’s working and less of what’s not. This helps you find things to test in your content calendar going forward.
Measurement is an obvious part of this; using things like our tweet detail report make it a lot simpler.
The point is that you want to catch more eyeballs and keep them interested in continuing to catch the content your brand is presenting. Top Replies, for example, helps you pay close attention to which kinds of tweets generate more responses- positive or negative- tells you what your audience wants to talk about. Are you answering them in the right ways? How can you improve your answers?
You can also see Top Retweets, which are the top retweeters sorted by impressions generated, based on how many followers each account had at the time of the retweet. Also pay attention to the time the retweet happened; this helps identify inflection points in a conversation’s trajectory. It’s typical for most retweets to happen in the first 30-60 minutes, meaning you can tweet again after an hour or two to catch other followers who may have missed it the first time around.
Use this along with the responses chart to find out when a conversation died down to know when it’s okay to post again. If you’ve authenticated your Twitter account, the tweet detail report gives you even more information to work with. You can find a full breakdown here, including how to authenticate if you haven’t. (You’ll want to do that in order to access all of our engagement metrics!)
If you’re not currently using our analytics to access the tweet detail report and want to get started, let us know. We’re always happy to help!
And we’ll have a lot more in the coming weeks.