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Social Media is full of data. Some of that data is more useful than other data. One metric that social media users ask us about a lot is impressions particularly for Twitter. An impression as defined by Wikipedia is "a measure of the number of times an ad is displayed, whether it is clicked on or not. In social media the impression has taken on a new meaning: the opportunity for a user to have seen the message. Note that I say the opportunity not the actual viewing of something.

There are a number of tools out there that provide Impressions metrics. This is a metric that until recently was provided by Facebook. Facebook has some very detailed tracking systems in it's platform that allow it to provide an accurate measure of not just the potential viewers but users who actually saw your post if they weren't scrolling too fast through their newsfeed. Facebook has recently transitioned this metric from Impressions (Unique viewers x frequency of views) to Reach (Unique viewers). This a more solid metric even though Facebook's detailed tracking systems allowed them to truly track impressions it was skewed by repeat visits to Facebook pages by admins and fans alike.

Impressions on Twitter is something I worry about when I hear it used as a valid metric or as any kind of measure of success. Twitter 'Impressions' are more like potential reach. Twitter doesn't do tracking or measurement of this statistic itself. External tools do. The external tools that currently measure this metric assume that 100% of a user's Twitter followers view a tweet. This is so far from the reality of Twitter.

In this scenario if John has 20,000 followers and he retweets my message and I have 20 followers the Twitter Impressions are reported by these tools as 20,020 'Impressions'. In reality probably less than 1% of those followers even had the chance to see the message. Note that I said 'chance' there not that they saw the message. They had the 'chance' to see it; less than 1% of them had the chance. The impressions on a message like this in reality is much closer to around 100-200. The 20,020 number is potential reach and not impressions.

It is for these reasons that at this time I am recommending that organizations do not pursue, report or rely on this statistic to tell them anything useful beyond the potential reach of a given message.

Other posts on this:
http://www.newmanpr.com/2011/08/24/twitter-impressions-can-impress-but-actually-mean-little/
http://blog.stanzr.com/2011/07/why-tweet-impressions-and-reach-may-be-the-most-meaningless-numbers-in-social-media-chats/

Let me know if I can provide more information
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Cadi Jordan's profile photoKelvin Claveria's profile photo
 
Thank you Kemp! Great words to share along!
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