What is an impression and how does that compare in e-mail marketing, social media marketing, and Pay Per Click?
As marketing technologies continue to evolve and grow in numbers, there is an increasing amount of ways to track outreach efforts ranging from traditional advertising to the most abstract avenues. Of those outreach data groups, impressions are often the most misunderstood as across different media, people interact with messages differently.
In a broad sense, an impression can be defined as any interaction with a piece of content by an audience member. Using this simple definition, examples of impressions include a driver noticing a billboard just off the highway, or a shopper seeing a sign in a storefront window. To the driver or the shopper, they are observing their surroundings- to the brand they're seeing, they are becoming a potential customer- a point enforced by the payment structure of most forms of advertising- Cost Per Thousand, which is based on the number of people who will likely be exposed to a given ad.
As mentioned, impressions are slightly more abstract than metrics like engagement or following. Because an impression does not necessarily equal an interaction, there is a more varied base of data that needs to be looked at when determining the overall number of times a piece of content was viewed. For example, points like number of opens, number of listeners, number of drivers, and many more can be tracked in order to arrive at the most accurate conclusions possible.
An impression as it relates to e-mail marketing looks at data like the number of opens a certain e-mail has had. For example, if an e-mail detailing an offer a company is giving to a list of prospective customers is sent, the number of impressions made is the same as the amount of people who have opened the e-mail. Having opened the e-mail does not necessarily mean they will take them up on their offer, but they have at the very least read the subject line or have seen the company name. Driving engagement statistics like clicks, which generally come after an impression is made, requires pointed, relevant content.
Impression data on social media reflects the amount of people who were exposed to the content you've shared. Because different social media channels like Facebook have begun using algorithms which present each user with the news items most relevant to them, the number of impressions a piece of content makes is no longer directly related to the number of 'likes' on your business page or the number of followers you have. Thankfully, the growing number of technologies at your fingertips has resulted in most applications with large user-bases incorporating their own insight functions to even free accounts. For instance, Facebook and Twitter both have options which allow the manager of a page to view the impressions a certain post has had among many other values.
For PPC, the number of times your advertisement appears on Google or other search engines is equal to your impression share. A common misconception with PPC is that the number of impressions you will have is related to the amount of money you've spent. As search engines change, their algorithms are constantly combing for the most optimized advertisements to place in front of their users. As a result, producing advertisements rich in keywords that have been A/B tested will prevail.
Because interactions are not a given if an impression is made, it is increasingly important for marketers to find ways to produce content that is optimized for each media they are sending their message across. To this point, per Invespcro, the average person is served over 1,700 banner advertisements per month, but only half of them are ever viewed. This is a result in neglecting to optimize the content within those banners ads in order to grab the attention of a specific audience.