Impressions are the number of times a post has been displayed in a timeline, whether the post is clicked on, or not. In other words, it’s an estimate of how many times people have most likely seen or been exposed to a piece of content. They are a standard reporting metric used within digital marketing and insight teams, and one of the main reasons for this is that this metric is very easy to interpret.
That said, impressions are also one of the more debated metrics in the industry. That’s because the number of potential impressions is always a much more inflated number than the volume of impressions actually delivered (based on the number of people who are online, on a specific channel, at any given time). So, given that the endgame is getting people to see your content, how useful is that potential impressions figure really? To support both these angles, Pulsar provides two metrics, PEI and AEI, and these are available on TRAC and CORE. Let's look at TRAC Impressions first.
TRAC Potential Estimated Impressions (PEI)
Potential Estimated Impressions is the potential amount of times your post has appeared in a timeline giving you an indication of how large your potential audience might be. Simply put, if I have 300 followers, my PEI for that post will be 300. And if I have 300 followers and they all retweet me, then the post will have a PEI of 600 + the total audience size of my 300 followers combined. See how the number starts to get massive? Now imagine someone like @BarackObama with an audience size of 100 million + followers tweeting something - the PEI for that tweet will be insane!
Therefore with impressions it's important to stress that these figures are not unique users, but an estimate on how many times people have most likely seen a piece of content. It helps you answer the question: What is the maximum number of people who could have been exposed to a message?
ON TRAC, Potential Estimated Impressions are calculated by looking at the audience size and the amount of engagements generated by that post. Some channels do not have information on the audience size, like Facebook and Youtube, which makes it hard to give an estimate on the number of impressions.
For a channel like Twitter, we take into account the sum of the author's followers, the sum of all retweeting users' follower, and the number of retweets the post has received.
For channels like Forums, News, Blogs, Reviews, we look at the estimated daily visitor count for those websites, based on Alexa ranking.
For Instagram, this is based on the number of Likes the post has received and then we add a likes multiplier to estimate the audience size, as we do not have follower information from the hashtags APIs, so our multiplier is based on a study that says that for every 1k followers, you get 37 likes on average http://trackmaven.com/blog/2013/09/the-fortune-500-instagram-report/.
For a channel like TikTok, as we have the views, our Impressions figure is based on number of views a video receives.
And for a channel like Reddit, we take into account the no of subreddit subscribers, upvotes, i.e likes and the number of comments.
TRAC Actual Estimated Impressions (AEI)
The AEI metric uses channel specific benchmarks and is calculated as a percentage of PEI, and attempts to predict the actual times a piece of content was delivered to a timeline, so how many times people actually saw a tweet? This percentage is dependent on the average impressions each channel generates. We know that for Instagram it's around 5%, whilst for Twitter it's around 11%. This is a much more desirable option if you are looking to compare or consolidate social data with other data sources as it gives you a much more realistic view of your audience’s behaviour.
CORE Owned Impressions (Displayed with CORE data only)
Owned Impressions simply means that we are collecting the impressions data directly from the platform's insights, and analytics tools e.g Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics and Instagram Insights. We therefore use these insights for reporting impressions on Pulsar CORE. This is why on CORE we always encourage clients to plug in their profiles. By so doing, we are able to get a more accurate reporting on their impressions.
For Non-Plugged in profiles on CORE, AEI is calculated using our proprietary formula using followers, engagements and shares where appropriate. The impressions number will vary depending on the day in question as we use the total followers count at that time.
And one last note on Impressions is that we do not show impressions in real-time but 12 hours after the content has been posted. This is because impressions depend on engagement, so after 12 hours we are able to gather a realistic assessment of the scores taking into account as many engagements as possible.