Reach in media, advertising and digital marketing

We explain what reach is in marketing, show how to calculate the average reach and discuss the challenges of measurement

Average reach calculator

What is reach in media and marketing?

In advertising, media and marketing, reach is the number of unique users you have exposed your ad to. In digital marketing, this can refer to the number of unique users reached in a digital campaign, not the total number of impressions delivered.

Reach is usually accompanied by frequency: while reach will tell you how many users you have hit, frequency tells you how many times that user was hit on average.

The metric was defined in media for television campaigns, whereby the TV planner/buyer would define a % reach of a target audience (e.g. 16-34 adults) at a specific frequency. As digital media increases in stature and size, the terminology has been adapted and re-defined.

While within the digital sphere, reach and frequency is becoming easier to measure, there is still a lot to go in terms of de-duplicating reach across the walled gardens (e.g. Google, Amazon and Facebook) and across devices. This means while reach is becoming more accurate, it is not 100% possible yet to give a true representation of how many users have been exposed and reached during a campaign.

Reach is a metric that can be pulled in many reporting tools of ad servers and DSP platforms.

Average reach formula

To calculate the average reach (please note this simply gives a top-line average view of how many users you have reached), you will need the following metrics:

  1. Impressions delivered
  2. Frequency


Organic reach in Facebook and other social media platforms

Organic reach refers to the level or proportion of users you will reach if you post a social media post to your followers without any paid advertising support. The organic reach extends and increases the more the originally reached users engage and share the posts with their followers, thus the potential for organic reach is incredibly powerful if the content spreads. It is part of earned media for brands and publishers.

Organic reach on Facebook and other platforms used to be far higher than it is today. A publisher, user or brand could post an organic post and reach a large number of users without having to boost it with marketing spend. After changes in their algorithms, Facebook and other social platforms have now reduced this substantially and is now putting more pressure on publishers and brands to spend more on boosting the post rather than getting it for free (or earned media).

While its potential has declined over the years, posting organically still has its strengths. Here is a great blog post from Hootsuite that summarises how to tackle decreasing organic reach on Facebook and other social media platforms.

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