Social media reach’s overrated

I’ve made numerous PPC campaigns in social media and while I was usually able to set my very own KPIs. Since I happen to work in the video game industry, I usually went with conversions, which makes a lot of sense. However, I’ve done some campaigns which were only all about the reach. I didn’t quite enjoy them and here’s why.

What is reach?

Reach is basically a count of views obtained bo a set piece of content in a measured timespan. There are many types of reach, but let’s stick to two most important – organic and paid. Organic reach usually stands for how many people managed to see the piece of content in an unpaid way, be it by being displayed on their feed, by visiting your social media profiles, from organic shares and all the other stuff like that. Paid reach, though, usually stands for how many times the paid piece of content was shown in the ways you had specified while creating a campaign.

What’s the purpose of reach?

Reach is absolutely crucial for social media content. The more you have it, he more people will see your brand and potentially, the more will decide to partake in its activities, by either reacting your posts, sharing them, providing purchases etc. Of course, your content needs to be decently crafted in order to engage them, but that’s a whole other topic. However, reach is not the holy grail of social media advertisement and shouldn’t be pursued at all costs all the time. And it makes for a pretty awful KPI in most manners.

About as awful as Robert Mateja. That’s a grave insult in Poland.
Why do I think that reach’s not the best possible metric?

I recall a particular campaign I’ve created when I worked at an esports agency. I was tasked with making a brand awareness campaign, which would count into reaching our goal, which was achieving a set number of a partner’s logo. The partner is a big company and the campaign was a part of our promotional efforts for an esports league. Reach was the main objective, because it was pretty much impossible to precisely measure sales conversions – there were too many proxies – the league itself, influencers, social media profiles we were in charge of… So it made sense.

However, it’s rarely the case. When I was a part of a student organisation, one of the people responsible for conducting PPC campaigns in social media has provided a report on a particular campaign during a general assembly of members of the organisation. The main objective of the campaign was, if I remember correctly, to help a recruitment process aimed at the students of the university I was attending at the time. It had about 3000-7000 students at the time. And the person mentioned in the report that “more than 70000 people were reached by the ad”.

This was an enlightening moment for me, because I realized that all of the reach didn’t matter at all. The recruitment process turned out to be underwhelming at best.

A random university, I guess. Definitely not the one I was studying at back then.

Ad campaigns need to have a precise purpose, be it an increase in sales or gaining leads. I believe that we all can agree that anyone would rather have a $1000 campaign with a reach of 50000 and 3% conversion rate than a $10000 campaign with a reach of 500000 and a 0,5% conversion rate. The first scenario would provide 1500 conversions, while the other, being 10 times as expensive, would provide 2500 new customers. Multiply the first one by 2 and you already reached 3000 conversions (I know this doesn’t exactly work this way, but you get the point; optimizing campaigns is also a fine ideas for a post, though). Reach in this case is nothing but a number of missed opportunities, people who saw your ad and didn’t care. Sure, brand exposure is nice, but delivering sales, or whatever the objective is, is nicer. 

A random graph I found. Professional blogs tend to have graphs and stock photos, so here’s a stock graph.

By the way, I find more focused campaigns to be more satisfying in the end, because increasing reach is mostly a matter of throwing money at social media providers and even a partially blind 17th century pirate with no knowledge of modern world could do this.

In conclusion – reach is important, but don’t let it be your main goal, unless necessary. Be smart about it and don’t get too overwhelmed by getting higher and higher reach, if it’s not the objective. Reach should rather be one of the means of achieving what is set before you and your company.


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