Global ad spend doubles as brands shift budgets to social

Jan 20, 2021 | Content marketing, Instagram, Online advertising, Online video, Social

Global ad spend doubles as brands shift budgets to social
Global social media ad spend increased by 50.3% in the final quarter of last year compared to Q4 2019, but brand interactions fell by 5.4% on Facebook and 6.3% on Instagram as video ad costs continue to rise, according to new research.

The latest Q4 trends report from Socialbakers, the leading social media marketing platform, has shown that despite the continuing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, global social media ad spend skyrocketed during the last quarter of 2020. This indicates marketers are continuing to see the effectiveness of these digital channels.

Other key findings include:

  • Global social media ad spend doubled in Q4 2020, increasing by 50.3% compared to Q4 2019
  • CPC rises 35.6% globally, and in the UK, CPC in December 2020 almost reached the same levels of the same time last year
  • Instagram dominates Facebook in audience size – Instagram’s audience grew by 11.3%, and Facebook’s audience size fell by 17.6% year-over-year in Q4 2020
  • Globally, brand interactions fell by 5.4% on Facebook and 6.3% on Instagram
  • Video popularity, ad costs continue to rise – video accounted for 17.9% of all posts on Instagram, and 18.1% of all posts on Facebook, in Q4 2020
  • Influencer posts using #ad drop 17.6% globally, and 25.4% in the UK

“Brands dramatically increased their investment in social media advertising in Q4. At its Q4 peak, worldwide ad spend increased by 50.3% compared to the holiday peak in Q4 2019,” said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, President, Socialbakers. “In Northern America alone peak spend increased by 92.3%. Doubling down in digital ad spend has become the new normal, as brands work to build lasting relationships with their customers and increase their online sales.”

73% of Ad Spend Goes to Main Feeds

Chart Time Range: October 01, 2020 – December 31, 2020; Sample: 10,420 Facebook Advertising Accounts; Source: Socialbakers data

Facebook Live Nearly Triples the Interactions of Video

Chart Time Range: October 01, 2020 – December 31, 2020; Sample: 145,277 Facebook Brand Pages & 53,347 Instagram Brand Profiles Worldwide; Source: Socialbakers data

Global social media ad spend jumps 50.3%, CPC rises 35.6%

After a strong showing in Q3 2020, global social media ad spend continued its meteoric rise in Q4 with an overall 50.3% increase compared to the same period in 2019. From the perspective of monthly median digital ad buys the rise was even greater, with a 56.2% jump from Q4 2019. Around the world, brands invested in social media ads like never before – including a remarkable 92.3% increase in North America, and a 39.6% increase in Western Europe. This rise was seen across all industries, with Ecommerce ad spend increasing by 24.8% compared to the previous quarter, a figure that represents twice the amount of ad spend from Q1 2020.

These developments were accompanied by a healthy rise in global cost-per-click. Over the course of 2020, CPC for brands on Instagram and Facebook grew by 35.6%, starting at $0.104 and ending at $0.14. In the UK, CPC in December 2020 almost reached the same levels of the same time last year – see chart below.

Instagram dominates Facebook in audience size, engagement

Instagram’s dominance over Facebook continues to expand at an accelerated pace. Instagram’s audience grew by 11.3% while Facebook’s audience size dropped by 17.6% year-over-year in Q4 2020. The audience size of the 50 biggest brand profiles is now 39% larger on Instagram than it is on Facebook. In addition, Instagram had 21x more interactions than Facebook. Similar trends were also found in the UK, with Instagram seeing larger number of followers, greater activity volume and user engagement compared to Facebook – see chart below. This suggests that in the UK, Instagram is a more important channel for marketers to focus their efforts on.

Despite this growing gap in audience size and engagement across the globe, 61.9% of all brand posts were published on Facebook in Q4.
One bright spot for Facebook is that its advertisers can now reach more people. Worldwide, Facebook ad reach increased by 23% in Q4 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. In North America, Facebook ad reach increased significantly by 77.5%. Compared to the previous quarter, the sectors that saw the largest increase in ad reach include Alcohol (up 9.9%) and Auto (up 12%).
Interactions dip, but Ecommerce and Facebook make gains

Overall, user engagement with brands dipped slightly in Q4 2020 compared to Q4 2019. Worldwide, brand interactions fell by 5.4% on Facebook and 6.3% on Instagram. However, there were some success stories in this category. In North America, Facebook achieved an 11% rise in interactions while Instagram decreased by 10%, year over year. The Ecommerce sector also made gains in engagement with a 14.4% increase in interactions on Instagram and a 1% rise on Facebook, year over year.

In the UK, the Ecommerce sector takes up 31.6% of the total interactions of Brands pages on Facebook, whereas on Instagram, the Fashion category takes up the largest share, 32.4%.

Video popularity, ad costs continue to rise

The use of video content on social media channels continued to rise in Q4. Video posts on Twitter jumped by 26.7% from the previous quarter. Compared to the same period in 2019, video posts increased by 4.6% on Facebook and by 5.9% on Instagram. Video accounted for 17.9% of all posts on Instagram, and 18.1% of all posts on Facebook, in Q4 2020.

The popularity and competitiveness of the video format is also driving a significant increase in video ad costs. In Q4 2020, Facebook Instream Video advertising fees increased by 216.8% in CPC and 247.2% in CPM compared to Q4 2019.

In terms of format, Facebook Live was by far the most engaging type of post on that platform in Q4 2020. It delivered 2.8 times more interactions compared to images, and 3.25 times more interactions compared to regular video content. This is in line with trends seen in the UK, where Live Video performs the best with 28 median post interactions, which is 18 more than the 2nd highest post type, Photo.

The increasing popularity of Live Video content and the momentum around Live Shopping experiences highlights just how important social media is as a revenue generation tool. Live shopping is already a megatrend with the Gen Z in China and it’s rapidly gaining traction with brands and consumers in the West.

Influencer posts using #ad drop 17.6% globally, and 25.4% in the UK

Despite the steep rise in global ad spend, brands appeared to scale back their use of Instagram influencers for paid ads in Q4. Overall, influencers using #ad dropped by 17.6% year over year, and just over a quarter in the UK, 25.4% – see chart below. While there was still an overall increase for the holidays, it didn’t reach the level of the previous year.

In Q4 2020, the top influencers mentioning brands on Instagram included Ilzy Sousa from Brazil, Fiona from Germany, Sissy Sheridan from the US, and Matt Bernstein from the US.

“If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught brands, it’s the importance of social media to reach and engage with their audiences. Not only does social media enable businesses to engage with audiences at scale and extend their reach beyond a specific geographic area, it also provides consumers with 24/7 access to the brands they love,” added Ben-Itzhak. “Looking back at what we learned in 2020, digital will clearly remain the focus for brands in 2021. Today’s consumer is online and brands need to future proof their business by focusing on giving each customer an outstanding end-to-end experience in the digital world if they want to grow their brand loyalty and impact their bottom line.”

The Socialbakers’ Social Media Trends Report Q4 2020 is now available for download here.

Report Methodology

Quarterly Industry Reports reflect the state of Socialbakers’ database at the beginning of the quarter following the quarter of the reports. The data is pulled only once and is not updated between releases. Minimum threshold for the report to be generated is 50 Profiles on Instagram and 50 Pages on Facebook for the given region and category combination. When the combination for a specific slide does not meet the threshold, data for a broader area is provided instead if possible.

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