Global Social Media Ad Spend Soars, Signaling Brand Confidence in Digital Channels During the COVID-19

Despite ongoing turbulence of COVID-19, many brands are doubling down on their investment in social media ad spend, according to new Q3 2020 Social Media Trends Report

Socialbakers, the leading social media marketing platform, released a comprehensive report on Social Media Trends for Q3 2020. The report reveals that despite a turbulent three quarters of COVID-related challenges in 2020, social media ad spend rose sharply in Q3 to pre-pandemic levels, led by increased investment in e-commerce ads. The Socialbakers data signals a healthy trust among marketers in the effectiveness of digital channels. Other insights from the report include the regions and industries which are showing the strongest ad spend recovery, a significant global increase in cost-per-click (CPC), a shift in audience attention to digital channels, and the rise of Facebook Live and longer videos as top-performing formats.

“More than ever, today’s consumers are digitally grounded. The rapid shift towards digital presents both a challenge and an opportunity for brands. Socialbakers’ Q3 social media ad spend data shows us that savvy brands are doubling down their investment in advertising across Facebook and Instagram,” said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, President, Socialbakers. “In North America alone brands have invested 61% more in Q3 than they did in Q2, largely due to confidence returning as consumers spend more time engaging and purchasing online.”

Global social media ad spend soars 56.4% in Q3 2020

Compared to Q2, worldwide social media ad spend increased by 56.4% last quarter. That makes the Q3 global spend average nearly double what it was during the lowest point of the pandemic in late March. The largest increase took place in North America, where ad spend increased by 61.7%. Other regions with big increases included Central America (up 55.6%) and Western Europe (up 50.4%). The average industry ad spend increased by 38.9% in Q3, with large jumps from FMCG Food (up 61.3%), Auto (up 59.4%), Finance (up 35.3%) and Ecommerce (up 27.5%).

Looking across all brands, ad spend was 27.6% higher in Q3 compared to the same period last year, according to Socialbakers data. Overall, 2020 ad spend dropped below 2019 levels in the early pandemic months of March and April, but in May it surpassed the previous year and remained ahead through Q3.

CPC reaches its highest point since 2019

The worldwide cost-per-click increased by 42.4% in Q3, compared to where it was at the end of June. At $0.168, global CPC is now at its highest point since the end of 2019. Among the regions that saw significant CPC increases were Latin America (up 44.8%), Western Europe (up 30.8%) and North America (up 19.5%). For all brand accounts, CPC increased by 32.1% to $0.140, which is the highest it has been since December 2019.

Facebook ad reach expands, Instagram continues to dominate

The reach for Facebook ads in North America expanded dramatically by 134.9% in Q3 compared to the same period last year, according to Socialbakers data. Other notable increases in Facebook ad reach were seen in Latin America (up 49.7%), Western Europe (up 31.3%) and Central America (up 31.2%). Worldwide, Facebook ad reach increased on average by 12.3%.

Meanwhile, Instagram continued to outperform Facebook in Q3. The audience size of Instagram’s 50 biggest brand profiles was 34.7% larger than that of Facebook. Instagram also generated significantly stronger engagement than Facebook, with 22x more interactions. Despite this, 61.9% of all brand posts in Q3 were published on Facebook.

Daily News and NGOs see major spikes in interactions

As one might expect during the pandemic and elections, the Daily News and NGO industries saw a steep rise in engagement in Q3. Daily News interactions rose 103.3% on Instagram and 57.8% on Facebook, while NGOs interactions rose 112.9% on Facebook and 31.2% on Instagram. Interestingly, Travel industry interactions increased by 60.9% on Facebook, yet decreased by 31.2% on Instagram.

Looking at year-over-year trends, Q3 worldwide interactions on Instagram profile posts increased by 5.4%, while interactions on Facebook profile posts were nearly identical. A notable outlier was the US, where Facebook profile posts increased by 30.7%, and Instagram profile posts decreased by 2.4%.

Facebook Live and longer videos are top performers

In Q3, Facebook Live was by far the most engaging format for that channel. It delivered double the interactions of the video format. On Instagram, carousel posts that can include both images and video were the most engaging format in Q3. Organic interactions across all formats on Instagram showed an increase in Q3. However, on Facebook only Facebook Live showed increased interactions, while other formats remained flat compared to Q2.

When it comes to the overall top-performing formats in terms of both reach and interactions on Facebook, the winners were long and very long videos. The reach was best for very long videos (over 5 minutes) which achieved a 70.4% higher reach than the second best video length (long). However, the performance of very long videos has been declining over the last seven months. In Q3, long videos (over 65.194 seconds but shorter than 5 minutes) had the top performance index at 23.2%.

“If Q3’s insights show us anything, it’s that brands need to make sure they pivot quickly to follow the consumer trends towards digital,” said Ben-Itzhak. “The brands that react quickly today and focus on delivering an outstanding customer experience to their audience online will be the brands that come out on top tomorrow.”