Changes to consumer lifestyles and the continued digitisation of commerce and entertainment have made a major impact on social media since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this regularly updated stats roundup, we include figures on ad spend, platform usage and consumer behaviour, to help add some context to social media trends.

Global ad spend on Facebook and Instagram grew 43% year-on-year in Q3 2021

Global ad spend across Facebook and Instagram is soaring in the wake of the pandemic, according to new data found in Emplifi’s State of Social Media and CX Q3 2021 report. Analysis indicates that combined spend on these platforms grew by 43% year-on-year during Q3 2021, matching the peak seen in 2020’s golden quarter.

The report notes that if this trend continues, marketers will likely spend record amounts during the fourth quarter of this year, a three-month period which historically sees the highest investment in social advertising in the lead up to the holidays.

These latest spending figures sit well above the rate of investment seen before the pandemic in 2019. In the third quarter of 2019, spend by advertisers reached nearly $600 million in total, before rising to over $700 million in the same quarter of 2020 and even further to almost $1 billion in 2021. While some of this investment can be attributed to a bounce-back for the advertising sector in the wake of Covid-19, it points to a rapid shift toward social-first strategy that would likely have occurred regardless, albeit on a lesser scale.

TikTok expected to surpass 1.5 billion users in 2022

Predictions from App Annie’s 2022 Mobile Forecast Report suggest TikTok could surpass 1.5 billion monthly active users next year as interest in the app remains heightened in the wake of the pandemic. According to data, TikTok has been one of the fastest growing social apps of all time, set to reach the lofty figure in as little as 34 quarters since launch. Much of this, of course, has been driven by increased and consistent engagement throughout the confines of home during consecutive coronavirus lockdowns worldwide.

In 2021, TikTok has grown at a much faster rate than its closest rivals, even though it was banned in one of its largest markets – India – partway through the previous year. “TikTok will continue as a disruptive and genre-blending force in 2022 as they expand their investment in shopping,” the report states. While other apps like Instagram are also focusing on social commerce, TikTok’s rapidly growing audience may prove to be an advantage that others can’t match.

Meanwhile, Pinterest will likely reach the 1 billion download milestone by the close of the year after seeing a wave of new users interacting with its app over the Covid crisis. Consumers in Brazil and other LATAM markets have been credited for driving much of 2021’s additional growth.

Sixty percent of US B2B marketers now use Instagram, up from 30% in 2020

A summer 2021 report from US advertising agency SageFrog has found sixty percent of B2B marketers in the region now use Instagram as part of their marketing mix. This figure is up from just 30% reported mid-way through 2020, demonstrating the power social media advertising, particularly that which is image and video-based, has had throughout the pandemic. As remote work and business continues, it is evident B2B brands are investing in Instagram and other (perhaps typically neglected) social platforms to connect with their employees and potential customers in new and creative ways.

Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn remained the most implemented social platform by the B2B companies surveyed and has been used by 86% of these brands in the past year. Seventy-nine percent also use Facebook, ranking it second, while a further 60% regularly use Twitter for their marketing communications. Aside from Instagram’s recent rise in popularity amongst this demographic, YouTube has also gained traction, with an additional 20% of respondents using the platform compared to last year, bringing the current total to 56%.

Marketing spend across other channels jumped in this year in comparison to 2020’s recordings. In particular, branding has become a more highly-prioritised area of investment, with 27% of respondents increasing their spend in this area for 2021 versus 17% in 2020. Combined with a similar uplift in spend on marketing and sales collateral, this indicates brands are pivoting their products and services to keep up with heightened longer-term demand borne from Covid-19.

Social CPM grew 41% year-on-year in Q2 2021

Data from Skai reveals global social CPM grew 41% year-on-year in Q2 2021 to an average of $6.37, after an equally large uptick in social advertising spend from brands. This is one of the highest costs per thousand impressions recorded in the last year, second only to 2020’s Q4 which reached $6.77.

Total social ad spend rose 41% on the same quarter a year before – the most badly-affected period throughout the pandemic – but increased just 3% on a quarter-on-quarter basis. Meanwhile, ad spend on campaigns designed to grow brand awareness, traffic and reach shot up 114%, driven by a 62% increase in CPM, demonstrating a shift away from campaigns that target direct action from consumers. Skai posits this new trend could have been largely caused by the introduction of iOS 14.5, which has made it much more difficult for marketers to successfully serve iOS users with targeted ads.

Despite the added cost for marketers, the overall number of social impressions remained flat year-on-year, although impressions for brand awareness, traffic and reach campaigns grew by almost one-third due to increased marketing efforts in this area.

This and other datasets on social advertising trends have informed WARC’s latest forecasts. It predicts total social advertising spend will grow by 10% as of the end of 2021, rising further to 12% in 2022.

Growth rate of Facebook MAUs and ad revenue continues to slow as life returns to ‘normal’

Facebook’s Q3 2021 financial statement shows the growth rate of Monthly Active Users (MAUs) on Facebook continues to slow, rising just 6% on the same period the year before to hit 2.9 billion. This marks the third consecutive quarter of decline for the metric, following a boost to engagement during the first wave of the pandemic in spring and summer 2020.

Family Monthly Active People (MAP) grew 12% year-on-year, matching the rate of growth reported a quarter earlier in Q2 2021, and indicating engagement remains stable across Facebook’s wider offering of social and messaging apps.

Despite a gradual decline in Facebook usership, total ad revenue rose by 33% over the three months to September, it remains several percentage points above pre-pandemic levels of growth. While, again, this third quarter figure represents a slowdown from the 50%+ figures revealed in Q2, this is in line with the company’s expectations that it would “decelerate significantly on a sequential basis as we lap periods of increasingly strong growth.”

It is yet unclear how much of this slowdown can be attributed to the consequences of Apple’s ATT versus a stabilisation of the ad market since global reopening began. However, the company has released a cautious outlook for its fourth quarter and full year financials “in light of continued headwinds” from ATT, as well as “macroeconomic and COVID-related factors”.

Pinterest now sees more than 5 billion searches every month on its platform

In a May 2021 blog post, SVP Products at Pinterest, Naveen Gavini revealed that the social app now sees more than 5 billion searches on its platform every month, spurred on by an increase in activity throughout the pandemic.

This figure is up from an average 2 billion searches per month in 2016 – or a 150% increase – according to Social Media Today. The number of searches per Pinner, according to analysis, has increased 31% year-on-year for those in the Gen Z age category, while the overall number of searches made by this demographic rose 96%. Furthermore, product searches on the platform jumped more than 20x at the end of Q1 2021 compared to the same period the year before.

These results are reflective of a sharp increase in Monthly Active Users over the past year, up 30% to 478 million by the first quarter of 2021 as consumers found themselves with more time to search for inspiration and for their next online purchase.

As the world begins to open up again, “searches for outfits, vacations, and home renovations are at all-time highs, and searches for weddings have presumed pre-pandemic levels”, Gavini explained. Indeed, data Pinterest released in April 2021 shows searches for ‘vacations’ rose 75% in March 2021, three times faster than the average search volume for the month across the last 2 years. Meanwhile, there was an 85% increase in searches for ‘outfits’ April compared to April 2020, and interest in ‘home renovation’ in Q1 2021 was 65% higher than in Q1 2019.

TikTok added more than 181m global MAUs in H1 2020

TikTok divulged its user growth for the first time in late August 2020. The figures revealed that its global user base reached nearly 700m monthly active users (MAUs) in July 2020, a 181m growth since December 2019. It is estimated more than 100m of those are based in the US.

The app’s biggest spike in global popularity occurred between January and December 2018, when it first began its ascent to social media fame in the West, jumping from 54m to 271m MAUs. User growth has continued to rise at a healthy trajectory since; steepening slightly this year due to increased interest amid the coronavirus pandemic and marking an almost 800% rise in MAUs between the start of 2018 and July 2020.

Findings from an IPA report confirmed that the social media platform more than doubled its reach to 15-24 year olds throughout the initial coronavirus lockdown, up from 14% to 30%. Meanwhile, other social apps increased their reach to this age group only modestly; YouTube, for example, climbed just three percentage points to 63% during the same period.

35% of TikTok users have watched less TV and content from streaming services since downloading the app

We Are Social’s 2022 trends report, titled Think Forward 2022, revealed 35% of TikTok users have watched less TV and content from streaming services since they downloaded the app. After a huge rise in app downloads at the very start of the pandemic, and continued momentum since, it could also spell an interesting shift in future marketing strategy as social becomes more entertainment focused.

Another trend in the pipeline is the rise of audio formats on social media. So far, 30% of those aged 18-34 that took part in the study said they use social media with their volume up more now than they did before Covid-19, highlighting a renewed relationship between content and sound that brands should to take note of.

Social media users are also spending more time learning via their favourite platforms. Almost 3 in 5 of them say they have conducted self-directed learning via a social channel and claim they have gained useful life skills as a result. In fact, they are more likely to say they have learnt these kinds of skills from social media (57%) than from a university experience (51%), emphasising the critical role social apps have had for young people over the course of the pandemic – and for more than just keeping in touch with friends and family.

However, more and more users are becoming cynical about the way in which content is served to them on social platforms. This is particularly true for the youngest cohort studied for the report – Gen Z – 43% of whom agree that algorithms are having a negative impact on their ‘media diet’.

TikTok was the most downloaded app of Q1 2021

Statistics from App Annie showed that TikTok came out on top for global app downloads in Q1 2021.

As many consumers remained under full or partial lockdown restrictions across the world, it was clear that people of all ages were continuing to flock to the app for entertainment and a bit of escapism.

Of course, download numbers do not always correlate with high usage. According to analysis, TikTok ranked eighth for Monthly Active Users, below the likes of competitors Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter. It is worth noting, however, that its Monthly Active Users surpassed Netflix, emphasising the power of video content on social media. Additionally, global TikTok users spent the second largest amount of money in-app between January and March 2021, just behind YouTube.

Q1 2021 also saw the massive growth of MX Takatak, India’s TikTok equivalent, which is making waves in the region since TikTok was banned by the Indian government. The app topped the charts for quarter-over-quarter download growth, and jumped 21 places in worldwide download numbers for the three-month period.

Global social media ad spend was up 50.3% year-on-year at the height of the 2020 holiday season

SocialBakers’ Q4 2020 Social Media Trends report found that global social media ad spend grew 50.3% year-on-year during the peak of the 2020 holiday season (Around mid-December), rising to a massive 92.3% growth in North America.

Across nine different sectors analysed, average social spend increased by 33% in Q4 2020 compared to levels seen the quarter before. Most industries invested a substantial amount more during this quarter, except for accommodation, which has been particularly negatively affected by the pandemic. Ecommerce brands spent the most on advertising across social platforms (24.8% up on Q3 2020), reaching nearly double  spending seen in Q1 2020. Fashion, auto, beauty and alcohol companies also markedly ramped up their ad spend.

With this increase in ad spend came an increase in CPC. Globally, CPC rose 9% year-on-year at the highest point of the golden quarter in 2020, while average CPC across key industries grew 27.4% in Q4 versus Q3.

There was a particularly large increase in CPC for ads placed in the Facebook News Feed, climbing 12% since Q4 2019 to $0.107, however, Instagram Feed placement remained the most expensive despite declining overall year-on-year.

One in four online purchases are now made via an interaction with a social media platform

Analysis commissioned by Visa, which studied shopping habits over the six months to October 2020, found that one in four online purchases in the UK are now made as a result of interacting with a social media platform.

Furthermore, close to a fifth (17%) of consumers purposely turn to social apps for shopping. Of those that do, 35% cited convenience as a key purchase driver, while 26% also said they liked how quick it is to check out. However, more than half (57%) admitted to neglecting online security by not always reviewing third party ratings for the websites they were purchasing from.

More often than not, data shows, consumers are disappointed with the goods they receive when shopping via social platforms. Fifty-eight percent of respondents claimed they were dissatisfied with their purchases and 38% were in the process of trying to process a refund or return of such items. Worryingly, with more than half (54%) failing to check the refund/returns policies of social retailers, just one-fifth said they have received a full refund via the method with which they first paid and 88% said they have been left out of pocket for at least one purchase.

These figures highlight the potential risk associated with purchasing from lesser-known retailers that advertise on social media. The way in which social media lends itself to more impulsive spending, particularly with the addition of speedy checkout, also appears to mean that shoppers are less likely to make the necessary security checks that they might usually do when landing on a webpage directly from search results, for example.

TikTok beat Facebook for the first time on average monthly time spent per user in 2020

The average amount of time spent on the TikTok app among its UK users, per month, nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020, according to analysis from App Annie. On Android devices alone, monthly average hours increased from 11 to 19.9, vastly outpacing Facebook’s 16.6 hours across 2020 and cementing its place as one of the most rapidly growing apps for engagement.

While almost every app in every market saw an increase in usage last year, thanks to the pandemic, the unprecedented popularity of TikTok has seen the growth of all other social media apps pale in comparison – Instagram recorded just an 8-hour average per month.

Creator marketing in Europe grew 14% year-on-year in 2020 to reach €1.3bn

Research conducted by IAB and TikTok for Business found creator marketing in Europe grew 14% year-on-year in 2020 to reach €1.3 billion in value. Intersecting with the term ‘influencer’, TikTok defines creators as a wider pool of social content makers that do not always rely on ‘the commercial power of persuasion’.

Data shows that creator marketing growth is slowing, the 2020 figure of 14% is down from 38.4% in 2019 and nearly 50% in 2018, however the amount of investment in this format has almost tripled in the last three years.

As TikTok becomes an ever more powerful player in the fields of influencer and creator marketing, it is clear that the platform’s share of this spend against its competitors will rise over time. Additional analysiss from WARC suggests that up to 45% of marketers now use the short-form video app for campaigns, marking TikTok the second most preferred platform for influencer marketing behind Facebook.

Snap DAUs rise 23% year-on-year in Q3 2021, marking fourth consecutive quarter of >20% growth

Snap has once again seen rapid growth in revenue and Daily Active Users (DAUs) as we move into the latter half of 2022. In a Q3 2021 financial statement, the social media company reported it was able to match the ‘record’ DAU growth rate it achieved in the quarter prior, and mark four consecutive quarters of >20% growth in the metric. This quarter’s 23% uplift equates to an extra 57 million users engaging with the app daily compared to the same period the year before.

Ad revenue remained high – up 57% year-on-year – but shows signs of slowing from the 66% and 116% increases it saw in Q1 and Q2 of 2021, respectively. This is thought to be largely down to Apple’s recently introduced ATT feature, which Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said had had a larger impact than first expected:

“While we anticipated some degree of business disruption, the new Apple-provided measurement solution did not scale as we had expected, making it more difficult for our advertising partners to measure and manage their ad campaigns for iOS.”

Further comments from Snap Executives shortly after the financial announcement included a note of concern surrounding the impact of global supply shortages on projected social media ad spend from brands. They said ongoing staffing, transportation and product shortages could prompt companies to hold back on spend across social platforms and opt to redirect budgets elsewhere during the crucial final quarter of the year.

TikTok ranked as least trustworthy, but most innovative, digital advertising environment by senior marketers

Data from Kantar has found global senior marketers believe TikTok is the least trustworthy digital advertising environment in 2021, despite consumers ranking it top for ad equity for the second year in a row.

The report, titled Media Reactions, was informed by the opinions of 14,500 consumers, more than 290 brands and 900 senior marketers, globally.

Despite ongoing scepticism, the percentage of marketers that have trust in the app has doubled year-on-year to around one-quarter. It is perhaps unsurprising that the relatively new platform remains untrustworthy in marketers’ eyes as it continues to ramp up its options for monetisation and improve brand safety measures to match more longstanding social apps.

Interestingly, TikTok was also cited as the most innovative platform for digital advertising, while Facebook was placed as the least. According to the responses collected, Instagram strikes the best balance between the two metrics, mirroring steadily accelerating ad investment on the channel. Meanwhile, music streaming service Spotify is creeping up the ranks as audio advertising trends develop.

Fast forward to 2022, and media growth areas are expected to have the biggest positive impact on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok as video-based ads and influencer-led campaigns continue to engage consumers. This proves that, regardless of deep uncertainty from brands about advertising on TikTok, many are listening to their customers wants first and are planning to dive into the deep end.

A July 2021 survey found 7% of marketers plan to increase their budget for TikTok influencer marketing campaigns

A July 2021 report from SocialPubli, titled The State of TikTok Influencer Marketing 2021 indicates 53.7% of marketers plan to increase their budget for TikTok influencer marketing campaigns in 2021, after the social app has seen explosive growth over the last 18 months.

Data shows nearly 88% of marketers agree TikTok influencer marketing is effective as part of their wider digital and social marketing strategies. Part of this could be down to superior audience engagement on TikTok – 87% of influencers that use a multiple platforms told the study that they had recorded higher levels of engagement on the short-form video app than on other social apps.

Although influencers appear to be dominating TikTok in terms of performance metrics, only 17% share weekly content that is brand or product focused. This suggests brands are still warming up when it comes to running influencer campaigns on the platform, despite plans to invest further this year.

Since Covid-19, a whopping 86.5% of influencers have spent more time on TikTok, with 60% doubling their time spent on the app compared to pre-pandemic levels. But influencers are not only helping to promote products – they’re also buying products themselves. Nearly 7 in 10 have so far made a purchase based on content they have viewed by people they follow.

Pinterest saw highest growth in revenue in Q4 2020 vs. other social platforms

Pinterest saw the highest year-on-year revenue growth in Q4 2020 versus other major social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

According to its Q4 2020 financial statement, the platform acquired over $705 million in revenue over the three months to December 31st, a 76% increase on the £399 million reported in the same period of 2019. While this total revenue is notably less than other giants in the sector, it marked Pinterest as the fastest growing social platform for ad revenue.

Snapchat comes next with a 62% growth rate, reaching $911 million in revenue compared to $560 million in Q4 2019. Meanwhile, Facebook reported a 31% growth to $27.2 billion and Twitter a 28% growth to $1.3 billion.

Pinterest attributed its fourth quarter success to ‘continued product innovation, execution and an earlier and longer holiday season’, while also reporting it had welcomed an additional 100 million monthly active users over the course of the calendar year.

More than 1 in 5 Millennials are using social media less than they used to

More than 1 in 5 (22%) of Millennials, globally, are using social media less than they used to, according to data collected in Q3 2020 and published by GlobalWebIndex in Q1 2021. This is despite a spike in social media usage and engagement recorded since lockdowns took effect in March 2020. While many are using the apps to connect with people they cannot meet face-to-face, Millennials seem slightly more conscious of its effects on their mental health, and are taking more action.

Sixteen percent of Millennials claimed that the platforms were making them feel anxious, the report found. However, those with this sentiment have been found to mostly use the platforms for ‘social reasons’ – as opposed to other activities like shopping – making them 19% more likely than others in their cohort to ensure they aren’t missing out on anything being posted.

Over a quarter of Millennials also worry about the amount of time they are spending on social media. But they appear to be taking more action to rectify this, with 26% setting up their devices to monitor screen time vs. an average 23% across other age groups.

Despite the negative effects of these platforms, Millennials are surprisingly the most optimistic about social media’s role in society – on average, 38% say these platforms are ‘good for society’, rising to 45% in particularly heavy users.

Global social ad spend rose 56.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q3 2020

SocialBakers’ Q3 2020 Social Media Trends Report has found that global social ad spend rose 56.4% in Q3 2020 compared with figures recorded at the end of Q2. This figure increases to 61.7% in North America, with the widespread Facebook ad boycott in this and other regions throughout Q2 partly responsible for the sharp upturn in Q3.

Central America saw the second highest growth between these two periods at 55.6%, while Western Europe came third (50.4%). By the end of September, the average global ad spend on social media was nearly double that of its lowest level at the end of March when many Western lockdowns were first imposed.

Encouragingly, the report indicates overall global ad spend on social has returned to levels similar to those seen in Q3 2019, and marketers predict that it will continue to improve over the holiday season as brands try to entice consumers to shop for gifts via social platforms.

Zooming in, social ad spend saw the highest jump across the FMCG food (+61.3%), automotive (+59.4%), finance (+35.3%) and ecommerce sectors (+27.5%). However, spend in the accommodation industry remained volatile throughout the quarter amid a second wave of the virus, ending with comparable spend levels to those seen in the latter part of Q2.

Social Quarterly: Q4 2021