- Worldwide spend on social media advertising was up 50.3% at the peak of the 2020 holiday season compared with the same period the year prior, according to the latest quarterly report based on Socialbakers' platform data.
- The fourth quarter overall continued a "meteoric rise" for the channel, with North America posting a 92.3% year-over-year spike in social media ad spending. Video content, particularly livestreaming, commanded the spotlight and was bolstered by newer shopping capabilities. It's a commerce trend that has taken significant hold with Gen Zers in China and is making better inroads in the U.S., per Socialbakers.
- Meanwhile, influencer marketing appeared to cool in Q4, with usage of the #ad disclosure dipping 17.6% year-over-year. The research indicates that while social media advertising broadly continues to gain traction during the pandemic, the most effective tactics are changing with consumer preferences and the introduction of new technology.
It's no secret that brands have directed more dollars toward digital and social media advertising since the health crisis delivered a blow to traditional media last March, with people increasingly gravitating toward their smartphones to stay connected and entertained. The latest quarterly report based on Socialbakers' platform data shows that Q4 2020 was still a breakout period for the channel, with marketers pouring steep investments into tactics that would engage homebound consumers and get them to shop during an uncertain holiday period.
Socialbakers President Yuval Ben-Itzhak said brands doubling down on digital marketing is a "new normal," especially as they look to drive e-commerce sales. However, as the firm's analysis shows, where those brand dollars are going is changing in ways that could carry implications beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
Livestreaming has climbed to the top of the agenda and increasingly stands as an outlet to generate direct sales, with top platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok integrating new shopping capabilities. Facebook Live was the most engaging format on the social networking site in Q4, per Socialbakers, while video made up 18% of all Instagram posts.
"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," Socialbakers wrote.
Directly shoppable media, including livestreams, are forecast by the Interactive Advertising Bureau to become one of the fastest-growing advertising categories in the near future amid the emergence of a "storeless economy" the industry group says notched $120 billion in global sales last year. The desire to blend commerce and content — particularly when targeting smartphone-savvy young shoppers — manifested in several ways around the holidays.
Walmart, for instance, deployed a first-of-its-kind TikTok livestream that let viewers tap on products shown in the video and check out without having to exit the app. Walmart's hour-long activation centered on popular creators, including Michael Le, pointing to the power of online personalities in winning over customers.
Yet, traditional influencer marketing, especially #ad sponsored posts, continued to slide in Q4, suggesting marketers have retooled how they leverage internet stars in their marketing campaigns. Socialbakers said the number of brands working with influencers who have a following of at least 100,000 was almost level with pre-pandemic numbers, suggesting the channel has not felt the windfall. The relative stasis could be a sign that brands opted to work more with influencers who have smaller audiences in recent months, Socialbakers said.