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Worldwide Social Media Ad Spending Soared to New Highs in 4Q 2021

Paid Social Spending Was Up 25% from Previous Quarter

Global ad spending on social media peaked during the fourth quarter last year, in keeping with the increased level of paid social advertising that brands typically undertake during the holiday season, according to a new report from Emplifi, the Columbus, Ohio-based provider of a CX platform specializing in social media marketing, social sales, and customer service.

In its analysis of social media data for 4Q 2021, the report offers key insights into paid and organic user engagement, as well as post interaction on social media. The findings, summarized in a company blog post, shed light on ad spending and other metrics as they relate to Facebook and Instagram, with occasional comparisons also made to Twitter.

Emplifi said global ad spending on social media in the final three months of 2021 was higher than at any point during the year, fueled by a healthy holiday season. All told, paid social spending in 4Q 2021 was up 25% from 3Q 2021 spending, while also being up by more than 21% from year-earlier levels in 3Q 2020.

Overall, posts on Facebook saw lower engagement than posts on Instagram during 4Q 2021. Brands earned approximately 5.3 interactions per 1,000 impressions for a Facebook post, down 19% from 4Q 2020. In comparison, Instagram posts received about 35 interactions per 1,000 impressions in 4Q 2021, similar to the rate recorded by the social media platform for 4Q 2020 from a year earlier.

Among brands, those belonging to the accommodation/hospitality category enjoyed the highest engagement at 11.5 interactions, while e-commerce brands drew the lowest rate at 2.9 interactions. On Instagram, brands in beverages took the lead at 49.9 interactions, while those in retail lagged behind with the lowest engagement at 18.4 interactions.

Emplifi CEO Zarnaz Arlia said it is important that brands understand what consumers want and need at each stage of their purchase journey. “The foundation of any successful social media campaign is content that truly resonates with your target audiences, which alongside customer care, is a large contributor to a positive customer experience,” said Arlia.

Emplifi also analyzed the efficacy of social media customer care on two measures: response rate—or how often brands respond to user questions in the comments; and response time—or the timeliness of the response. Both metrics are important, the report noted, given the amount of time that consumers spend today on social media, which is also the environment where they wish to engage with brands.

On response rates, a slight decline was recorded during 4Q 2021 compared to a year earlier across Facebook (-3%) and Instagram (-2%), as well as on Twitter (-2%). And, in general, brands were more likely to respond to questions on Instagram than on Twitter, the report stated. The exception was for brands in automotive and in home and living, with both recording higher response rates on Facebook than on Instagram.

Overall, however, brands in the beauty and the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) food categories had the highest response rates to user questions on social media.

Of interest was the report’s finding that brands were taking longer to respond on two of the three social media platforms, with year-on-year increases of 1.0 hour for Facebook and 2.6 hours for Instagram being recorded. The picture improves, however, for Twitter, which saw response time among brands decreasing by 1.0 hour.

The report also takes note of the growing mainstream use of chatbots. Over time, brands can be expected to improve both their response rate and response time by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots to tackle frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Observing that consumers, as a rule, desire a rapid response to their questions, Emplifi CEO Arlia said room for improvement exists when it comes to brand response time on social media. “Finding efficiencies for simple inquiries can address consumer expectations and provide support teams with more time to solve complex questions,” Arlia remarked. “The businesses that succeed and gain market share understand this, and how it elevates the overall customer experience.”

Author Information

Alex is responsible for writing about trends and changes that are impacting the customer experience market. He had served as Principal Editor at Village Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based consultancy on technology impacting healthcare and healthcare-related industries. Alex was also Associate Director for Content Management at Omdia and Informa Tech, where he produced white papers, executive summaries, market insights, blogs, and other key content assets. His areas of coverage spanned the sectors grouped under the technology vertical, including semiconductors, smart technologies, enterprise & IT, media, displays, mobile, power, healthcare, China research, industrial and IoT, automotive, and transformative technologies.

At IHS Markit, he was Managing Editor of the company’s flagship IHS Quarterly, covering aerospace & defense, economics & country risk, chemicals, oil & gas, and other IHS verticals. He was Principal Editor of analyst output at iSuppli Corp. and Managing Editor of Market Watch, a fortnightly newsletter highlighting significant analyst report findings for pitching to the media. He started his career in writing as an Editor-Reporter for The Associated Press.


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