Big marketing trends in 2023 Dive in

Social media ads are just one of the innumerable ways to reach consumers today, alongside TV, print, podcasts, out-of-home advertising and a long list of other digital channels and guerilla tactics. 

In the world of advertising, media is more fragmented than it’s ever been. But when it comes to how effective social media advertising is, our data offers brands some good news: 

Promisingly, 26% of social media users say they tend to buy brands they see advertised.

Clearly adverts aren’t the only way for consumers to discover brands, but if you’ve built your strategy around social media advertising it’s crucial to get it right.

98% of consumers globally say they’ve visited a social network in the past month, while global social media ad spend is projected to grow 15% annually through to 2024. But with so many social media ads saturating our feeds, standing out is key.

So, how exactly can you optimize your brand’s social media presence to inspire and engage your audience? And how can you improve your social media ads? 

Using our latest social media report, we set out to explore exactly these issues, starting with a look at audiences. 

Who’s using social media to find products?

Around the world, 27% of social media users say they use social platforms  primarily to research and find products to buy, a figure that varies widely by age and region of the world.

Chart showing generation percentage of those using social media to find new brands/products

Gen Zs and millennials make up 68% of those using social media for product discovery. That’s not surprising, given they’re among the heaviest users of social media globally. Unlike their older counterparts, who use social media more moderately, millennials spend over 2.5 hours per day on social media, and Gen Zs spend just under 3 hours per day on various platforms.

This represents a huge opportunity for social media marketers targeting younger consumers, particularly in emerging markets. In places like MEA and LATAM, consumers spend well over 3 hours a day on social media, and these users are much more likely than the rest of the world to spend money while online.

At the same time, social media advertisers face unique obstacles brought on by the increasing digitization of life that began during the pandemic, with 4 in 10 social media users accessing 5 or more social media platforms in a given month. That’s a lot of competition for attention.

Then there’s the fact that 38% use an ad-blocker, which shows how motivated people are to protect their online experience from unwanted, intrusive or irrelevant content. 

Where does social media advertising have the most impact? 

The impact of ads on social media isn’t consistent around the globe. Even in regions where buying goods on social media is less common, like Europe and North America, social media ads still have the potential to catch the eyes of the vast majority of consumers. 

In nearly every global region we track, ads on social media are a more prominent means of as a means of brand discovery than ads on other websites, and in Latin America they’re the undisputed champ. 

Who clicks on social media ads?

16% of global social media users have clicked on a promoted or sponsored post on a social network in the past month. 

While that may not seem like a lot, this group represents a significant opportunity to brands trying to win over high-paying, lifelong customers. 

70% of social media ad clickers are Gen Zs or millennials, and they’re 13% more likely to fall into the high income group.

The more affluent consumers are, the more likely they become to use social media to follow brands and to click and share promoted content. 

On top of this, the hyper-targeted nature of social media ads means brands can direct their ad spend to groups already showing interest in their offer. At the same time strategists should be wary of going after accounts with large followings, which may actually offer lower click through rates. 

Chart showing popular accounts vs ads clicked

Interestingly, social media personalities may have large followings on social media, but our data reveals that followers of smaller accounts – such as charities, publications and politicians – are actually more predisposed to click on social media ads. Influencers may have big numbers, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into big click through rates.

What do consumers want from social media ads?

Social media ad clickers won’t just click on any ad they see. After all, they’re exposed to all kinds of advertising in their day-to-day life, and are pretty jaded as a result. The key to getting clicks is relevance, and personalization is particularly important.

Understanding this means understanding the differences in each generation’s preferences around brands.

Chart showing the thoughts different generations have about brands

For the most part, younger consumers want brands to be more entertaining, intelligent and relevant to their identity.

On the other hand, older consumers tend to prefer brands that are more practical, reliable and authentic. These preferences can inform the types of ads that brands run depending on who they’re targeting. 

For instance, companies attempting to portray themselves as smart and trendy to younger social media users can focus their ads on how their brand improves their customers’ lives. 

Over one third of Gen Zs say they want brands to help them improve their skill set, and nearly one quarter say they want brands that can help improve their reputation. 

For brands targeting older consumers with a message of reliability and authenticity, it’s worth considering social campaigns that focus on the personalized solutions they’re offering, as baby boomers are the most likely generation to say they want brands that help organize their lives and listen to customer feedback.

Social media is central to product research

Compared to other media channels, social media consumes a ton of our daily screen time, often turning TV shows to mere background noise while we scroll through social feeds on our phones.

57% of consumers admit to using social media while they watch TV. 

So even though traditional sources like TV ads (31%) and word-of-mouth (28%) are still more popular for brand discovery than social media ads (27%), social networks are where many consumers do their research. Around the world, social media is the second-most prominent research channel after search engines, with 43% of people doing their product research on social media platforms. 

Even if consumers discover a brand through a friend or an out-of-home ad, social media is a cornerstone of many people’s purchase journey. It’s where they go for further information – and what they find can entice them to follow through with a purchase.

When it comes to boosting the effectiveness of your social media ads – or your wider online presence – understanding what consumers want while researching products is paramount. 

Our data shows that powerful online purchase drivers can have a significant impact. Social media users say they’re more likely to purchase products online if they see coupons and discounts (39%), reviews from other customers (33%), loyalty points (26%), and the product having lots of “likes” or good comments (22%). These can all, in turn, increase the effectiveness of a social media ad.  

How to improve your social media ads

So far we’ve looked at the current state of social media advertising; now let’s see how you can use that knowledge to improve ad effectiveness. 

The first thing to bear in mind is that consumers spend a huge portion of their day scrolling through various platforms, so it’s easy for social media advertisers to get lost in the noise. Any social media strategy that doesn’t also include robust content to help guide consumers through the research process is going to lose out on potential customers. 

Looking deeper, we see three key things to keep in mind to increase effectiveness and get more bang for your advertising buck. 

Know your audience: Social media users are hugely varied, and how a potential customer uses social media will vary based on their age, region of the world, and even the types of accounts they follow. The same is true for the ads they want to see. Younger consumers want to be entertained and authentically represented, while older audiences are more partial to ads that inform and offer special deals. 

Make it frictionless: Social media’s a great way to get in front of consumers online. Many platforms allow advertisers to side-step adblockers, and target audiences based on more personalized information than other sites, but with great power comes great responsibility. Advertisers must be careful to not upset the social media experience of their target consumers. Excessive ads, ads that disrupt the other content on the screen, and ads that are too personalized all work against a brand. 

Use social media to inform: Social media ads are a great way to increase brand recognition, but when the strategy is to sell, a holistic approach is needed. Many consumers turn to social platforms when researching products, so brands have a great opportunity to attract consumers outside of the ads themselves. Offering discounts, promoting genuine reviews, and cultivating positive comments are a great way to convert social media users from curious to customers.

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