Digiday+ Research deep dive: Agencies find Meta’s platforms aren’t worth the investment

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It’s a volatile time in social media marketing as the social landscape becomes increasingly fragmented. And few companies understand that better than Meta.

Publishers are cooling on Facebook, but figuring out how to make Instagram work for them. Brands and retailers are using Facebook less, even though it’s still driving revenues. And when it comes to agencies, it turns out that both of Meta’s older sibling social media platforms may be past their primes.

This is according to Digiday+ Research surveys of about 200 agency professionals in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Digiday’s surveys found that agencies’ use of Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms has dropped off significantly this year. In fact, agencies’ use of Facebook has been trending downward since 2021. Exactly half of agency pros (50%) told Digiday this year that they posted content to Facebook on behalf of their clients in the past month, a notable decline from the 81% who said the same last year and the 86% who said so the year before.

More agencies are using Instagram than Facebook, but Instagram usage has also dropped significantly among agencies this year. Just short of two-thirds of agency pros (65%) told Digiday this year that they posted on Instagram on behalf of clients in the past month, down from the much higher 84% who said the same both last year and the year before.

Digiday’s surveys also found that agencies whose clients are posting on Facebook and Instagram are doing so less frequently than they have in the past. More specifically, agency clients are shifting from posting on the Meta platforms every day to posting only once or a few times a week.

For instance, 40% of agency pros told Digiday last year that their clients posted content on both Facebook and Instagram every day. That percentage fell to just 14% for Facebook this year and 17% for Instagram. Meanwhile, the percentage of agency pros who said their clients post on Facebook at least once a week rose significantly from 43% last year to 64% this year. And the percentage who said their clients post on Instagram at least once a week rose from 42% to 61% over the same period.

Additionally, Digiday’s surveys found there was a big jump in agencies who aren’t investing at all in original content for Meta’s platforms between last year and this year. Just 4% of agency pros told Digiday last year that they invested nothing at all in creating original content for both Facebook and Instagram. This year, that percentage shot to 40% for Facebook and 31% for Instagram.

At the same time, the percentage of agencies who invest a lot in creating original content for Facebook and Instagram has fallen significantly. Last year, about one-third of agency pros told Digiday they invested a lot in creating original content for Meta’s platforms (34% invested a lot in original content for Facebook and 33% invested a lot in original content for Instagram). This year, just 10% said they invest a lot in original content for Facebook, and 17% said the same for Instagram.

This shift in investment in Facebook and Instagram, along with the decrease in usage and posting frequency on the platforms, is a strong indicator that, overall, agencies are seeing a lack of return on investment when it comes to Meta. Particularly with the drop-off in investment in original content, it’s possible that agencies found that investing in creating content for Facebook and Instagram didn’t actually pay off in the end.

Adding to that theory, Digiday’s surveys also found that far fewer agencies are buying ads on Meta’s platforms this year than last year. After 81% of agency pros told Digiday last year that they purchased advertising on Facebook on behalf of clients in the plast month, just half (50%) said the same this year. And Instagram saw a similar drop, from 81% who said last year they’d bought ads on the platform for clients in the last month to 48% who said so this year.

Along with the previous data, this is another indicator that agencies might not have seen good ROI on ads purchased on Meta’s platforms last year, so they pulled back a lot on purchasing ads on Facebook and Instagram this year.

A big piece of the explanation for agencies’ pull-back from Meta’s platforms could lie in the fact that, overall, agencies said Facebook and Instagram are less valuable to driving their revenues this year than they were last year, Digiday’s surveys found. A whopping 90% of agency pros told Digiday last year that Facebook was at least somewhat valuable to driving their revenues. This year, that percentage fell to three-quarters (75%). On the Instagram side of things, the drop was less, but still significant: 88% said last year that Instagram was at least somewhat valuable to driving revenues, compared with 77% this year.

Part of the drop for Facebook was among agency pros who said the platform is extremely valuable to driving revenues. Just under one-third (32%) said last year that Facebook was an extremely valuable revenue driver, compared with just 15% this year. Interestingly, though, the percentage of agency pros who said Facebook is valuable to driving revenues (as opposed to somewhat or extremely valuable) rose from 30% last year to 45% this year.

Notably, both Facebook and Instagram saw significant increases in the percentage of agency pros who said the platforms aren’t valuable at all to driving their revenues. Eighteen percent of agencies said this year that Facebook isn’t valuable at all to driving revenues, up from just 2% last year. Meanwhile, 16% said this year that Instagram isn’t a valuable revenue driver, up from 4% last year (with zero respondents saying so the year before).

For the most part, Digiday’s surveys found that the majority of agencies still say Meta’s platforms are valuable for branding — although there is a clear preference for Instagram in this respect. Fifty-three percent of agency pros told Digiday this year that Facebook is valuable or extremely valuable for branding, and 73% said the same of Instagram. But Facebook still saw a significant drop in this category from last year, when 79% said the platform was valuable or extremely valuable for branding. Instagram, on the other hand, has remained steady compared with last year, when 75% said the platform was valuable or extremely valuable for branding.

An interesting finding from Digiday’s surveys was the rise in agencies who said this year that Meta’s platforms aren’t valuable at all for branding. In past surveys, no one or almost no one said Facebook and Instagram weren’t valuable for branding. But this year, 14% of agency pros told Digiday that Facebook isn’t valuable at all for branding, and 8% said the same of Instagram.

Digiday’s surveys also found that the majority of agencies feel that Meta’s platforms are brand-appropriate for their clients for the most part. Sixty-two percent of agency pros told Digiday this year that Facebook is either appropriate or extremely appropriate to their clients’ brands, and 80% said the same of Instagram — revealing a similar preference among agencies for Instagram.

To that point, Facebook’s 62% is a significant drop from the 75% of agency pros who said last year that the platform was either appropriate or extremely appropriate to their clients’ brands. Meanwhile, Instagram’s 80% is actually a very slight increase from the 79% of agency pros who said last year that the platform was either appropriate or extremely appropriate for clients.

Digging a bit further into the data, Facebook saw a significant drop in the “extremely appropriate” category this year, with 19% of agency pros telling Digiday this year that the platform is extremely brand appropriate for their clients, down from 30% last year. At the same time, Instagram saw a slight rise in this category: 44% of agency pros said this year that Instagram is extremely appropriate for their clients’ brands, up from 35% last year.

Notably, this year is also the first in which respondents to Digiday’s survey said that Facebook is not appropriate at all for their clients’ brands. It’s still a small percentage — only 5% of agency pros said Facebook isn’t brand-appropriate at all for clients — but it is a shift from years past.

As Facebook and Instagram potentially fall out of favor with agencies, Digiday’s survey this year found that, when it comes to their still very new sibling Threads, the jury is still out on whether agency pros see a place for this youngest Meta platform in marketing.

To be more specific, just shy of half of agency pros (49%) told Digiday that they’re not sure if they see marketing potential for Threads. The remaining agency respondents were split one way and the other, with 26% saying they do see marketing potential for Threads and 25% saying they don’t think the platform has marketing potential.

https://digiday.com/?p=519890

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