Digiday+ Research: More agencies are relying on paid over organic social content

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

Social media is part of nearly every agency’s strategy when it comes to driving sales and brand awareness for their clients. But what do those strategies look like when they’re broken down into paying for ads and simply posting content? It turns out that agencies are investing quite a bit in paid advertisements on social media for their clients, versus posting organic social content, according to Digiday+ Research.

The vast majority of agencies are buying ads on at least one social media platform for their clients, according to a survey of 69 agency professionals conducted in June. Digiday’s survey found that a whopping 87% of agency pros had purchased ads on behalf of their clients on at least one social media platform in the month leading up to the survey. Only 13% said they hadn’t purchased ads on any of the social platforms mentioned in the survey.

Facebook and Instagram were neck-and-neck among agency pros who said they purchased ads on those platforms for their clients — 81% of agencies buying social ads invested in Facebook and Instagram. It is likely that this is the case partially due to the fact that both platforms share a parent company — Meta — which eases the purchasing process. And even as Meta faces privacy shifts, performance issues and other headwinds, marketers still find it’s an effective channel for driving sales.

The Meta-owned platforms were followed by YouTube, where 71% of agency pros had paid for ad content on behalf of their clients. One additional finding of note from the survey is that TikTok beat out Twitter — 54% of agency pros said they purchased ads on TikTok for clients compared with 48% who said they purchased ads on Twitter.

Digiday’s survey also revealed that agencies prefer buying ads on Snapchat and TikTok over posting on the platforms on behalf of their clients: 44% of agency pros said they bought ads on Snapchat compared with 33% who said they had simply posted content on Snapchat. On TikTok, where marketers are investing more time and money, 54% of respondents said they bought ads on TikTok on behalf of clients, while 48% said they had posted content there. But the opposite is true when it comes to Twitter: 48% of agency pros said they paid for ads on Twitter compared with 62% who said they posted on the platform for their clients.

Facebook and Instagram are clearly the dominant social platforms for agencies buying ads on behalf of clients, even as marketers pivot their strategies away from sales to focus on brand awareness. But younger platforms like Snapchat and TikTok continue to gain ground — although it seems as if agencies are treating Snapchat and TikTok more like ad channels than social platforms.


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